Regulars and Shorts

Enviro Update: May 2007

By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the west.
by Amy Brunvand

Threat of drought increasing in Utah

As Utah's population continues to grow, so will demand for water and our vulnerability to drought, says a new report from the Utah Division of Water Resources. In fact, in some areas of the state water supplies have already been fully developed. The report says that under drought conditions long-term damage to vegetation, wildlife habitat and other natural environments is likely to occur. The most recent episode of drought lasted from 1999-2004 (and the snowpack this year is not looking so good), and Utah has experienced droughts in the past during the years 1898-1905, 1924-36, 1924-1936 (the dust bowl), 1946-64, 1976-1979 (when federal loans were required to keep Utah's ski industry afloat), and 1987-1992. The DWR report recommends drought mitigation strategies that range from unquestionably environmentally ethical (alternative landscaping, tamarisk removal…) to projects that are deeply controversial within Utah's environmental community (Bear River Project, Lake Powell pipeline….)

Drought in Utah: learning from the past, preparing for the future.

America's Redrock Wilderness Act re-introduced in Congress

On April 18 America's Redrock Wilderness Act, "To designate as wilderness certain Federal portions of the red rock canyons of the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range Deserts in Utah for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans," was introduced in the U.S. House by representative Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). The next day it was introduced in the Senate by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). The Act, which was first introduced in 1989 by Utah representative Wayne Owens, and was updated to reflect a new wilderness inventory in 1999 would add more than 9 million acres of wilderness quality public lands in Utah to the National Wilderness Preservation System. The bill has been introduced in every Congress since, and despite the fact that it has never been debated on the floor co-sponsors of the bill have been reliable allies in the eternal fight to protect Utah's wilderness. For that reason alone, The Utah Wilderness Coalition (240 local, regional and national organizations that support Utah wilderness designation) try to gain as many cosponsors as possible for the bill. However, Democratic control of the 110th Congress has changed the political landscape so that America's Redrock Wilderness Act may finally have a chance to get a committee hearing and perhaps even a vote. The bill currently has 123 House co-sponsors and needs 218 to pass. You can help the effort by contacting your own representative and senators in support of America's Redrock Wilderness Act, and urging your out-of-state friends and relatives who love Utah's public lands to do the same.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance:

Court says Utah's State Fish has adequate protection,    

On March 7 a U.S. District court rejected a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to list Utah's state fish, the Bonneville Cutthroat trout, as an endangered species, saying that a voluntary conservation agreement is adequate to protect the fish. The court decision reads, "Cooperation with a demonstrated commitment to preservation of the species with the interaction of government and non-government agencies is inherently more effective than governmental edicts or mandates." Bonneville cutthroats are descendents of fish that were stranded when Lake Bonneville dried up 8,000 years ago. The "Conservation Agreement and Strategy for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout" was developed in 1997 specifically in order to avoid federal oversight of the process.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources:

Live Green Festival, May 12

The 4th annual Live Green Festival is a one-day event where you can discover community resources for living a more environmentally-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. Resources range from sustainable home-improvement products to low-water landscaping to alternative transportation options. Bicycle-powered entertainment will be provided by Shake Your Peace! (An acoustic folk music band that not only tours by bicycle, they use a pedal-powered PA system operated by members of the audience.) The event is organized by the Downtown Alliance, with Catalyst Magazine among the proud sponsors.

Live Green Downtown Sustainable Living Festival. Saturday, May 12, 2007 Library Square (Library TRAX) 10am to 6pm. Downtown Alliance:

Bike to Work day is May 15 (just part of Salt Lake County Bike Week)

The 2005 American Community Survey estimates that 69,750 people in Utah people get to work by public transit, walking or biking. Ok, so more than 880,000 Utahans drive to work alone in a car- all that means is, there is a lot of room for improvement. According to Environmental Defense, if everyone in the U.S. who lives within 5 miles of their workplace were to cycle to work just one day a week, nearly 5 million tons of global warming pollution would be saved every year. So dust of your bicycle, enjoy the nice spring weather, and bike to work on Tuesday May 15. Bike-to-Work Day is part of Salt Lake County Bike Week, a series of events from May 12-19 celebrating what philosopher Iris Murdoch described as "the most civilized conveyance known to man."

For a full list of UTA Rideshare Bike Week activities, see the CATALYST calendar in this issue, or visit

This article was originally published on April 30, 2007.