Environmental news from around the state and the West.
-by Amy Brunvand
Gov. Bangerter and clean air
Former Utah Governor Norman Bangerter, who died on April 14, had a surprisingly good environmental record. He proposed the creation of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality in his 1990 State of the State address. In 1989, Gov. Bangerter created the Governor’s Clean Air Commission, which released a final report two years later, leading to significant progress towards improved air quality.
Utah senators vote to sell our public lands
Utah legislators have been trying to tell the public that transfer of public lands to the state of Utah would not result in loss of public access. Meanwhile, Utah senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee both voted for the “Murkowski Amendment” which encourages balancing the federal budget by selling public lands. Although the vote was symbolic (it doesn’t mandate selling any particular piece of public land), it indicates that the Republican controlled U.S. Senate intends to help Utah and other states in their efforts to privatize public lands.
The pubic lands that Hatch and Lee want to sell are highly valued by Utah citizens. The Conservation in the West Poll from Colorado College says that 96% of Utahns visited national public lands at least once in the past year and that when asked to name their top factors for living in Utah, “respondents stated that access and recreation on public lands outweighed economic opportunities, quality of education and quality of healthcare.”
2015 Conservation in the West Poll, www.coloradocollege.edu/other/stateoftherockies/conservationinthewest/
Bears Ears Conservation Area proposed
When Utah legislators talk about “local control” they apparently don’t mean Native Americans. S.C.R. 4 passed in the 2015 General Legislative Session and opposes special conservation protection for Cedar Mesa. However, 24 Native American tribes and pueblos have come out in favor of creating a Bears Ears National Conservation Area on Cedar Mesa in order to protect ancestral lands and vulnerable archeological sites. Conservation organizations such as Friends of Cedar Mesa and Grand Canyon Trust are also involved in the Bears Ears Coalition.
Protect Bears Ears: www.protectbearsears.org
Utah faces mega drought
Climate change is likely to make Utah much hotter and drier, according to a study by NASA scientists. Noting that depletion of groundwater resources exceeds the capacity of both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the paper says, “Our results point to a remarkably direr future that falls far outside the contemporary experience of natural and human systems in Western North America, conditions that may present a substantial challenge to adaptation.”
Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. www.advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/1/e1400082
Conserve water with rainwater harvesting
Salt Lake County and the Utah Rivers Councils are encouraging citizens to conserve water by using rain barrels to collect water from their rooftops. Rainwater can be used to water plants and reduce your water bill, plus it helps keeps runoff pollution out of rivers, streams and ponds. Rainwater harvesting is legal in Utah under the conditions of S.B. 32 (2010).
Rainharvest Utah: www.savesomethingutah.org
Rain Water Harvesting: www.extension.usu.edu/waterquality/htm/urbanstormwater/rain-water-harvesting/