By Amy Brunvand

Environmental news from around the state and the West.

Climate positive SLC

Salt Lake City will transition to 100% renewable energy for municipal electricity needs by 2032 and reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2040, Mayor Jacki Biscupski recently announced. Atmospheric CO2 is responsible for climate change that threatens to reduce Utah’s famous snowpack (aka SLC’s drinking water), and make summer temperatures here as hot as those in southern Arizona.

“Climate Positive 2040.” SLCgreen: slcgreen.com

Save Our Canyons likes Mountain Accord legislation

The Mountain Accord process that began in 2013 has resulted in a plan for the future of the Wasatch Mountains that everyone can agree on. Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut-3) announced the bipartisan Central Wasatch Conservation and Recreation Area Act at a press conference that included representatives Mia Love (R-Ut-4) and Chris Stewart (R-Ut-2) as well as SL County Mayor Ben McAdams (D) and SLC Mayor Jackie Biskupski (D).

Save Our Canyons, a citizen group that has spent decades pushing for environmental conservation in the Wasatch Mountains, calls it “a locally driven, consensus-based bill aimed at protecting the sources of our drinking water, preserving recreational opportunities for the future, and ensuring enjoyment of the Central Wasatch Mountains in the face of pressures from a growing population.”

The next step is to generate community and legislative support so that the U.S. Congress passes the bill into law. Good work, everyone! This is a great example of how public lands controversies can be solved by collaborative dialogue.

Save Our Canyons: saveourcanyons.org

Bears Ears showdown heats up

On the other hand, the proposal for a Bears Ears National Monument is an example of what happens when politicians play political games instead of engaging the community. U.S. Congressmen Rob Bishop (R-Ut-1) and Jason Caffetz (R-Ut-3) are trying to ram through a revised version of their deeply flawed Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI) in hopes of blocking President Obama from using the Antiquities Act to designate Bears Ears National Monument.

The PLI was never a genuinely collaborative process, and it’s no surprise—Bishop is one of the founders of the Congressional Federal Lands Action Group with an agenda of transferring federal public lands to states in order to avoid environmental regulations and to sell the land into private ownership.

Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell visited Utah to host town meetings on Bears Ears in Moab and Bluff, raising hopes.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance: suwa.org; Bears Ears Inter-tribal Coalition: bearsearscoalition.org

Oops! Pro land-seizure report uses phony data

Supposedly, one reason to transfer federal lands to state ownership is that states could manage the land “better.” But data used to prove this point in a recent report issued by two conservative think-tanks has been proven false.

Access Divided: State and Federal Recreation Management in the West, issued by the Sutherland Institute and the Property & Environmental Rights Research Center (PERC) exaggerated Utah State Park visitation by tens of millions. Worse, the report claimed parks are “better” if they collect higher fees and cater to whichever recreation group is willing to pay the most.

PERC is a think tank that advocates property rights and free-markets. Clearly their definition of “better” doesn’t include conservation.

Literary activists strike again

Editors from the nonprofit Torrey House Press delivered a book of poems and essays about Utah public lands to every member of the U.S. Congress. Thirty-four writers contributed heartfelt words to Red Rock Testimony: Three Generations of Writers Speak on Behalf of Utah’s Public Lands in hopes of convincing President Obama to designate a Bears Ears National Monument and defeat Rob Bishop’s (R-Ut-1) Public Lands Initiative (PLI).

There is a precedent for using love letters to counteract soul-deadening Washington bureaucratese: In 1995 authors Stephen Trimble and Terry Tempest Williams published a similar limited edition chapbook, Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness, in order to counter another bad anti-wilderness bill. Senators Bill Bradley (NJ) and Russ Feingold (WI) read essays from Testimony on the floor of the Senate when they led a successful filibuster to defeat the bill, and when President Bill Clinton proclaimed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, he told Williams that Testimony influenced his decision.

Redrock Stories: redrockstories.org

Gooseberry Narrows Dam permit denied

The Army Corps of Engineers has declined to issue a permit for the Sanpete Water Conservancy District to build a dam on Gooseberry Creek saying that “the proposed project has the potential to cause significant adverse effects to the quality of the human environment” and “the specifics of the project’s purpose and need remain unclear and problematic.”

The Gooseberry Narrows water project threatens to flood miles of streams proposed for Wild and Scenic River designation that Trout Unlimited says are among the most highly valued trout fisheries in Utah, basically so that Sanpete County can steal water from Carbon County. Other citizen groups working to stop the Gooseberry Narrows Project include Utah Rivers Council and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

Utah Rivers Council: utahrivers.org

Toxic algae in Utah Lake

A toxic algae (cyanobacteria) bloom in July closed Utah Lake entirely to human activity. Although toxic algae growth may be due to normal lake cycles, it is also associated with fertilizer runoff, leaking septic systems, effluent from water treatment plants, animal waste from livestock and extreme heat. This year’s problem was magnitudes higher than in 2014, when two dogs died from exposure to toxic algae after swimming in Utah Lake. u

GOP adopts land-seizure platform

A committee tasked with drafting the official party platform for the Republican Party voted to include “requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to the states,” making the GOP the official party of taking the “public “out of public lands.

This article was originally published on August 1, 2016.