Environmental Politics, Think
Environews: September 2012
Outdoor industry takes a stand; Salt Lake County plans for Wasatch future; Solar energy plan for Utah; U offers Sustainability Certificate.
by Amy Brunvand
Outdoor Industry takes a stand
In July, Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf resigned from the Utah Ski and Snowboard Working Group in protest over Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s attempts to take state control of federal public lands. The State of Utah is currently pursuing two large-scale (and expensive) lawsuits—one to transfer ownership to the State of Utah of all federal public lands (except existing national parks, monuments and wilderness areas); the other to claim state ownership of tens of thousands of dirt roads known as RS2477 claims that criss-cross public lands. In a statement on the Black Diamond website, Metcalf called Utah’s policies hostile to the interests of the outdoor industry: ”Unfortunately, there is no meaningful collaborative process with Governor Herbert’s public land policies. The stances being taken toward federal public lands are both reactionary and contrary to the state’s long-term economic benefit. My resignation is a decision to voice loyal opposition to the Governor and to speak out on behalf of Utah’s economy and quality of life.”
The rift is a particularly telling example of how badly the public dialogue over Utah’s public lands issues has deteriorated under Herbert’s extreme partisan leadership. In an ill-tempered letter dated March 26, Herbert lashed out at Metcalf for an Op Ed in the Salt Lake Tribune accusing him of “inflexibility” and a “narrow ideological agenda,” though Metcalf has most notably been a voice of reason and an advocate for businesses that depend on public lands recreation.
With his message that outdoor industries are an essential component of Western state’s economies, Metcalf was able to help influence public lands policy with former Utah governors Leavitt, Walker and Huntsman. He worked on the exemplary Washington County Lands Bill that succeeded by inviting all stakeholders to participate in the discussion, and was also instrumental in bringing the multi-million dollar Outdoor Retailer show to Salt Lake City. In a recent cover story in the High Country News, Metcalf promised to continue shining a spotlight on Utah politics which he says have taken the most extreme anti-outdoor industry/anti-federal lands stewardship policies in the country.
SUWA targets Herbert
The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is also putting the pressure on the extremist anti-public land policies of Utah Governor Gary Herbert with a new ad campaign slogan: “Governor Herbert’s Federal Land Takeover will cost you $$.” SUWA points out that the federal government currently spends over $300 million per year managing Utah’s public lands including wildlands firefighting, which Utah taxpayers cannot afford. State ownership would create regulatory uncertainty, adding to the cost of oil & gas development (a major reason conservative Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a similar law). Privatizing public lands would also devalue Utah homes and property which gain value from proximity to public lands access.
Nonetheless, Utah taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for two massive lawsuits that are likely to fail. Even the State’s own lawyers believe Utah’s claims on federal lands are unconstitutional.
Salt Lake County plans for Wasatch Future
Even as Talisker Corporation (owner of The Canyons Ski Area) tries to drive a privatized stake through the heart of the Wasatch National Forest with its proposed SkiLink gondola, Salt Lake County is gathering public comments to prepare a new General Plan for Big Cottonwood, Little Cottonwood and Parleys, replacing a previous plan from 1989. Although Salt Lake County has no jurisdiction over national forests, the plan guides development, transportation and open space in the unincorporated county.
http://pwpds.slco.org/generalSpecialPlans/gpWasatchCanyon. html. Send comments to WasatchCanyons@slco.org
Solar energy plan for Utah
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of Energy (DOE) released an environmental impact statement in July to facilitate utility-scale solar energy development on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. While renewable energy is generally a good thing, the EIS encourages large-scale solar development on nearly 300,000 acres of Utah desert wildlands. Perhaps a more sustainable approach would be distributed solar in urban areas such as the rooftop solar arrays at the Salt Palace or recently installed by the Draper IKEA store.
How green is my campus?
The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education has developed a questionnaire called STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) so that colleges and universities can evaluate their sustainability performance. Only three Utah universities filled out the questionnaire, but they received encouraging rankings. With a little more effort these institutions can go for the gold!
Weber State University—Bronze
University of Utah— Bronze
The Sierra Club offers a list of America’s Top Ten Coolest Schools based on the STARS ranking.
U offers Sustainability Certificate
Want a career working for a sustainable future? Beginning this fall, the University of Utah is offering a new undergraduate Sustainability Certificate open to all majors (except Environmental and Sustainability Studies which already includes sustainability). A certificate program is similar to an academic minor and appears on the official transcript.