Here’s an opportunity to speak for the future to Utah’s legislature.
by Vaughn Lovejoy
I am a relatively new grandfather; my oldest grandchild is six years old. His presence in my life has given me a direct and heartfelt connection to future generations.
I have lived here along the Wasatch Front since my early childhood. When I was six, orchards, pastures and small farms stretched through the valley from Brigham City to Nephi. They have all now been replaced by subdivisions and commercial developments. I remember Park City, Midway and Heber of my childhood before the explosion of condominium and timeshare developments filled the middle elevations of our critical watersheds along the Wasatch Range. I share these memories with many of you whose local childhoods reach back to the 1960s, 1950s, 1940s and beyond. What we were gifted from the past is very different from what we leave future generations.
I would like to reach across the different ways that we separate ourselves, so we can see that our similarities are much more fundamental than our differences. One way is by sharing the aspirations, hopes and dreams we have for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One primary hope is for them to have a healthy world where basic human needs will be available to all: clean water, healthy soils, clean and healthy air, a healthy watershed and landscape capable of supporting local gardens, farms, orchards, natural habitats and communities. These basic requirements for the community of life are rapidly disappearing from both our local landscapes and throughout the world.
To begin dealing with some of these growing public concerns at the state level, the Quality Growth Act was passed in 1999. It addresses three core issues:
Urban sprawl. Sprawl consumes thousands of acres of farmland, woodlands and wetlands. It requires government to spend millions of dollars to build new schools, streets, and water and sewer lines. This act gives incentives and offers support to local governments to put into place a long-term policy for promoting the orderly expansion of land use.
Housing and home ownership. Local government often has erected barriers to housing, such as low-density zoning requirements. This act eliminates these barriers through economic incentives.
Green space and agricultural preservation. The act includes a state funding mechanism, the LeRay McAllister Critical Land Conservation Fund, to preserve green space and agricultural lands. The fund is administered by the Utah Quality Growth Commission, and it makes grants or loans to Utah municipalities and counties, the state departments of agriculture and natural resources, and to nonprofit organizations to conserve or restore open and agricultural lands in Utah. In its eight-year history, the fund has spent almost $17 million to help preserve almost 75,000 acres. Those dollars have been matched by over $150 million in other funds.
The McAllister Fund is the only statewide fund for critical land conservation, but it must rely on the state legislature to appropriate funds every year. Year after year, it has received less than it needs to fund all the critical projects that apply for these funds.
I've been privileged to work with the Critical Lands Subcommittee for the last four years through my work at TreeUtah. The Critical Lands Subcommittee reviews all the applications for funding and recommends projects and funding levels to the Quality Growth Commission. During that time, the McAllister Fund has provided funding to purchase the plants and other materials for the 120-acre Audubon/Tree Utah restoration project along the Jordan River. Over the years, I have watched these committed committee members struggle with inadequate funding.
We need to get these open and agricultural lands protected soon, or we will lose our chance to do so. Future generations need us to act on their behalf now.
Vaughn Lovejoy is the ecological restoration coordinator for TreeUtah.
Calls to Action
Write your state legislator. To find out who your senator and representative is, go to: le.utah.gov/maps/ amap.html, type in your address and zip code. Let them know your opinion on appropriating $3 million this year to the LeRay McAllister Fund.
Check the TreeUtah website if you would like to help plant a woodland sanctuary for songbirds this spring; www.treeutah.org/restcalendar.htm