Conservation & Land

The Issue

From our mountains to our deserts, Utah offers one of the most beautiful and unique collections of natural wonders in our nation. Unfortunately, ongoing development and population growth threatens the quality of our state’s natural resources. Inefficient water and land use have depleted the quality of our soil, and rapid development across the Wasatch Front threatens to damage watersheds and limit land available for recreation. Some in Utah even want the federal government to transfer lands to the state government, which would allow the state to sell those lands off for mining, fracking, and other activities that would destroy their intrinsic value, with no input from environmental experts.

Global climate change will shape Utah’s economy, and state inaction on this critical issue risks Utahns’ lifestyles and industries vital to Utah’s economy. Reduced snowpack will affect not only local recreation, but also the tourism industry and its thousands of employees. Moreover, changes in temperature and precipitation may diminish Utah’s already scarce water, limiting agricultural output and urban water use. Scientists overwhelmingly concluded years ago that climate change affects our planet and our society; it’s past time for action. (Source:  White House May 6, 2014 release “Fact Sheet:  What Climate Change Means for Utah and the Sourthwest”)

As Utahns, we love our state’s beauty and have chosen to live in an environment that affords so many recreation and environmental opportunities. Utah Democrats are committed to take action to conserve our land and natural resources to maintain our state’s economy and our quality of life.

Our Position

Utah Democrats know, contrary to assertions from some critics, that economic growth can continue alongside efforts to preserve our natural resources. Indeed, long-term prosperity necessitates conservation efforts from the state government, as well as local authorities. High quality air, water, and land not only support outdoor recreation jobs, but also improve public health. Utah’s farmers rely on soil and water availability to support our state’s and nation’s food supplies. Our governments must hold polluters accountable to protect citizens both rural and urban by requiring effective cleanup of any contamination and restoration to damaged areas.

Ongoing population and economic growth will lead to higher demand for energy, but our state cannot continue to rely on coal, the energy source of the nineteenth century. Twenty-first century research and technology offers economically viable alternatives that do not pollute our air and contribute to climate change. From small-scale solar to wind power, our state has both the ability to incentivize private investment in clean energy and the power to mandate spending on alternatives from our state utilities.  Moreover, both public and private authorities can help make our state more energy efficient through both infrastructure and technology improvements.

Utah Democrats oppose measures that would increase pollution or limit environmental considerations in development, including the transfer of federal lands to the state government.  We believe green investments from our government and businesses will strengthen economic growth and create local jobs, all while protecting our environment. As Democrats, believe we live in an incredible land, and with that privilege comes an obligation of environmental stewardship.

Accomplishments

Over the past few years, Utah Republicans have sought state control of Utah federal lands, presumably for drilling, fracking, or other business interests. Meanwhile, Utah Democrats have spent their time fighting to preserve the quality of our state’s land and ensure our state government does not prioritize well-funded private interests over environmental quality. In the 2015 legislative session, State Senator Jim Dabakis sponsored legislation (S.B. 105) that would finally force Republicans’ flawed proposal into court and demonstrate its legal invalidity.