Millennia ago, Utah's surface was carved by forces so great that, in some places, mountains were flung upward toward the sky. In other spots, ancient rivers sculpted ember-red, labyrinthine landscapes that glow in the setting sun.
The stunning results, eons in the making, have converted many to Utah's beauty with just one glance.
As Utah's environmental leaders look ahead to the next 10 years, many are optimistic that its treasures will not change. But as threats like pollution and an emptying water table creep closer, it will be increasingly important for Utahns to be conservation minded.
"If we concentrate for these next 10 years on getting away from carbon and protecting these habitats for wildlife, we can actually go back in time for the Earth to heal," said Mark Heileson, Southwest regional representative of the Sierra Club. "But it has to happen now."
Heileson speaks of the importance of maintaining Utah's bird habitats — particularly in Utah Lake — to preserve corridors of migration for traveling fowl, as development continues and habitats disappear.
The Department of Natural Resources works hard to keep Utah's animals off the endangered species list, and a carp-removal project at Utah Lake, slated to be finished by 2013, will help preserve the lake's native fish.
The Division of Water Resources plans to make progress on an initiative to decrease Utah's per capita water usage by 25 percent from levels in 2000 by 2050. Doing so would remove the need to develop 500,000 acre-feet of new water sources for this desert state with a rapidly growing population.
New EPA restrictions on air pollutants will begin to take effect in 2010. Stricter air quality standards in Utah will probably be passed in the coming decade, says Cheryl Heying of the Department of Environmental Quality. Those regulations could result in changes in driving habits and development practices.
It will be difficult to keep up with changing environmental standards, Heying says, but possible. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance activist Deeda Seed shares that optimism. She has to, she says, because she has children.
"We need to have the faith that we can solve these problems and that we can create ways to live and work and raise our children that are sustainable, that allow us to be good stewards of the earth," Seed said. "I think a lot of Utahns are really ready to do this, and they are doing it. They're doing it on every level."
— Amy Choate-Nielsen
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