Utah receives miserably low scores ranking 48th among the 50 states - when it comes to protecting the environment, according to a Washington-based environmental think tank.

Renew America issued its third annual report card Tuesday on how the 50 states rate in their efforts to protect the environment.Utah received a dismal score of 24 out of a possible 100. The only lower scores were a 22 by Tennessee and a 20 by Louisiana.

The highest scores were by California, 84; Oregon, 78; Minnesota, 76; Massachusetts, 74; and Wisconsin, 74.

Each state government was given points for how well it performed in five areas that the group says are important to environmental protection: forest management, solid waste recycling, drinking water protection, food safety and handling the impact of growth on the environment.

Utah finished in a tie for dead last among the 50 states on how it handles forest management.

Renew America said Utah was the only state that did not plant a single acre of new trees for reforestation in 1988 on public lands. The group said Utah is also not among those states that have comprehensive state forest management laws, reforestation requirements and aggressive action to ensure forest practices do not damage drinking water.

Utah received the second-lowest score in how well it handles solid waste recycling. It was given low marks because it is not among the states that have initiated used-oil recycling programs, efforts to recycle scrap tires and other similar programs.

The state also received the second-lowest score for its efforts to protect drinking water. Renew America said 11 percent of the state's population, or 120,696 people, lived in areas affected by Safe Drinking Water Act violations by 521 different water systems, and that aggressive action against the violations generally was not taken.

Utah received the third-lowest score for its handling of food safety. The group said the state has relatively few programs, compared to other states, to detect and prevent food contamination.

Utah finished in a tie ahead of nine other states for its efforts to lessen the impacts of growth on the environment. The group said 78 percent of Utahns live in counties where the air violates quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It also said inspection standards for car emissions are relatively weak.

Tina Hobson, executive director of Renew America, said, "Although the cost of stronger environmental protection efforts is steep, it will be only a fraction of what we will eventually pay for cleanup, higher health care costs, wasteful consumption of resources and perhaps irreversible damage to the environment."