A recent Deseret News editorial critiqued NumbersUSA's new study on sprawl. Among this study’s findings was that Utah’s sprawl rate from 2002-2010 was the second highest among all states.
The editorial included criticism of our methodology by professional planners. We are not planners but conservationists, and for us, the bottom line is the ongoing loss of open space to ever-expanding urban areas. Our data from the Census Bureau and USDA are unequivocal: rapid loss of open space in Utah continues in spite of market forces and commendable smart growth efforts that have made new development more compact.
Our most important conclusion is that population growth accounts for 70 percent of sprawl nationwide, and even more in Utah. Given the alarming population projections you reported for Utah — 5.4 million by 2050 — smart growth can only slow sprawl, but not stop it. Under these demographic trends, mistakenly taken as a fait accompli, there will likely be more than 10 million residents in your beautiful, formerly uncrowded state by 2100. I doubt most Utahns would choose this future.
In 1972, the Nixon-appointed Rockefeller Commission on Population Growth and the American Future recommended emphatically that America choose population stabilization. But Congress just as emphatically rejected that advice, and in the four decades since, our population has grown by more than 110 million, and so have our environmental problems.
Until the American people and Congress decide that enough is enough, open space-devouring sprawl driven by rapid population growth will continue indefinitely.