Linnabary: Utah Is a Conservation Leader


Kevin Cody

Antelope Island as viewed from the causeway on Feb. 1, 2022. (Photo by Kevin Cody | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ian Linnabary, Opinion Writer


Utah’s natural wonders have made it a prosperous state. From the Great Salt Lake to Delicate Arch to Zion Canyon, the state’s unique features have drawn in nature lovers and have helped grow Utah’s economy. But many of these natural wonders are in danger and require serious investments to conserve them for years to come. Thankfully, Utah’s leaders recognize this need and are ready to make environmentalism and conservation a significant theme of this legislative session. We know Utah’s great outdoors and other natural wonders make it such a great state, so we should invest in their conservation.

Even before the 2022 legislative session, it was clear that conservation would be a theme for the session. Both Gov. Spencer Cox and Speaker Brad Wilson held press conferences and introduced their budgets in front of the Great Salt Lake.

In the Salt Lake Tribune, Wilson described the crisis surrounding the Great Salt Lake. He said, “Unfortunately, the ongoing drought and record-low water levels represent a real crisis which demands our attention.” In his opinion editorial in the Tribune, he emphasized the Great Salt Lake’s great economic importance to Utah, with it providing over $1.5 billion annually to Utah’s economy.

But beyond the Great Salt Lake’s tremendous economic importance to Utahns, it also serves as a symbol of our state and the namesake of our capital city. Its receding shores symbolize the conservation crisis that Utah faces, especially in the area of water conservation. In front of the Great Salt Lake, Gov. Cox made the case for massive spending on conservation issues, especially water conservation, and introduced his 2023 fiscal year budget. This once-in-a-generation investment in water conservation and storage makes major strides towards saving the Great Salt Lake.

This investment includes appropriations for new reservoirs and other water storage infrastructure. In an interview with Deseret News, Cox said, “We think it’s crazy that we’re growing as a country and that we’re not investing in additional water storage.” This messaging on the importance of conservation continued into Cox’s State of the State address. He acknowledged the tough year we experienced in 2021, saying, “This past year was one of the driest on record, with 98 percent of the state experiencing extreme drought conditions.” This extreme dry season Utah experienced over the last year is due in part to climate change, with almost the entire western United States experiencing similar crises.

But like the efforts to conserve water, the Governor gave an optimistic and ambitious message to Utah’s legislature. Utah can be a leader in sustainable energy development. Cox pointed out that “Twenty-eight of the world’s 35 most critical minerals [for sustainable energy] can be found right here in our state.” That is why legislation sponsored by Sen. David Hinkins and Rep. Carl Albrecht to bring more mineral mining to the state are so important.

Cox further acknowledged the tremendous efforts by Speaker Brad Wilson to conserve the Great Salt Lake in his state of the state address, saying, “I am proud to say in front of this body and the entire state that I am 100% committed to helping you accomplish your vision of saving the Great Salt Lake.”

It’s no secret that Utah is dominated by Republicans, both on the state and national levels. Additionally, many have pessimistically said that Republicans have embraced anti-environmentalism in the past. But this legislative session is proving this characterization wrong. Republicans can and do care about conservation.

With Utah Congressman John Curtis founding the Conservative Climate Caucus and our governor and state legislature making the environment and conservation a top priority, we are seeing this stereotype being shattered. From investing in sustainable energy production to water conservation, Utah is doing big things during this legislative session to make the environment a priority.


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