Welcome to the second round of “What’s up in the Wasatch?” a monthly review of the current events, challenges, and success stories of the Wasatch front.
Last month’s review highlighted problems such as the Great Salt Lake (GSL) crisis, and controversy surrounding the possibility of a Gondola up one of our beloved canyons. Since then, the train wreck that is the GSL situation has gone national, with many major publications in outcry, citing instances such as Owen’s Lake in California that point to disaster. It is clear that if immediate action is not taken, the lake will dry up in the next five years, leaving behind a toxic dust bowl, and devastating the region.
This year, the Wasatch has seen more snow on record since 2002. Exciting for local residents, yet still just about “average” considering what the region has gotten in decades past. However, the near 140 inch deep snowpack has many hopeful for a start to drought relief in the coming year. While it will require many consecutive years of this kind of snowfall to really heal the southwest’s mega drought, with the proper water management, this may be Utah’s chance to begin restoring the Wasatch’s delicate cycle. The hope for this year is that our spring will stay chilly, allowing the snowpack to linger through to summer. Then, water must be appropriately managed, and a good portion allowed to flow back into the Great Salt Lake. With a deeper lake and a bit of good luck come winter 2023-2024, the snow should return with similar fury as the current season.
As for UDOT and its struggle to maintain control over traffic in the Cottonwood Canyons, bus service has still not returned to previous capacity, and the red snake remains mighty as ever. Luckily, community institutions and local businesses have stepped up to offer their own shuttles and carpool solutions. Student clubs, ski resorts, conservation non profits, even Black Diamond (a national outdoor brand based in Utah) have come forward to protest UDOTs inaction and provide relief for the never ending line of cars. Don’t miss Uinta Brewpub’s party bus on Thursday nights, an exciting way to meet new people, enjoy drinking and music, and ditch the car while getting up to Brighton Resort’s night skiing. While the issue could easily be resolved by a number of simple measures, in the meantime, the community continues to come up with creative solutions.
In other news, rural Utah legislators and alfalfa farmers known as the “Yellow Cake Caucus” have come forward declaring Utah’s forests to be the major hurdle impeding Utah’s water management. While raising some level of truth about the role of forest fires in western ecological health, the legislators also claim that thinning the conifer forests will leave more water to be returned to the lake, while allowing alfalfa farmers to continue on in their current farming practices. Though they bring some well known knowledge about water guzzling, non-native plants such as tamarisk and russian olive along our river beds, their stance rejects other scientific truths, such as forests balancing water quality, and that farming is the leading cause of water waste in the state.
As Utah remains in turmoil over it’s lingering water, and debates how to share our beautiful state with the ever oncoming crowds, we move into February, and Black History Month! Stay tuned for the inspiring stories of some of many Black Americans who paved the way in outdoor recreation and exploration later this month.