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Wanted: More Utahns to Envision Utah's Future

Judy Fahys/KUER
The Your Utah/Your Future survey asks what tradeoffs Utahns are willing to make to preserve farms -- or to make agricultural water available for cities.

Jim Wright and his wife are raising three young children in Kaysville. They want state leaders to plan for a healthy economy so their kids also can live and work here. They’d like education to be high-quality and affordable. They want rich outdoor opportunities for their grandchildren even as the population doubles. That’s why Wright filled out Envision Utah’s online survey, Your Utah Your Future.

“You need to have an idea of how your actions are going to affect the future,” Wright says. “The population’s going to grow, and so the choices we make now are going to determine how it looks then.”

Wright is one of more than 35,000 Utahns have weighed in already, as the planning think-tank Envision Utah runs out of time to learn what Utah’s think the future here should look like. Bob Grow, Envision Utah’s CEO, says he’d like to hear from thousands more before the campaign wraps up at the month’s end.

“Utahns know what they want when it’s described to them,” he says, “and so this has been made easy for them to learn and then respond in an educated way about the future.”

The survey focuses on Utah’s quality of life. Should leaders be willing to limit industry to get cleaner air? Should farms be protected at the expense of green lawns in the city? Should we rely more on nuclear power?

Grow says the survey offers an extraordinary opportunity to understand the tradeoffs involved in creating the kind of future Utahns really want.

“If you think about it, more than half of what will be here in 2050 has not been created, and about half of what’s here will change by 2050,” he says. “In a way, we paint on a very nice, white, clean canvas.”

Grow says elected officials will find it hard to ignore the wishes of thousands of their constituents. He says a similar survey in the 90’s prompted state leaders plan to rethink housing and transit.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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