December 17, 2020
  • Opinion

Looking out for the Wasatch

By Alex Schmidt

Alex-Schmidt-Photo.jpgStep outside and look east. The western part of the Salt Lake Valley offers some of the most unobstructed and dramatic views of the Wasatch Mountain Range. Catching the beauty of the changing leaves in autumn, playing in the snow in the winter and enjoying all kinds of recreation year round make our lives here exciting.

The Wasatch Range creates the backbone of Utah’s burgeoning metropolis, extending from the Idaho border 180 miles south to its terminus at Mount Nebo near Payson in Utah County. The Forest Service-managed land in the Wasatch attracts a year-round visitation of 9 million people. It’s also home to 1,200 species of plants and animals, and is a main water source for us valley residents. The cities and communities around the Wasatch Range are a great place to live. There’s a balance between urban and wild that needs to be cared for.

This is why since 1972, the mission of Save Our Canyons has been to protect the beauty and wildness of the Wasatch Mountains. As a local nonprofit organization, we’ve advocated for science-driven environmental ordinances that limit development in wetlands and in close proximity to streams that support wildlife and provide our water. We offer experiential education activities through our SOCKids program that just last year took over 600 students on hikes to learn about the Wasatch’s wildlife, watershed, and trail system. With the help of hundreds of volunteers we have completed miles of trail maintenance and canyon highway cleanup projects.

There’s no shortage of ways our community comes together to continue to build support to help us address the challenges that face the Wasatch. But the pressures are growing, and so must our efforts. 

How we recreate and access the foothills and canyons as our population grows could protect and even restore this unique landscape to a healthier future. However, if left unchecked, construction projects could alter the natural character of the land and exclude people who wish to experience the year round delights of nature.

Decisions are being made now that will impact the future of these canyons. Ask yourself, what values deserve protection? What wins and what loses as the pressures increase? Our elected officials at all levels of government need to know that open space and natural areas in and around our cities matter to you.

Seven creeks flow from the Wasatch through our urban environments before emptying into the Jordan River. Let’s find ways to connect with our governments and communities to share in the joys and address the problems that face us, as we work to steward and preserve the Wasatch Mountains. We invite you to help us Save Our Canyons by visiting our website (www.saveourcanyons.org) where you will find current campaigns, how to become a member, and volunteer opportunities.  

Alex Schmidt, a native Utahn, works as the Campaigns Coordinator for Save Our Canyons, a nonprofit devoted to protecting and preserving the Wasatch Mountains.