The Hinckley Institute Radio Hour

Living Off the Land: Utah’s Public Lands and Gateway Communities

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The Hinckley Institute Radio Hour — This week on the program, a panel of experts discusses Utah’s public lands and the gateway communities that provide access to them. The panel will lay out the problems and opportunities presented by the popularity of these areas and what Utah can do to maintain its natural wonders amidst historic population growth.

One such issue that has garnered extensive public attention is the future of transportation in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Two public projects have gone before the Utah Department of Transportation to address the winter congestion caused by traffic to ski resorts. One idea is for a 200-foot tall, eight-mile long gondola—the other is an expansion of the existing canyon road to accommodate a fleet of buses. While UDOT’s decision on the canyon infrastructure is waiting on a final environmental impact statement; the Mayors of Salt Lake County, Alta, and Sandy joined local interest and environmental groups in denouncing the gondola as the solution to the canyon’s problems. 

Critics of the gondola claim that the current $592 million price tag is a severe underestimate, and that the more accurate estimate would be closer to $1 billion. UDOT’s estimate for the enhanced bus system is placed at $510 million. However, the maintenance cost of the expanded road system is projected to outstrip the gondola sometime around 2050. Due to the unprecedented scope of these projects, UDOT was unable to say if these costs are a high or low estimate of actual costs.

This week’s panel of experts will discuss areas like Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah and across the Western U.S. The panel includes Betsy Byrne, landscape architect at the National Park Service; Deeda Seed, public lands senior campaigner for at the Center for Biological Diversity; Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources; and Vicki Varela, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism. Moderating today’s panel is Danya Rumore, Founder, Gateway & Natural Amenity Region (GNAR) Initiative and professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

This forum was cosponsored by the University of Utah’s Office of Sustainability

This forum was recorded on April 11th, 2022.

The Hinckley Institute Radio Hour
The Hinckley Institute Radio Hour is a weekly program featuring forums on local, national, and international issues important to people living in Utah. The program airs every Wednesday at 10 AM and Saturday at 9 AM. Hosted by Anthony Scoma, the program highlights and contextualizes the forums presented by the Hinckley Institute of Politics every fall and spring semester at the University of Utah. Produced by KCPW Studios
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