The Feb. 5 letter to the editor, "Including Bluff Road in corridor too impactful" stated that the "farm activists" are challenging UDOT's recommendations on the future route of Legacy Parkway's north extension through Davis and Weber Counties.
Cities in those counties have had the Bluff route on their master plans for many years before UDOT initially removed it from consideration citing "wetlands" concerns. In fact, Erik Craythorne, mayor of West Point, pointed out that UDOT has purchased some $6 million worth of property in its effort to secure the Bluff route. Did a flawd process allow the community-preferred Bluff route to be withdrawn?
A team of experts was brought together by UDOT to evaluate wetlands impacts, but what about the area's unique and economically vibrant farms and ranches? The unique nature of this micro-climate on the eastern shore of the Great Salt Lake calls for a special evaluation under the prime and unique farmlands provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Federal law requires consideration of alternatives to lessen adverse effects. UDOT failed to fully consider protection of this prime and unique farmland resource. Once you blacktop or rooftop prime farmland you can never get it back!
There are more than 80 Century Farms located in Davis and Weber Counties and potentially dozens within UDOT's proposed preferred routes - many contributing to local farmers markets. A Century Farm is a designation from the state of Utah that recognizes farming and ranching families that have been on the same land for more than 100 years. If these farms are cut through by a four-lane highway, much of the remaining land will ultimately be sold for development, water rights included. Irrigation tail-water and subsurface water will no longer make its way to the 4,600 acre Great Salt Lake nature preserve operated by the Nature Conservancy, adversely impacting hundreds of acres of wetlands.
Every Utahn should be concerned about our future food security. Utah has a rich agricultural heritage and a belief in being self sufficient. Recognizing a growing population and more hungry people, we must not ignore our obligation to protect our prime and unique farmlands and future food security.
Randy Parker, CEO
Utah Farm Bureau Federation