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FUTURE REQUIRES MORE WILDERNESS

In "Fiscal Focus, An Annual Report to the Citizens of Utah from Governor Leavitt," dated February 1995, the governor reports that we experienced a population growth rate of 2.7 percent in 1994. If one projects forward at that rate, it becomes apparent that by Utah's bicentennial, Utahns will have a greater population density than China does today. Further, in less time than since the Declaration of Independence was signed, Utah will be far more densely populated than Bangladesh, the world's most densely populated country (0.3 acre per person).

All that is required to show this is an almanac and a compound growth rate equation (or the Rule of 72). The latter states the principal (the population) doubles when 72 is divided by interest (growth) rate, or 72 divided by 2.7 percent, which equals 26.66 years to double. Utah has a fixed surface of 82,073 square miles (nearly 52.5 million acres). Every time the population doubles, the land available to each Utahn is halved.In 1850, Utah had more than 4,600 acres per person. Population growth reduced that to less than 100 acres per person by 1940, and to 27.4 acres per person today. By the year 2100, our great-great-great-grandchildren will have one-sixteenth the land available today (four doubles). By 2200, land per person will be 1-256ths what it is today; Utah's population will be in the neighborhood of 500 million (eight population doubles) or a little over a tenth of an acre per person.

The point is: How much money do we want to put in the bank for our descendants? Stated another way, isn't it important that we put aside as much wilderness now as we can? We have a one-time opportunity to assure our great-grandchildren will have a chance of seeing the natural open space we still enjoy today. In just the past 10 years, the Uintah wilderness has become crowded. Our national parks are, or are on the verge of, requiring advance reservations now.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to the men who had the vision to preserve Yellowstone for us. It is incumbent on farsighted citizens, politicians and religious leaders to insist that we set aside a significant amount of wilderness now. Once gone, it is gone forever!

John David Marks

Salt Lake City