Utah: The First U.S. State to Measure Footprint

08/15/2007 11:11 PM

The Utah Population and Environment Coalition (UPEC) spearheaded the first effort to calculate the Ecological Footprint of a US state. The report, Utah Vital Signs 2007: the Ecological Footprint of Utah finds that Utah’s Footprint is greater than its biocapacity. Between 1990 and 2003, Utah went from an ecological surplus of 10.8 million global hectares (gha) to an ecological deficit of 2.4 million gha; Utahns are now using 11% more regenerative capacity than is available in their state. Despite this evidence of local ecological overshoot, public response to the study has been mostly positive, says Sandra McIntyre, the project director. “As we take the results of the study into the community, we are pleased to see how many people in Utah are making changes in their lifestyles to become more sustainable.”

The report is based on a nine-month study using National Footprint Accounts data and state statistics, and was prepared as part of the Utah Vital Signs project of UPEC, a Global Footprint Network partner and educational organization in Salt Lake City.

“Given that a large number of decisions affecting our lands and waters are made at the state level,” says McIntyre, “we hope that our state Ecological Footprint study can serve as a way to help citizens, legislators, and planners to make better decisions about our future.” The group looks forward to opportunities this fall to speak to various state-level government groups, and McIntyre hopes UPEC can help other states in the U.S. calculate their own Ecological Footprints.

In a state with the highest fertility rate in the country, and a population that increased more than 40% during the 13 years analyzed in the Utah Vital Signs study [1990 to 2003] the Ecological Footprint report has spurred conversations about family size and population growth. Official state estimates are for Utah’s population to grow from 2.6 million in 2006 to 5.4 million by 2050, and the report is providing a way for Utahns to understand the demand this place on their own and the world’s biologically productive land and water.

“We are still figuring out what these results mean for the ongoing discussion of sustainability in Utah,” says McIntyre, “but we know that the Ecological Footprint will continue to be important for our community.”

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