Introduced at the beginning of the month by Utah State Representative Stephen G. Handy, Utah House Concurrent Resolution 8 points out that racers noted a thinning of the salt flats as early as the 1960s and that the flats were designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern in 1985 before “strongly urging” the BLM, the United States Congress, and the state’s congressional representatives to come up with a plan to restore the salt flats “to safe land speed racing conditions.”
“It’s a real tragedy, what’s happened there,” Handy told the Salt Lake Tribune. “There are things that we cannot do that we would like to do with those lands within our sovereign borders that we cannot effect.”
Last September, after the cancellation of Bonneville’s Speed Week for the second time in as many years, Utah Governor Gary Herbert wrote a similarly worded letter to the Bureau of Land Management, noting that despite the agency’s responsibility for the landmark, “the Bonneville Salt Flats are not only severely damaged but are, in fact, approaching ruin.”
While neither the House bill nor the governor’s letter pinpointed a specific cause for the deteriorating salt conditions and heavy rains contributed to the back-to-back cancellations, the Bonneville racing community has long blamed the BLM and nearby mining company Intrepid Potash, which leases part of the Bonneville Salt Flats from the BLM for its operations, as the cause of the thinning salt and of the declining salinity in Bonneville’s underground aquifers.
“We need to make sure the Bureau of Land Management acknowledges the tons of salt that have been removed from the salt flats,” said Stuart Gosswein of the Save the Salt Coalition. “We need a reclamation plan in place, and they’d be the ones to approve it.”
Lisa Reid, a BLM spokesperson, said that the BLM “wants to be responsive” on the issue, but that it would not be appropriate for the agency to comment on pending legislation. The BLM last yearcommitted to a study of the shrinking and thinning of the salt flats, though as the Utah Alliance pointed out in a press release, previous studies of the salt depletion have come to widely varying conclusions about the source and extent of the depletion.
HCR 8, which passed the Utah House of Representatives 71-1 on Monday, has since been sent to the Utah Senate for consideration.
Article courtesy of Hemmings Daily, written by Daniel Strohl.