By Joseph Hadfield
Utah environmentalists are still debating the long-term costs and benefits of the Olympics.
“As far as environmental consciousness goes, Utah lags 5 to 10 years behind the rest of the United States,” said James Lambert, President of Eco-Response at BYU. “Anything is progress here.”
SLOC”s push to make these Olympics the “Green Games” satisfied some Utah environmentalists, but others still regret land development at Olympic venues.
Save Our Canyons, an organization which seeks to preserve Utah lands, calls development at Snowbasin the worst environmental impact of the Olympics.
“That land was originally turned over to Forest Service to protect the watershed,” said Gavin Noyes, director of Save Our Canyons.
A land-swap deal in 2000 gave the land from the Forest Service to billionaire Earl Holding, owner of Snowbasin.
Holding expanded the resort to host Olympic downhill and super g competitions.
Though Noyes said road construction at Snowbasin planned around sensitive areas, he fears this is only the beginning.
“The whole valley below will now probably be developed,” Noyes said. “That”s a direct link to the Olympics.”
According to Save Our Canyons, ski areas in Utah have increased by 44 percent since Salt Lake received the Olympic bid.
But SLOC officials contend their environmental programs will benefit Utah in the long run.
Environmental programs for the games include initiatives to ”green” Utah”s hotel industry, plant 200,000 trees in Utah, and restore aquatic habitat at Decker Lake and Soldier Hollow.
Olympic crews also exceeded their goal of recycling or composting 85 percent of solid waste recovered from Olympic venues, according to one SLOC official.
Traditionally, the International Olympic Committee has applied “Sport” and “Culture” as the two governing pillars of the Olympics.
But when Salt Lake City won the Olympic bid in 1994, the IOC made “Environment” the third governing pillar.
But some Provo residents wish SLOC had done more to protect the environment.
“If there are three pillars, it”s the little pillar,” said Rahn Jensen, 24, a junior from Mesa, Ariz., majoring in marketing and advertising.
The president of BYU club Eco-Response hopes SLOC”s environmental successes will help Provo become more environmentally sensitive.
“Provo”s environmental record is atrocious,” said Lambert, a junior from Paradise Valley, Ariz., majoring in English. “It”s just not a priority in Provo.”