Watch out, Utah. We're about to see a baby boom—at least if you read between the lines. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, Utah's fertility rate has taken a dive, and the Deseret News calls this front-page news. Utah demographer Pamela Perlich calls it a new era. It's an era that's hit the nation, too—four years in a row. There are many reasons, which The New York Times' podcast The Argument discussed: Rising individualism, focus on careers, women seeking more egalitarian relationships, and a wariness of bringing children into a suffering world. In Utah, add a lower LDS missionary age for women, independence, rising costs and better education. No one knows how the LDS church will react, except that it does value large families. Still, the decline in births is not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of people on the planet.
In the world of land management and the era of Trumpism, there's so much to worry about. Let's start with wild horses and a compelling commentary in The Salt Lake Tribune by documentarian Ginger Kathrens. She calls out the Bureau of Land Management for its wild horse management plan. The BLM maintains that the horses are an existential threat to public lands. Kathrens says fertility control is a sham and there's no way to monitor how the BLM will spend federal dollars on wild horse management. "It's a diversionary tactic with the objective of distracting the public and Congress from the real threats to public lands: poorly regulated oil and gas drilling, mining, overgrazing by taxpayer-subsidized cattle, the diversion of water resources for these activities and the administration's gutting of environmental safeguards for wild lands and wildlife," she writes. And now the EPA is allowing oil and gas wells to self-regulate. How's that going to work?
The People Fight Back
It's a herculean task, but Utahns have been known to climb those hurtles in the past. They passed three ballot initiatives in 2018 despite the best obstructionist efforts by the Legislature. Now, poverty and education advocates have set their sights on a referendum to derail the hastily passed tax reform law. The governor thinks the law is a great idea because state revenues are falling. But former Rep. Fred Cox and now, the United Utah Party, want him to think hard about the consequences. The clock is ticking even though they are about to submit the first batch of the required 115,000-plus signatures needed. Signatures have to come from 15 of the state's 29 counties by Jan. 21. That's just before the session begins, when lawmakers have been known to try to overturn those citizen initiatives.