From the Writer’s Desk: After Long Debate, Utah Finally Passes Comprehensive Tree Reform

Alex Cragun - UPC Writer
Alex Cragun – UPC Writer

After weeks of thunderous debate and slanderous name calling, Democrats and Republicans brushed aside partisan differences on Wednesday and finally passed comprehensive state tree reform.

SB 41 – State Tree Change was introduced to the House Floor in a passionate speech by its sponsor, Representative Brad Wilson (Republican – Kaysville). “Vote for this bill, it’s good,” said Wilson*. Wilson called the current state tree, the Blue Spruce, a “travesty” and in need of immediate reform. At one point during his speech, Wilson demanded the Speaker bring order to the chamber so he could finish his speech.

The bill tackles the issue of the official state tree of Utah, and whether to replace the Blue Spruce (a native of Colorado) with the Quaking Aspen. Aspen trees cover 10 percent of Utah’s majestic landscape, ten times more than the spruce’s pathetic one percent. As some House members pointed out, the aspen is a prolific and hardy tree, an apt description of Utah citizens. Members also described the tree as a powerful, but passive tool against unwanted or unruly neighbors.

The bill is being aggressively lobbied by an underfunded, but influential dark horse political organization: Mrs. Blomquist’s fourth grade class. According to anonymous sources, the group has been seen in the halls of the Utah State Legislature in backroom meetings, and doling out sleazy gifts to lawmakers (like unreported candy and photo-ops for Senators), and good-government groups are crying foul over the influence these unelected influence-peddlers are having. Not much is known about Mrs. Blomquist’s fourth grade class either, except that they are staunchly opposed to legislation regulating hall passes and playground equipment, and what they’ve called an “archaic and unrepresentative state symbol.”

Trudging through the muck and mire of policy, the state legislature gave a significant portion of Wednesday’s House Floor time to SB 41, rather than address plain and frivolous issues such as non-discrimination ordinances, wage inequality, medicaid expansion, and clean air ordinances.

A strong supporter of tree reform, Representative Mel Brown (Republican – Coalville) spoke highly of the bill. “The aspens in Utah are a little unique and I don’t think they’re anywhere else,” said Brown. “[While I was on a trip in the LaSalle Mountains Range] there were aspen trees three to four feet in diameter and that is very unusual, you usually see aspens in six to eight inches in diameter at their biggest … there were aspen trees in three to four feet in diameter being logged and hauled to Oregon for the purpose of timber for construction,” said Brown.

Speaking in opposition to the bill, Representative Carol Moss (Democrat – Millcreek) stated that the Blue Spruce was adopted by Utah before the state of Colorado. “It’s fine for school children to take initiative like this, but they ought to have their facts correct,” said Moss. Moss suggested an alternative tree, the Cottonwood, as it is a tree often used in naming locations in Utah.

In a sign of bipartisan support, Representative Joel Briscoe (Democrat – Salt Lake City) recounted an enlightening encounter he once had with an aspen tree. “If you get an aspen at the right thickness, it can’t be too thick or too thin, and you put it next to a water source and put your ear next to the [aspen], you can literally hear the water running up the trunk.” said Briscoe.

The bill passed the House 54-19, where it will be then sent to the Governor for his signature.

*Note: all quotes in this article are real and in their proper context.

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From The Writer’s Desk gives our writers an opportunity to express their opinions on the events of the day. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the opinions of UPC.

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