Utah

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Utah

Utah is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. Utah is a landlocked U.S. state bordered to its east by Colorado, to its northeast by Wyoming, to its north by Idaho, to its south by Arizona, and to its west by Nevada. Utah also touches a corner of New Mexico in the southeast. Of the fifty U.S. states, Utah is the 13th-largest by area; with a population over three million, it is the 30th-most-populous and 11th-least-densely populated. Urban development is mostly concentrated in two areas: the Wasatch Front in the north-central part of the state, which is home to roughly two-thirds of the population and includes the capital city, Salt Lake City; and Washington County in the southwest, with more than 180,000 residents. Most of the western half of Utah lies in the Great Basin.

Etymology

Utah is a state in the Mountain West subregion of the Western United States. Utah is a landlocked U.S. state bordered to its east by Colorado, to its northeast by Wyoming, to its north by Idaho, to its south by Arizona, and to its west by Nevada. Utah also touches a corner of New Mexico in the southeast. Of the fifty U.S. states, Utah is the 13th-largest by area; with a population over three million, it is the 30th-most-populous and 11th-least-densely populated. Urban development is mostly concentrated in two areas: the Wasatch Front in the north-central part of the state, which is home to roughly two-thirds of the population and includes the capital city, Salt Lake City; and Washington County in the southwest, with more than 180,000 residents. Most of the western half of Utah lies in the Great Basin.

Geography

Utah is known for its natural diversity and is home to features ranging from arid deserts with sand dunes to thriving pine forests in mountain valleys. It is a rugged and geographically diverse state at the convergence of three distinct geological regions: the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. Utah covers an area of 84,899 sq mi (219,890 km2). It is one of the Four Corners states and is bordered by Idaho in the north, Wyoming in the north and east, by Colorado in the east, at a single point by New Mexico to the southeast, by Arizona in the south, and by Nevada in the west. Only three U.S. states (Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming) have exclusively latitude and longitude lines as boundaries.

One of Utah’s defining characteristics is the variety of its terrain. Running down the middle of the state’s northern third is the Wasatch Range, which rises to heights of almost 12,000 ft (3,700 m) above sea level. Utah is home to world-renowned ski resorts made popular by light, fluffy snow and winter storms that regularly dump up to three feet of it overnight. In the state’s northeastern section, running east to west, are the Uinta Mountains, which rise to heights of over 13,000 feet (4,000 m). The highest point in the state, Kings Peak, at 13,528 feet (4,123 m), lies within the Uinta Mountains.

Climate

Utah features a dry, semi-arid to desert climate, although its many mountains feature a large variety of climates, with the highest points in the Uinta Mountains being above the timberline. The dry weather is a result of the state’s location in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada in California. The eastern half of the state lies in the rain shadow of the Wasatch Mountains. The primary source of precipitation for the state is the Pacific Ocean, with the state usually lying in the path of large Pacific storms from October to May. In summer, the state, especially southern and eastern Utah, lies in the path of monsoon moisture from the Gulf of California.

Utah’s temperatures are extreme, with cold temperatures in winter due to its elevation, and very hot summers statewide (with the exception of mountain areas and high mountain valleys). Utah is usually protected from major blasts of cold air by mountains lying north and east of the state, although major Arctic blasts can occasionally reach the state. Average January high temperatures range from around 30 °F (−1 °C) in some northern valleys to almost 55 °F (13 °C) in St. George.

Wildlife

Utah is home to more than 600 vertebrate animals as well as numerous invertebrates and insects.

Mammals

Mammals are found in every area of Utah. Non-predatory larger mammals include the plains bison, elk, moose, mountain goat, mule deer, pronghorn, and multiple types of bighorn sheep. Non-predatory small mammals include muskrat, and nutria. Large and small predatory mammals include the black bear, cougar, Canada lynx, bobcat, fox (gray, red, and kit), coyote, badger, black-footed ferret, mink, stoat, long-tailed weasel, raccoon, and otter. The brown bear was formerly found within Utah, but has been extirpated. There are no confirmed mating pairs of gray wolf in Utah, though there have been sitings in northeastern Utah along the Wyoming border.

Birds

As of January 2020, there were 466 species included in the official list managed by the Utah Bird Records Committee (UBRC). Of them, 119 are classed as accidental, 29 are classed as occasional, 57 are classed as rare, and 10 have been introduced to Utah or North America. Eleven of the accidental species are also classed as provisional. Due to the miracle of the gulls incident in 1848, the most well known bird in Utah is the California gull, which is the Utah state bird. A monument in Salt Lake City commemorates this event, known as the "Miracle of the Gulls". Other gulls common to Utah include Bonaparte's gull, the ring-billed gull, and Franklin's gull.

Invertebrates

Utah is host to a wide variety of arachnids, insects, mollusks, and other invertebrates. Arachnids include the Arizona bark scorpion, Western black widow spiders, crab spiders, hobo spiders (Tegenaria agrestis), cellar spiders, American grass spiders, woodlouse spiders, Several spiders found in Utah are often mistaken for the brown recluse spider, including the desert recluse spider (found only in Washington County), the cellar spider, and crevice weaving spiders. The brown recluse spider has not been officially confirmed in Utah as of summer 2020.

One of the most rare insects in Utah is the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, found only in Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, near Kanab. It was proposed in 2012 to be listed as a threatened species, but the proposal was not accepted. Other insects include grasshoppers, green stink bugs, the Army cutworm, the monarch butterfly, and Mormon fritillary butterfly. The white-lined sphinx moth is common to most of the United States, but there have been reported outbreaks of large groups of their larvae damaging tomato, grape and garden crops in Utah. Four or five species of firefly are also found across the state.

Vegetation

Several thousand plants are native to Utah, including a variety of trees, shrubs, cacti, herbaceous plants, and grasses. As of 2018, there are 3,930 species of plants in Utah, with 3,128 of those being indigenous and 792 being introduced through various means. Common trees include pines/piñons (white fir, Colorado, single-leaf, Great Basin bristlecone, ponderosa, Engelmann spruce, Rocky Mountain white), and Acer grandidentatum, quaking aspen, bigtooth maple, Utah juniper, speckled alder, red birch, Gambel oak, desert willow, blue spruce, and Joshua trees. Utah has a number of named trees, including the Jardine Juniper, Pando, and the Thousand Mile Tree. 

Shrubs include a number of different ephedras (pitamoreal, Navajo, Arizona, Nevada, Torrey’s jointfir, and green Mormon tea), sagebrushes (little, Bigelow, silver, Michaux’s wormwood, black, pygmy, bud, and Great Basin), blue elderberry, Utah serviceberry, chokecherry, and skunkbush sumac. Western poison oak, poison sumac, and western poison ivy are all found in Utah. There are many varieties of cacti in Utah’s varied deserts, especially in the southern and western parts of the state. Some of these include desert prickly pear, California barrel cactus, fishhook cactus, cholla, beavertail prickly pear, and Uinta Basin hookless cactus. Despite the desert climate, many different grasses are found in Utah, including Mormon needlegrass, bluebunch wheatgrass, western alkali grass, squirreltail, desert saltgrass, and cheatgrass.

Demographics

At the 2020 U.S. census, Utah had a population of 3,271,616. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the population of Utah was 3,205,958 on July 1, 2019, a 16.00% increase since the 2010 U.S. census. The center of population of Utah is located in Utah County in the city of Lehi. Much of the population lives in cities and towns along the Wasatch Front, a metropolitan region that runs north–south with the Wasatch Mountains rising on the eastern side. Growth outside the Wasatch Front is also increasing. The St. George metropolitan area is currently the second fastest-growing in the country after the Las Vegas metropolitan area, while the Heber micropolitan area is also the second fastest-growing in the country (behind Palm Coast, Florida).

Utah contains five metropolitan areas (Logan, Ogden-Clearfield, Salt Lake City, Provo-Orem, and St. George), and six micropolitan areas (Brigham City, Heber, Vernal, Price, Richfield, and Cedar City).

Ancestry and race

In 2011 one-third of Utah’s workforce was reported to be bilingual, developed through a program of acquisition of second languages beginning in elementary school, and related to Mormonism’s missionary goals for its young people. 28.6% of Utah’s population younger than the age of one were ethnic minorities, meaning they had at least one parent who was of a race other than non-Hispanic white.

Religion

Mormons are the largest religious group in Utah. However, the percentage of Mormons to the overall population has been decreasing. In 2017, 62.8% of Utahns were members of the LDS Church. This declined to 61.2% in 2018 and to 60.7% in 2019. Members of the LDS Church currently make up between 34%–41% of the population within Salt Lake City. However, many of the other major population centers such as Provo, Logan, Tooele, and St. George tend to be predominantly LDS, along with many suburban and rural areas. The LDS Church has the largest number of congregations, numbering 4,815 wards. According to results from the 2010 U.S. Census, combined with official LDS Church membership statistics, church members represented 62.1% of Utah’s total population. The Utah county with the lowest percentage of church members was Grand County, at 26.5%, while the county with the highest percentage was Morgan County, at 86.1%. In addition, the result for the most populated county, Salt Lake County, was 51.4%.

Though the LDS Church officially maintains a policy of neutrality in regard to political parties, the church’s doctrine has a strong regional influence on politics. Another doctrine effect can be seen in Utah’s high birth rate (25 percent higher than the national average; the highest for a state in the U.S.). The Mormons in Utah tend to have conservative views when it comes to most political issues and the majority of voter-age Utahns are unaffiliated voters (60%) who vote overwhelmingly Republican. Mitt Romney received 72.8% of the Utahn votes in 2012, while John McCain polled 62.5% in the 2008 United States presidential election and 70.9% for George W. Bush in 2004. In 2010 the Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA) reported that the three largest denominational groups in Utah are the LDS Church with 1,910,504 adherents; the Catholic Church with 160,125 adherents, and the Southern Baptist Convention with 12,593 adherents.

Languages

The official language in the state of Utah is English. Utah English is primarily a merger of Northern and Midland American dialects carried west by LDS Church members, whose original New York dialect later incorporated features from northeast Ohio and central Illinois. Conspicuous in the speech of some in the central valley, although less frequent now in Salt Lake City, is a cord-card merger, so that the vowels /ɑ/ an /ɔ/ are pronounced the same before an /ɹ/, such as in the words cord and cardIn 2000, 87.5% of all state residents five years of age or older spoke only English at home, a decrease from 92.2% in 1990.

Age and gender

Utah has the highest total birth rate and accordingly, the youngest population of any U.S. state. In 2010, the state’s population was 50.2% male and 49.8% female. The life expectancy is 79.3 years.

Economy

The Wasatch Front region has seen large growth and development despite the economic downturn. Shown is the City Creek Center project, a development in downtown Salt Lake City with a price tag of $1.5–2.5 billion. One out of every 14 flash memory chips in the world is produced in Lehi, Utah. The Wasatch Front region has seen large growth and development despite the economic downturn. Shown is the City Creek Center project, a development in downtown Salt Lake City with a price tag of $1.5–2.5 billion. One out of every 14 flash memory chips in the world is produced in Lehi, Utah.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the gross state product of Utah in 2012 was US$130.5 billion, or 0.87% of the total United States GDP of US$14.991 trillion for the same year. The per capita personal income was $45,700 in 2012. Major industries of Utah include: mining, cattle ranching, salt production, and government services.

According to the 2007 State New Economy Index, Utah is ranked the top state in the nation for Economic Dynamism, determined by “the degree to which state economies are knowledge-based, globalized, entrepreneurial, information technology-driven and innovation-based”. In 2014, Utah was ranked number one in Forbes’ list of “Best States For Business”. A November 2010 article in Newsweek magazine highlighted Utah and particularly the Salt Lake City area’s economic outlook, calling it “the new economic Zion”, and examined how the area has been able to bring in high-paying jobs and attract high-tech corporations to the area during a recession. As of September 2014, the state’s unemployment rate was 3.5%. In terms of “small business friendliness”, in 2014 Utah emerged as number one, based on a study drawing upon data from more than 12,000 small business owners. In eastern Utah petroleum production is a major industry. Near Salt Lake City, petroleum refining is done by a number of oil companies. In central Utah, coal production accounts for much of the mining activity.

Culture

Tourism is a major industry in Utah. With five national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion), Utah has the third most national parks of any state after Alaska and California. In addition, Utah features eight national monuments (Cedar Breaks, Dinosaur, Grand Staircase-Escalante, Hovenweep, Natural Bridges, Bears Ears, Rainbow Bridge, and Timpanogos Cave), two national recreation areas (Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon), seven national forests (Ashley, Caribou-Targhee, Dixie, Fishlake, Manti-La Sal, Sawtooth, and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache), and numerous state parks and monuments. The Moab area, in the southeastern part of the state, is known for its challenging mountain biking trails, including Slickrock. Moab also hosts the famous Moab Jeep Safari semiannually.

Utah has many significant ski resorts. The 2009 Ski Magazine reader survey concluded that six of the top ten resorts deemed most “accessible”, and six of the top ten with the best snow conditions, were located in Utah. In Southern Utah, Brian Head Ski Resort is located in the mountains near Cedar City. Former Olympic venues including Utah Olympic Park and Utah Olympic Oval are still in operation for training and competition and allows the public to participate in numerous activities including ski jumping, bobsleigh, and speed skating. Other attractions include Monument Valley, the Great Salt Lake, the Bonneville Salt Flats, and Lake Powell.

Mining

Mining has been a large industry in Utah since it was first settled. The Bingham Canyon Mine in Salt Lake County is one of the largest open pit mines in the world.

Beginning in the late 19th century with the state’s mining boom (including the Bingham Canyon Mine, among the world’s largest open pit mines), companies attracted large numbers of immigrants with job opportunities. Since the days of the Utah Territory mining has played a major role in Utah’s economy. Historical mining towns include Mercur in Tooele County, Silver Reef in Washington County, Eureka in Juab County, Park City in Summit County and numerous coal mining camps throughout Carbon County such as Castle Gate, Spring Canyon, and Hiawatha.

These settlements were characteristic of the boom and bust cycle that dominated mining towns of the American West. Park City, Utah, and Alta, Utah were a boom towns in the early twentieth centuries. Rich silver mines in the mountains adjacent to the towns led to many people flocking to the towns in search of wealth. During the early part of the Cold War era, uranium was mined in eastern Utah. Today mining activity still plays a major role in the state’s economy. Minerals mined in Utah include copper, gold, silver, molybdenum, zinc, lead, and beryllium. Fossil fuels including coal, petroleum, and natural gas continue to play a large role in Utah’s economy, especially in the eastern part of the state in counties such as Carbon, Emery, Grand, and Uintah.

Energy

Utah extracts more coal and generates more electricity than it consumes. The state has the potential to generate 31.6 TWh/year from 13.1 GW of wind power, and 10,290 TWh/year from solar power using 4,048 GW of photovoltaic (PV), including 5.6 GW of rooftop photovoltaic, and 1,638 GW of concentrated solar power. The Blue Castle Project is working toward building the state’s first nuclear power plant near Green River, Utah. It is projected to be completed in 2030.

Transportation

I-15 and I-80 are the main interstate highways in the state, where they intersect and briefly merge near downtown Salt Lake City. I-15 traverses the state north-to-south, entering from Arizona near St. George, paralleling the Wasatch Front, and crossing into Idaho near Portage. I-80 spans northern Utah east-to-west, entering from Nevada at Wendover, crossing the Wasatch Mountains east of Salt Lake City, and entering Wyoming near Evanston. I-84 West enters from Idaho near Snowville (from Boise) and merges with I-15 from Tremonton to Ogden, then heads southeast through the Wasatch Mountains before terminating at I-80 near Echo Junction. I-70 splits from I-15 at Cove Fort in central Utah and heads east through mountains and rugged desert terrain, providing quick access to the many national parks and national monuments of southern Utah, and has been noted for its beauty. The 103 mi (166 km) stretch from Salina to Green River is the country’s longest stretch of interstate without services and, when completed in 1970, was the longest stretch of entirely new highway constructed in the U.S. since the Alaska Highway was completed in 1943.

TRAX, a light rail system in the Salt Lake Valley, consists of three lines. The Blue Line (formerly Salt Lake/Sandy Line) begins in the suburb of Draper and ends in Downtown Salt Lake City. The Red Line (Mid-Jordan/University Line) begins in the Daybreak Community of South Jordan, a southwestern valley suburb, and ends at the University of Utah. The Green Line begins in West Valley City, passes through downtown Salt Lake City, and ends at Salt Lake City International Airport.

Salt Lake City International Airport is the only international airport in the state and serves as one of the hubs for Delta Air Lines. The airport has consistently ranked first in on-time departures and had the fewest cancellations among U.S. airports. The airport has non-stop service to more than a hundred destinations throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as well as to Amsterdam, London and Paris. Canyonlands Field (near Moab), Cedar City Regional Airport, Ogden-Hinckley Airport, Provo Municipal Airport, St. George Regional Airport, and Vernal Regional Airport all provide limited commercial air service. A new regional airport at St. George opened on January 12, 2011. SkyWest Airlines is also headquartered in St. George and maintains a hub at Salt Lake City.

Major cities and towns

Utah’s population is concentrated in two areas, the Wasatch Front in the north-central part of the state, with over 2.6 million residents; and Washington County, in southwestern Utah, locally known as “Dixie”, with more than 175,000 residents in the metropolitan area. According to the 2010 Census, Utah was the second fastest-growing state (at 23.8 percent) in the United States between 2000 and 2010 (behind Nevada). St. George, in the southwest, is the second fastest-growing metropolitan area in the United States, trailing Greeley, Colorado.

The three fastest-growing counties from 2000 to 2010 were Wasatch County (54.7%), Washington County (52.9%), and Tooele County (42.9%). However, Utah County added the most people (148,028). Between 2000 and 2010, Saratoga Springs (1,673%), Herriman (1,330%), Eagle Mountain (893%), Cedar Hills (217%), South Willard (168%), Nibley (166%), Syracuse (159%), West Haven (158%), Lehi (149%), Washington (129%), and Stansbury Park (116%) all at least doubled in population. West Jordan (35,376), Lehi (28,379), St. George (23,234), South Jordan (20,981), West Valley City (20,584), and Herriman (20,262) all added at least 20,000 people.

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