Photo by the author.
Do the little things add up? That’s the question racers and spectators at various Bonneville Salt Flats racing events will get to ask starting later this year when the Save The Salt Coalition asks them to ensure they leave as much salt on the flats as possible.
The reverse-doormat effort, which Save The Salt has dubbed “One Wheel at a Time,”will remind racers to ‘do their part to save the salt’ by stopping to scrape off built-up salt from wheel wells, bumpers, and undercarriages, leaving the salt behind as they leave the salt – every time,” according to a press release from the group, which will set up a tent at the end of the paved entrance to the Bonneville Salt Flats to spread the word about the effort.
“It won’t save a boatload of salt,” said Louise Ann Noeth, spokesperson for Save The Salt, noting that the amount of salt that the campaign is expected to return to the flats will be “mainly symbolic” rather than intended as a full-scale replenishment effort. “But this will help the perception of the community, it will make us better visitors to the city of Wendover – it’ll show elected officials that we’re serious about this – and it’ll also give people a chance to say ‘I did my part.'”
While the dwindling size and thickness of the Bonneville Salt Flats has been a known issue for decades, the cancellation of two straight Bonneville Speed Weeks – in 2014 and 2015 – as well as slower speeds at last year’s Speed Week has brought the issue to international attention. Through Save The Salt, racers have since started a dialogue with Bureau of Land Management officials, state officials, and representatives from Intrepid Potash, the mining company that currently holds the lease to extract potash from the salt flats.
However, despite BLM officials’ promises to study the issue and a limited salt replenishment program from Intrepid Potash, racers have blamed both entities for not doing enough.
While some supporters of the land-speed racing community have drafted federal legislation aimed at forcing the BLM to restore the salt flats, that legislation has yet to be introduced in Congress. Utah legislators have both called on the BLM to restore the salt flats and asked the federal government to transfer all public lands in the state – including the salt flats – to state control, though nothing has come from either initiative.
A University of Utah study of the flats, which is expected to help determine whether the shrinkage is caused by natural geologic processes or human activities including mining, isn’t expected until 2018.
Race course preparation has commenced at Bonneville with observers expecting similar conditions to last year’s Speed Week. A webcam installed on the salt earlier this year shows the winter flooding has evaporated off.
The One Wheel at a Time campaign is expected to last throughout the entire 2017 Bonneville racing season, not just for Speed Week.
For more information on Save The Salt, visit SaveTheSalt.org.