Guest editorial: Cows on McPolin Farm are damaging to Park City’s green efforts | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: Cows on McPolin Farm are damaging to Park City’s green efforts

David Swartz and Lauren Lockey
Park City

We are writing in response to the City Council Staff Report authored by Luke Cartin on July 18, 2018, regarding Regenerative Agriculture on City Lands.

It is our recommendation that any use of animal agriculture on city-owned open space should not be allowed at the present time or at any time in the future. The staff report cites a few examples of the carbon benefits that ranching or raising animals for food has on the land, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in our country and on our planet. We have known this for years, yet for some reason or another it is still not widely discussed. Even back in 2006, the United Nations released a report that states raising cattle for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation industry combined.

Not only is animal agriculture the leading cause of climate change, it is also the leading cause of pollution in our rivers and streams, the leading cause of deforestation and ocean dead zones, the leading cause of loss of wildlife, and it is by far the largest use of freshwater resources in our state with most of the water in Utah being used to grow a crop that humans don't even eat, Alfalfa. According to a number of environmental organizations, it takes roughly 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. In a drought stricken region of the country with record wildfires this year, it would be prudent to not promote the industry that uses the most freshwater resources.

Currently there are 110 cattle on the McPolin Farm producing about 65 pounds of excrement per animal, per day. That's 7150 pounds of waste per day that is polluting our land and local streams and rivers with the nitrous oxide containing runoff. If those animals are there for an average of five months per year, that would be over 1 million pounds of waste being produced per year from just those 110 animals.

Park City wants to obtain a net-zero level of carbon emissions by 2022, which is commendable. However, lowering carbon emissions by drastically increasing methane emissions is completely counter intuitive since methane is 85 times more effective at heat trapping than carbon. Every two cows produce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as one gas powered vehicle. In that case since there are 110 cattle on the property, picture in your mind 55 vehicles slowly driving around the McPolin property every day you see the cattle out there. Another thing to consider is that it will take 100 years or more to see the effects of removing carbon from the atmosphere, whereas we can see the results of removing methane from the atmosphere in less than a decade.

There is nothing more environmentally damaging to our planet than raising animals for food. The thought of having agricultural animals graze on city-owned land in Park City is outrageous for a town that promotes sustainability as a top priority. The McPolin Farm is a beautiful scene for those traveling to and from Park City. We often see wildlife roaming the tall grasses and trees. It would be a shame to now see cattle and other farmed animals tearing up the land and creating waste on such beautiful open space.

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Thankfully, every year there is a significant increase in the demand for plant-based foods, with environmental concerns being one of the primary reasons for this shift, along with human health and animal welfare. Times are changing and Park City has an opportunity to lead on this issue.