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Gov. Gary Herbert is inviting all Utahns to help decide what the state will look like in 2050 by playing an online-video game.
At envisionutah.org, officials have a new game that allows people to make decisions that affect how Utah would change in coming decades and see the likely results on topics from education to air quality.
Officials plan to tally the final preferences that Utahns make, and use results to guide choices as the state is projected to almost double in population by 2050, adding another 2.5 million residents.
"We're going to have growth that takes place here in the state of Utah. The thing for us to do is anticipate it, prepare for it … [and] reflect the will of the people," Herbert said at an announcement of the new Build Your Utah game at the Utah Museum of Natural History.
About that game, he said, "It's fun. It's informative. It helps us all to kind of see what's going to take place with these growth pressures ... and what we can do to shape the future so it's a future we want to pass on to our children."
Herbert hopes at least 50,000 Utahns participate.
Playing the game is the second phase of the "Your Future Your Utah" initiative that Herbert launched last year. The first phase used 400 officials to identify key issues and potential solutions the state should address amid coming growth.
Officials say the current effort is similar to the 1997 Envision Utah process that laid the groundwork to handle growth that has occurred in recent years, including such strategies as building TRAX and FrontRunner train lines, the Daybreak development and the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City.
In the new app, Utahns are first asked to rank in importance 11 key issues: air quality, education, energy, housing, jobs, lands, recreation, agriculture, transportation, water and disaster resilience.
Then they are allowed to explore each of those issues by clicking on prompts at the top of the Web page. After receiving brief information, participants are asked to make some decisions and the game instantly shows how those decisions will likely affect the area.
On air pollution, for example, players are shown what pollution levels in the future will be based on such things as when Utah converts to tier 3 (cleaner) fuels in motor vehicles, reduces wood burning or increases energy-saving standards in homes.
When Herbert was asked how he personally would rank the importance of the 11 key issues, he said, "They are all important." He said the game shows that it is tough to find a balance between them, such as deciding how to clean Utah's air while also keeping its economy strong.
"We need to weigh in on that," Herbert said, "and be part of those who help shape the future."
To help push the game, officials had Sam Gordon the South Jordan girl who became the first female football player on a Wheaties box and whose videos on playing against boys has gone viral to urge Utahns to be part of the team planning the state's future.
"In 2050, it's my hope that my family will still have great schools, clean air and be able to ski and hike in Utah's great outdoors," she said.
"With a team effort we can really advance the football down the field," Herbert said. "It's important for us as policymakers to hear the voices of the people of Utah. ... Go online to envisionutah.org. Ask members of your family to join with you in this effort."