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Developing a Spatially Explicit Land Capability Model to Promote Sustainable Agricultural Systems in the Wasatch Range Metropolitan Area, Utah

Authors: Anthony Whaley*, Department of Plants, Soils & Climate, Utah State University, Jennifer Reeve, Department of Plants, Soils & Climate, Utah State University, Brent Chamberlain, Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, Utah State University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Land Use
Keywords: sustainable agriculture, orchards, GIS, Utah
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/8/2020
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 4:35 PM
Room: Virtual Track 3
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Utah’s population is expected to increase from 3 million in 2015 to 5.8 million by 2065. This increase will mostly occur in the Greater Salt Lake City Area, called the Wasatch Range Metropolitan Area (WRMA), resulting in increased development within its five watersheds. The pressures of population growth are contrasted with 85% of Utah’s orchards, specialty vegetables, and berry crops, with the total number of acres established in orchards peaking in the late 1980s. Specialty crops may need to be relocated in the face of development pressure on prime agricultural land. However, due to mountains to the east and Salt Flats to the west capable land may be limited, especially for orchards that require specific growing conditions. This study was conducted to identify areas with appropriate growing conditions where orchards could be re-established. Using the Utah Division of Water Resources’ water-related land use survey, parcels identified as orchard were used to summarize biophysical parameters (soil type, percent slope, aspect, etc.) using zonal statistics in ArcGIS Pro 2.4.3. Then, ModelBuilder was used to automate the selection of land that met the range of biophysical parameters. The results were visualized using Esri’s StoryMaps platform. The areas capable of re-establishing orchards were found to be at the urban-rural interface. Utahns must develop strategic land use strategies that simultaneously promote agricultural conservation and limit urban sprawl to conserve its agricultural landscape and heritage.

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