The Salt is a peaceful place...
The Salt is a peaceful place even during the SCTA Speedweek. (Photo by Randy Lorentzen.)
If you were to ask a sampling of hot rodders, “Do you know what occurs at Bonneville?”, the most likely answer would be a resounding, “Yes.” If you were to ask, “What have you done to save the salt?”, the most likely answer would be a resounding, “Ah, nothing.”
For starters, located on the Utah side of Wendover, hot rodders worldwide understand the importance of the Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) as it is buried deep within our peculiar DNA. Bonneville is at the core, the very roots of hot rodding, yet it’s surprising how few of us have made the pilgrimage. Yes pilgrimage, for one cannot experience the experience anywhere but on the Salt Flats. It isn’t out of disrespect we fail to make the trek but one of geographic discomfort derived from the distance the vast majority of us would have to travel. However, the fact remains that Bonneville, and more specifically the SCTA Speedweek, is a bucket list item if there ever were one for rodders.
That ain’t snow Bucko! Salt...
That ain’t snow Bucko! Salt is mined daily and shipped around the country to be used on icy roads. And this is the best use we can come up with for the destruction of a national treasure? (Photo by Chuck Vranas.)
Hot rodders from the ’50s and ’60s talk about the salt’s thickness when it was as much as 8 feet. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), salt has been taken from the Salt Flats to mine potash and salt for decades by Riley Industries and now Intrepid Potash. What was once 90,000 acres is now 30,000 acres. BSF is on the National Registry of Historic Places and as such one would think someone at the BLM would be more observant and be “minding the store.” But alas this isn’t the case. I have walked the Salt Flats noting countless pie-plate sized patches of dirt—dirt not salt. As for the salt’s thickness, I would look at the depth and note it was measured in inches and not feet.
Much like the current flap over vehicle registration and emission standards we have an urgent “cause” to champion. Should you be a rodder who lives thousands of miles away and couldn’t care less about the BSF or land speed racing there’s a larger issue in play. It is about “rights;” our rights as citizens to expect those elected to do their job and to protect something as sacred as the BSF. It was entrusted to their care and the BLM should be doing their job, which they aren’t.
In spite of Riley Industry’s...
In spite of Riley Industry’s failure to meet their total commitments, some improvement of salt thickness and quality was observed. The mining operation has been taken over by Intrepid Potash, there’s a serious reluctance to participate in a replenishment program, and would appear to be with the knowledge and acquiescence of the Bureau of Land Management. (Photo by Chuck Vranas.)
It shouldn’t always be about the money, which it is, but more about doing the right thing, which it isn’t—so far. Let’s not forget that companies like Intrepid Potash employ people. As such, the company and its employees pay taxes at all levels. And what about the ancillary companies, those who directly or indirectly work because of Intrepid’s efforts? And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that companies contribute to the political coffers. One such politician is U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who to date can’t seem to find the wherewithal to protect the Bonneville Salt Flats, even though on his “watch” we have watched the salt disappear. Did I mention the BSF appears on the National Registry of Historic Places? As far back as the ’50s automotive journalists like Hot Rod’s Don Francisco wrote about and wrote to anyone who would listen regarding the degradation of the salt and what the future held.
“The Bonneville Salt Flats is a unique and distinguished geological phenomenon. Due to the area’s special qualities for high-speed automotive racing … the BSF is a highly sensitive area and of significant concern to the public as a unique geological resource and as the place that land speed records have been set.” That’s a quote from The Bureau of Land Management back in 1985. One would think that the BLM has taken the steps they are legally and morally obligated to take to protect the BSF. Well, the answer is a very empathetic and pathetic, “No!” It appears the BLM has done nothing. The only steps that have been taken to protect the Salt Flats are those initiated by Save the Salt.
It’s time for all hot rodders, and that means those with a vested interest or a casual observance of the BSF, to act. Contact your representatives in Congress. A polite (remember let’s be part of the solution and not the problem) letter to our representatives requesting that they have contact with the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to demand that the BLM end the mining in the areas close to the BSF. It’s apparent what the result will be should we fail to act.
A quick way to find out who your representatives are would be to go to: www.contactingthecongress.org. Type in your zip code and click on “submit it.” This will provide the information you need to email or phone your representatives. When you do this please let me know by emailing me a copy of your effort. I will in turn make sure that your efforts reach the Save the Salt committee.
If you have never made it to the Bonneville Salt Flats, you really should. There’s something very special about this place. Oh, it gets “warm” and it has to be the brightest place on earth. Proper clothing, hat, loads of suntan lotion (SPF 45), and a pair of really good polarized lens sunglasses is a good place to start. I should tell you that the Salt Flats aren’t for whiners or those who need constant pampering. This place will demand a great deal from you, thereby teaching you to suffer in your own peace and quiet. However, in return you will meet some of the greatest hot rodders you will find anywhere and their hospitality and friendliness makes it all worthwhile. Along with this, the spectacular beauty of the Salt Flats it is truly one of our country’s and the world’s greatest treasures. Let’s be the ones who save the BSF for the future and not be the ones who sealed it into the past.