SALT LAKE CITY — Thunderous applause and a standing ovation followed a unanimous vote Monday to pass a bill in the Senate that would change Utah's state tree to a quaking aspen.
The blue spruce, which became the state tree in 1933, will be ousted if the bill passes the House.
Monroe Elementary School fourth graders sat in the gallery as Sen. Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, explained how SB41 originated from the school. A fourth-grade class approached the governor with the idea when he was visiting Sevier County.
Okerlund, the bill's sponsor, said the change makes "tremendous sense."
The blue spruce makes up less than 1 percent of Utah's forest cover, while the quaking aspen makes up 10 percent and is found in all parts of the state, he said.
"The Pando clone down near Fish Lake … is the largest known organism on Earth. That clone is a clone of aspen trees that covers 106 acres and is made up of an estimated 47,000 stems and trees resulting from that same root system," said Okerlund, joined by his granddaughter, coincidentally named Aspen.
The quaking aspen provides Utah an economical, agricultural and recreational benefit, he said.
"When you think about it, with the Pando clone we have in Fish Lake Forest and all of the aspen stands that we have in the state and all of the agricultural and economic benefit that they are in the state, it really does make sense for it to be our state tree," Okerlund said.