Guest editorial: Saving our capital’s namesake, the Great Salt Lake  |

Guest editorial: Saving our capital’s namesake, the Great Salt Lake 

Utah’s government needs commitment to action

Anne Thistleton, Park City
Park Record guest editorial

Every drop counts. We all learned that in childhood; we all know it. And, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints knows it, as it powerfully demonstrated with its recent donation of water rights to the Great Salt Lake detailed in The Park Record’s article, “Church to Return Water.”  Thank you for your stewardship and thank you for taking action to return water to the lake.   

Yes, it is only 2% of what is needed to keep the lake just at its current level, while the fact remains that it is still 19 feet below a healthy level. However, that 2% or 20,000-acre feet, represents just over 25% of the Church’s water rights. Additionally, it has committed to significant water conservation goals along with water-wise landscaping. Its actions are needed and appreciated. 

Utah’s government needs that same commitment to action. The goal is simple: return the water to the lake. However, it seemed too much to ask of the 2023 legislature to commit to a bill ensuring target water level for the Great Salt Lake. And this was despite clear evidence from Mono Lake in California of how specific goals motivated significant cutbacks and conservation, as recapped here: “To balance its competing needs, is it time to follow Mono Lake’s lead and mandate an elevation for the Great Salt Lake?” (Great Salt Lake Collaborative, Oct. 12, 2022.) The opponents of the bill seemed to think that a target level would divert too much government attention to the lake. 

Too much attention to a lake that is on life-support, with mercury and arsenic laden dust that can poison our lungs. Too much attention when the lake’s food chain is on the verge of collapse, threatening the lives of tens of millions of migratory birds, including the beloved white pelican population? Too much attention when the eyes of the nation are on us looking for a success to inspire similar environmental repair to fend off the effects of climate change.

This legislative session did little to advance resuscitation of the lake. Governor Cox warned that “aggressive policy changes they [activists] seek could kindle fierce public backlash and jeopardize programs.” Does he know that four out of five Utahns say they are concerned about the lake? Does he know that three out of four Utahns want lawmakers to spend more money solving this problem? These statistics are from a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll last fall. That is hardly “fierce backlash.”

Representative Kohler, as a member of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee, where discussion begins for much of the Great Salt Lake legislation, please make time in this interim session to discuss significant government action to return water to the lake. Yes, every drop counts, but it is your voice of support that can take our lake off life-support. Please be inspired by the action of the LDS Church. And let’s show the nation how one small but great state can come together quickly and effectively to fend off the environmental disaster as depicted in The New York Times last year: As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces an Environmental Nuclear Bomb

We can still revive our capital’s namesake, but we need to make every drop count!


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