UT Great Salt Lake Wetlands Assessment Project

Great Salt Lake Wetlands Mapping Shape File (zip file)

Ducks Unlimited's Great Salt Lake Wetlands Assessment Project is an integral component of the Utah Wetlands Initiative and has been underway since December 2004.  The project's goal is to ascertain how to sustain managed wetlands of the Great Salt Lake for waterfowl and other wildlife in light of increased urban demands for fresh water by assessing wetland habitat quality and quantity. Current activities involve extensive field data collection and coordination of existing data for the development of a Geographic Information System (GIS) wetlands habitat model that will help to quantify and determine the role the lake's wetlands play in supporting waterfowl and other wildlife. 

This project is large and complex, but it is essential for fully understanding the dynamics of Great Salt Lake wetlands, determining how to sustain them into the future and ensuring the quality of life for both the wildlife and the people of the greater Salt Lake City region. Ducks Unlimited considers the loss of surface water inflows to the Great Salt Lake and its wetlands the foremost threat to their long-term sustainability. The threat is clear and present. New water proposals that would divert water from wetlands continue to surface. Yet, in order to save the Great Salt Lake's wetlands for future generations, we must first fully understand their complex functions for waterfowl, waterbirds and other wildlife. We look forward to accomplishing our project goals and reporting our findings.

Oregon State University students field sampling.

 Field sampling boat.


Ducks Unlimited has contracted with Oregon State University researcher Dr. Bruce Dugger to lead the project.  Dr. Dugger has extensive expertise with this type of effort and has undertaken similar projects for Ducks Unlimited in the past.  Habitat sampling is occurring on the Ambassador, New State, and Chesapeake clubs, as well as at the Farmington Bay WMA, Ogden Bay WMA, Bear River Refuge, and in the lake itself.

Objectives:
  1. Document the extent of emergent wetland and mudflat habitats in all managed wetland impoundments.
  2. Estimate invertebrate and plant food resources in managed emergent wetland and mudflat habitat types important for waterfowl and waterbirds.
  3. Estimate the changes in waterfowl and waterbird food resources in correlation with potential changes in water supply and habitat extent.
  4. Determine to what extent the distribution and amount of managed emergent wetland and mudflat habitats affect the GSL's capacity to sustain traditional numbers of waterbirds (i.e., carrying capacity).

In order for Ducks Unlimited to fulfill our mission in Utah, we must first understand the condition of the Great Salt Lake wetland ecosystem.  We must be able to determine how this important area is currently functioning and supporting waterfowl populations.  With this information we can ask probing questions.  For instance, is there enough high-quality habitat available for increased waterfowl numbers?  How much more do we need for a given increase?  Where should we focus our efforts?

Lead researcher Bruce Dugger pulls a sample.

Amber Johnson screens for food items.


Both private and public waterfowl areas play important roles in supporting Utah's ducks, geese, and swans.  Involvement of habitat managers for these areas are critical for the success of Great Salt Lake Wetlands Assessment Project and future Ducks Unlimited conservation projects.  Together, through science and conservation, we will be able to secure a waterfowl and wetland heritage that our future generations can enjoy.