The Great Salt Lake is vital to waterfowl, wildlife and the livelihoods of millions of people. But severe drought and human impact are threatening the health of this landscape. Ducks Unlimited’s Great Salt Lake Initiative was launched to provide natural infrastructure solutions to the region, replenishing the lake through wetland conservation.
More than 80% of the water intended to replenish the health and vitality of the Great Salt Lake is siphoned off before it can reach its destination. These diversions are not abating. By 2050, the state’s population is expected to double. Increased land-use conversion and water allocations pose a significant threat to a fragile ecosystem. Add extreme drought conditions, and the Great Salt Lake is projected to reach its lowest level in 170 years.
Raise $5 million over five years.
Great Salt Lake Importance
Wildlife – More than five million shorebirds and up to four million waterfowl use this region annually, making it one of the most important wetland complexes in North America.
Economy – More than $1.32 billion in revenue and more than 7,700 jobs can be directly tied to the lake, including the $62-million-per-year waterfowling industry.
Human health – As the lakebed is exposed, more severe and heavy metal-laden dust storms are expected, decreasing air quality and contributing to respiratory issues such as asthma and allergies.
Birds – Declining food sources, increased predator access and higher salinity levels in the Great Salt Lake are a triple threat to the region's winged wildlife.
Water quality – Water quality concerns will increase with declining water availability and a warming climate. Excess sediment and nutrient loading threaten productivity of freshwater and saline wetlands.
Measures put in place now can mitigate the nearly inevitable loss of freshwater wetland habitat and declines in productivity in the lake due to surface water loss and increasing salinity. DU’s Great Salt Lake Initiative will raise $5 million to improve water conditions in the Great Salt Lake and Bear River watersheds. Ducks Unlimited and our partners will leverage the dollars raised to secure further public grants to implement several phases of conservation:
Increase water: The initiative will increase water reaching the Great Salt Lake through agricultural efficiencies and creative partnerships. Examples include conversion of earthen ditches to pipe, modernizing irrigation systems and water control infrastructure on farms to ensure every drop of water is used to its maximum efficiency.
Improve wetland infrastructure: DU is providing critical infrastructure on public and private wetland complexes to ensure these areas continue to provide high-quality habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Improve water quality inflows: Declining water quality in the GSL, its tributary streams and wetlands threatens wildlife habitat, human health, recreation and agriculture. We prioritize water quality solutions for impaired water bodies and seek partnerships that leverage funding and technical resources to enact tangible improvements.
Enhance public policy: Utah water law is not conducive for supporting wildlife-related beneficial uses. We are working to make both legislative and policy changes in this regard. DU employs a water policy specialist to support public policy for sustainable water supplies to Great Salt Lake.
Manage invasive species: Invasive species are an ongoing threat to the health of Great Salt Lake marshes and the bird populations that depend on them. We support expansion of effective control programs, particularly those in key managed wetland complexes, by seeking program funding support and providing technical assistance to our lead partners.
By the numbers:
40,000 – Acres already conserved by DU in Utah
8,000 – Acres of conservation currently in progress
$9.7 million – Amount already invested by DU in Utah
To make a contribution toward the Great Salt Lake Initiative, contact Jessop Boden at email@example.com or (385) 377-7806.