Many in Utah are asking an important question: How can we save Great Salt Lake? The S.J. Quinney College of Law and its Wallace Stegner Center have launched the Great Salt Lake Project to provide legal analysis to answer this monumental question. By highlighting the legal pathways to restoring the lake, the Great Salt Lake Project provides timely advice to policymakers and stakeholders dedicated to saving the lake.
The lake in crisis
The Great Salt Lake is in crisis. Saving the lake is vital not just because it is a keystone ecosystem of hemispheric importance; the Great Salt Lake is also essential to the health of those who live along the Wasatch Front and the regional economy.
What has been called a potential “environmental nuclear bomb”—toxic dust from the diminished lake—already constitutes a health hazard to Wasatch Front residents. If the lake continues to decline, it does so at our collective peril. Increased salinity caused by lower lake levels will devastate brine shrimp and brine fly populations, which will severely impact the ten million migratory birds dependent on them for food. The Great Salt Lake’s vital lake effect provides roughly ten percent of Utah’s snowpack, augmenting the multi-billion dollar ski economy, and helping sustain the state’s dwindling water supply.
As lake levels decrease, so too does the Greatest Snow on Earth. The collapse of the Great Salt Lake endangers our home, health and way of life. Refusal to face the problem head-on is not a feasible alternative.
Our role in saving the lake
In principle, the recipe to save the lake is simple: Just add water. In practice, restoring the Great Salt Lake is politically, economically, and legally challenging. Tackling the most significant environmental threat facing Utah will require political will and immense public support, and also good ideas.
Central to this project’s success is the Great Salt Lake Policy Accelerator, an initiative combining the strengths and efforts of the Stegner Center’s faculty, its Law and Policy Program, environmental lawyers and alums, and students at the College of Law. The Great Salt Lake Policy Accelerator will provide specific policy advice intended to accelerate the rate of policy change and minimize the most immediate risks we face, while ensuring the long-term viability of the lake.
The Great Salt Lake Project will add to important policy discussions relevant to the Great Salt Lake through careful, practical research. The project will amplify its impact by convening and hosting meaningful conversations about the Great Salt Lake’s future.
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