WASHINGTON, D.C. – Utah Rep. Blake Moore (R-1st District) has proposed legislation in Congress to provide better management of conservation efforts for saline lake ecosystems in the West, including the Great Salt Lake.
“I introduced this bill (the Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act) to help us study and better understand what is happening in our saline lake ecosystems to ensure that our water users, animals, habitats and industry all stay healthy far into the future,” Moore explains.
With broad bipartisan support, Moore’s proposal unanimously passed the Committee on Natural Resources in the U.S. House of Representatives on Nov. 17.
If enacted by both houses of Congress, the Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act will provide the U.S. Geologic Survey with resources to conduct scientific monitoring and assessments needed to establish effective management and conservation efforts to preserve essential saline lake habitats within the Great Basin region.
“The value of Utah’s Great Salt Lake and its neighboring regional saline lakes cannot be overstated,” Moore emphasizes. “The lakes provide habitats for millions of migrating birds. They are also critically important to Utah’s brine shrimp industry, ski and other recreation industries, water users, extraction industry and other commercial interests.”
Moore’s proposal specifies that work would be conducted in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as tribal, state, academic and non-profit organizations.
Moore’s staff explains salt lakes within the Great Basin area – which includes parts of Utah, California, Nevada and Oregon – provide a critical network of habitats for millions of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. Those areas also provide recreational opportunities and public health benefits.
But declining water levels due to demand, drought and environmental changes are drying out these important lakes and threatening habitats, public health and recreational benefits.
Moore’s proposal was endorsed by other lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee including Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Jay Obernolte (R-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA).
Moore says that the Saline Lake Ecosystem in the Great Basin States Program Act will also build on important environmental preservation efforts already being done by the Utah Legislature and Gov. Spencer Cox.
Moore’s proposal is also being supported by several environmental advocacy groups including the National Audubon Society, Compass Minerals, Trout Unlimited, Rio Tinto Kennecott, the Utah Waterfowl Association, the Utah Airboat Association, the Utah Wetlands Foundation, the Nature Conservancy in Utah, Friends of the Great Salt Lake, the Weber Basin Conservancy District, the Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative and the Utah Audubon Society.
The Saline Lake Ecosystem in the Great Basin States Program Act will face votes in the full House and U.S. Senate prior to enactment.