WASHINGTON – The Great Basin States Program Act passed the Senate last night after passing the House last week. This Audubon-backed legislation will establish a scientific monitoring and evaluation program to help save the Great Salt Lake and other saline lakes in the West. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT), Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), and Sen. Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Romney (R-UT) spearheaded this bipartisan legislation. The bill now heads to the White House to be signed by President Biden.
“I am very grateful to Governor Cox, Speaker Wilson, Joel Ferry and the state legislature for their continued support and collaboration on this critical legislation,” he added. said Congressman Blake Moore. “I was grateful to use my role in Congress to participate in this solutions-oriented approach to one of our region’s biggest challenges. Over the past two years, I have worked with Senator Romney and the Utah delegation to bring awareness and solutions to the challenges that threaten the Great Salt Lake and our neighboring salt lakes. worked on this legislation to reach the goal”.
“This is an excellent piece of legislation for the future of the Great Salt Lake and the animals and people who depend on it.” said Gov. Spencer Cox. “It would address the economic value associated with the lake and the importance of migratory birds, help fill gaps in science around hydrology, integrate existing work on water quality, and assess future water needs. This legislation could be a key to ensuring the viability of the Great Salt Lake in the future.”
“Continued shrinkage of the Great Salt Lake will have lasting negative consequences for Utah’s ecosystem, economy and quality of life.” said Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams. “The efforts of the Utah Legislature, combined with those of Congress, will have significant and positive impacts. I appreciate Congressman Moore’s work and leadership on this issue at the federal level and look forward to reviewing and using the findings to further our efforts to protect the Great Salt Lake.”
“Saving the Great Salt Lake and protecting our available water sources is no small task and will require significant efforts by all Utahns: governments, organizations, businesses and individuals.” said spokesman Brad Wilson. “I appreciate Congressman Moore’s efforts to bring national attention and funding to the Great Salt Lake. As Utah’s leaders, we are doing everything we can to ensure Utah has enough water to meet our current needs and continue to support a growing and prosperous population.”
“Our lands and waters, including Oregon’s saline lakes like Open Lake and Goose Lake, are integral to the survival of countless animals and migratory birds.” Senator Merkley said. “These ecosystems must be protected, but we cannot do so without sufficient data. With the passage of this bipartisan bill, we are one step closer to securing the studies and science needed to put long-term plans into action to ensure our salt lake ecosystems can thrive for future generations.”
“With the Great Salt Lake currently at the lowest levels ever recorded, we must do whatever it takes to save it.” Senator Romney said. “I was proud to lead this legislation with Senator Merkley and Congressman Moore, which will establish a scientific basis and ongoing monitoring system to inform coordinated management and conservation actions for threatened Great Basin salt lake ecosystems and the communities that depend. This legislation will complement and help elevate the work already being done by the state of Utah to understand this key resource and the role it plays as part of the larger landscape. I urge President Biden to sign our bill into law without delay so we can save this iconic and beloved part of Utah.”
“Public waters like the salt lakes of the Great Basin are vital to the future of wildlife and the communities whose livelihoods depend on them. How do we manage them, especially in the face of climate change and severe drought , should be led by science.” said Congressman Jared Huffman. “Our bill will give us the data we need to understand how water supplies and habitats are changing, assess future water needs, and develop management solutions to help these ecosystems thrive for generations, and I’m glad to see approved by the Senate and on its way to become law”.
“The Great Salt Lake and the network of salt lake ecosystems in the arid west face very serious challenges with ever-lowering water levels, putting local communities and millions of migratory birds at risk” , he said. Marcelle Shoop, director of the National Audubon Society’s Saline Lakes Program. “The additional resources and technical expertise provided in this indispensable science-based program will build on current local efforts to conserve these habitats, while advancing collaborative solutions across the Great Basin to protect people and birds. Audubon thanks Representatives Moore and Huffman, and Senators Merkley and Romney, for championing this important bill.”
“This was a huge effort to get this help through Congress at this time,” said Scott W. Maxman, general manager and CEO of the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District. “The Great Salt Lake, as well as other salt lakes in the region, require all hands on deck. My hope is that the Great Basin Salt Lake Ecosystem Program Act will bring many of us together to help -to understand all the problems that affect these lakes and thus get closer to real solutions”.
The Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act would provide the U.S. Geological Survey, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tribal, state, academic, and nonprofit organizations, with resources to carry out scientific monitoring and assessments to establish effective management and conservation efforts to preserve essential Saline Lake habitats within the Great Basin network.
The Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act builds on the important and widely supported work being done in the Utah State Legislature to address this issue. In addition, the bill has received support from Governor Cox and several organizations 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 Great Salt Lake, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative, Utah Audubon Council and National Wildlife Federation. The bill supports work authorized under the Concurrent Resolution to address declining Great Salt Lake water levels, which the Utah State Legislature unanimously passed in 2019.
Additionally, the bill is also co-sponsored by Reps. Susie Lee (D-NV), Jay Obernolte (R-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Burgess Owens (R-UT ), John Curtis (R-UT), Chris Stewart (R-UT), and Mark Amodei (R-NV).
Audubon appreciates the many ccontinued partnerships that were key to attracting much-needed scientific attention to these unique lakes. The text of the invoice can be found here. The coalition’s letter of support can be found here and Governor Cox’s letter of support can be found here.
Joey Kahn, National Audubon Society
Director of Communication, Water Conservation