If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water – Loren Eiseley


I’m looking out my window at the recent and welcome 10” of valley snow, and thinking about the Lake. How will this winter water season affect a Lake that has been parched and hit with record low elevations? Whatever happens we know that important work must continue to ensure Great Salt Lake’s future. That’s why I’m writing.


Three times each year, FRIENDS asks for your support of our collective work to preserve and protect the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem.

  • We want you to keep your membership active because it’s key to our success in providing a strong voice for the Lake.
  • We celebrate our Fall fundraiser to generate funding for program support but to also provide that social camaraderie that gives us an opportunity to relax and enjoy who we are. 
  • And we send out this Year End Letter because there’s always more to do. And we need your continuing support of our programs in education, our initiatives to promote research, our advocacy for Lake protection, and our efforts to widen the scope of Lake appeal and cultural connection through the arts.

 We want to thank you for being there with us as a loyal supporter, and for your thoughtful generosity. And we can all be proud of the progress we’re making to protect this complex and unique ecosystem. Our accomplishments are far too many to include in this letter but our legacy programs are strong and effective in building more awareness and appreciation for our big, salty neighbor.

  • The 2015 Spring/Fall Lakeside Learning Field Trip season covered two different parts of the Lake. Our traditional Antelope Island adventure where 1,819 - 4th grade students were “touched by the brine”. And a brand new South Shore Lakeside Extension Program which provided 374 Tooele District 4th graders with this unique “hands on + feet wet” salty investigation. Thanks to funding support from Cargill, this program will continue through Spring 2017.
  • This summer, we partnered with the Natural History Museum of Utah on two Great Salt Lake field camps. The camps provided a watershed wide perspective of Great Salt Lake’s role as a terminal lake in the Great Basin. We’re very excited as we look ahead to 2016 with a new summer camp offering with local nonprofit Art Access to provide a unique learning experience to students with cognitive and physical disabilities.
  • We awarded our 14th Doyle W. Stephens Scholarship to support research on Great Salt Lake systems by students at the university level. Chris Mansfield, of Westminster College is this year’s winner. He is investigating the high concentrations of methyl mercury in Great Salt Lake waters.
  • The 2nd Annual Alfred Lambourne Prize that celebrates the creative expression within our community inspired by our inland sea, was given to Max Rosenzweig for his work, Ephemeral Nonsites of Great Salt Lake and Lake Bonneville
  • We are honored to be featured in two documentaries made this year. Great Salt Lake: Utah’s Sanctuary  (KBYU-TV), and  Desert Water: The Future of Utah’s Water Resources made by Dr. Hal Crimmel, Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor of English at Weber State University.
  • At the Annual Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Conference in SLC this past October, FRIENDS provided the conference opening keynote address, and partnered with SETAC participants on a classroom service project at Farnsworth Elementary with 86 inquisitive students.
  • And we have been working on planning the 2016 Great Salt Lake Issues Forum, May 11-13th at the University of Utah Officers Club. The title of the program is Great Salt Lake in the Big Picture. As usual we’ll include resources from other saline systems so we can share our insights, learn from each other, and make the world a smaller place.


But we can do more. And we will. We do this work with you, with our volunteer board, the volunteer Executive director and one full time and one half-time paid staff.
Most importantly, we do it with 400 members like you.


Our Board of Directors and staff have committed to match the first $8,280 donated to FRIENDS. We hope you’ll consider making a tax-deductible gift this holiday season so that we can continue to carry the flag of Great Salt Lake to all corners of the watershed. If you’ve already given then thanks so much for your gift. If you want to give again or for the first time, you can do so at: https://fogsl.org/support/donate-online


In the rush of the holidays, it’s always important to remember the simple and basic things about our family, friends and quality of life. I hope Great Salt Lake is a part of that picture for you.


Thank you.

In Seasonal Saline,

Lynn de Freitas, Executive Director

FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake is excited to announce that we are working on planning the 2016 Great Salt Lake Issues Forum, May 11-13th at the University of Utah Officers Club.

The title of the program is Great Salt Lake in the Big Picture.

As usual we’ll include resources from other saline systems so we can share our insights, learn from each other, and make the world a smaller place.

Please continue checking our website and social media for updates on the forum.

"Great Salt Lake is a special place. There is nothing else like it. Do we really want to imagine a time when we have to say "I remember when there used to be a big salty lake out there?" Can we really be so disconnected from our landscape that we fail to act before it's too late? We must protect this resource, this place of life and reflection."

Janessa Edwards, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake Education and Outreach Director

Please check back soon for more info.

Download the Annotated Bibliography to use while reviewing the site documents: AnnotatedBibiography.pdf


For documents, please visit this Google Drive link.

Thursday, 03 December 2015 11:03

Op-ed: The decline of the Once Great Salt Lake

"To be sure, some of Great Salt Lake's decline is a natural consequence of a warming and drying climate. But much of the blame for the falling lake lies with us." Check out this amazing Salt Lake Tribune editorial article written by Weber State University Professor Eric C. Ewert.  



“God, how I long to go out West again someday – to drive some blue highway in Nevada or Utah until there’s absolutely nothing around me, then stop the car, in the middle of the road, maybe, and get out and just stand there, where I can see the horizon in every direction, and smell the air, and feel the sun and listen to the silence of the desert. I have this idea that if I could do this, time might hold still for a second, and I would know, for just a moment, what it feels like to be here.”

            -Tim Kreider, author of “We Learn Nothing” a collection of essays and cartoons.

Totally impulsive, on a sunny and freshly rain-washed morning, two-weeks into the annual Utah waterfowl hunt, my spouse and I went birding at Farmington Bay. Camouflage, hunters, boats, pick-ups, dogs, and decoys provided ample on the ground evidence that the hunt was in progress. It’s one of the many seasonal dances at the Lake that simply comes with the territory. And yet, even with this buzz of enthusiasm and recreation, the Lake was still “ours”. We spotted several species of grebes and ducks, American White Pelicans, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Marsh Wrens, Canada Geese, Northern Harriers, Killdeer, Red-winged and Yellow-headed Blackbirds, California Gulls, Dowitchers, and a solitary muskrat.  Not bad for being impulsive.

Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area is a popular and accessible birding, bicycling, and seasonal hunting area along the eastern shore of Great Salt Lake. Just take the Farmington/Glover Lane exit on I-15 in Davis County. It’s one of eight Waterfowl Management Areas (WMA) located on and around the Lake that comprise nearly 90,000 acres of public conservation properties that belong to the people of Utah. You can drive or cycle around the dikes like we did, or visit the Great Salt Lake Nature Center – soon to become a state of the art visitor/education facility, and meander along the walking trail.

Managed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), the function of these WMA’s is to maximize habitat values for a range of waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds and raptors during migration and nesting seasons. The Great Salt Lake, its wetlands, open water, shoreline, and island habitats is an important aquatic ecosystem; locally, in North America, and within the Western Hemisphere. “It’s an international hub that connects migratory bird flyways of hundreds of thousands of shorebirds and their allies as they wing their way from one point of life to another.” That’s Don Paul, Chair of Utah Linking Communities. Linking Communities is a hemispheric partnership to protect range - wide migratory bird species and their habitats. The Lake provides critical habitat for over 260 species of birds – many of which are globally significant in their numbers and rely on the Lake for resting, staging and nesting.

The Lake is also one of the most important waterfowl breeding areas remaining in the U.S. with an annual waterfowl use that exceeds 3 million birds that includes 35 species. That’s about 30% of all waterfowl in the Pacific and Central Flyway. The Lake and these WMA’s provide them and us with a unique refuge of solitude and engagement. And that’s why we were here.

Waterfowling – a term I’ve learned in my work for the Lake – is a deep tradition in our Utah culture that has endured for over a century. Of course, native peoples who lived near the Lake before white men arrived took advantage of the seasonal bounties of waterbirds as well. Personal journals and archives from the 20 private duck clubs that are located along the fringes of the lakescape, not to mention the duck hunting airboaters, reveal a rich family tradition of hunting ducks, geese and swans at the Lake and nearby tributaries for generations. A tradition that’s consistent with a cultural dynamic throughout the West that appeals to the love of nature and place.

Waterfowlers have an innate understanding about the dynamics of the Lake, and are among the strongest advocates for its protection. A study was conducted in 2011 by Duffield, J., C. Neber, and D. Patterson (Bioeconomics, Inc.). – “Utah Waterfowl Hunting: 2011 Hunter Survey, Hunter Attitudes and Economic Benefits. The study showed that the estimated economic impact in the Salt Lake City area of waterfowl - hunting related expenditures generates $97M and 1,600 full time jobs. Dollar values are an important part of the picture. But dollar values are only one part of the picture. Great Salt Lake is who we are, where we are, and how we are in this place that is a part of all of us. And it matters. We’re such lucky ducks.

Not to be overlooked in this notable mix of wetland management areas that serve to fulfill our stewardship responsibility for this wildlife endowment of the Lake is the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. Established in 1928, the refuge is approximately 74,000 acres and is owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Located off the Forest Street exit on I-15 in Brigham City, the refuge is a key contributor to this bird rich picture. It’s connected to Bear River Bay - designated an Important Bird Area by National Audubon.

“Of all the important aquatic bird environments on the Lake, the Bear River Bay is the sweetest spot for diversity and numbers of birds during long-term average Lake elevation periods.” Don Paul.

Long-term average Lake elevation periods is worth repeating because today, the current elevation of Great Salt Lake is 4,192.5’ - only 1.5’ above the 1963 record low of 4,191’. Water in the bays plays a huge part in the number of waterfowl that come through and stay at the Lake. According to Blair Stringham, Utah Waterfowl Coordinator with DWR, it’s not uncommon to see around 500,000 birds in the WMA’s in September. When the three bays (Bear River, Farmington and Gilbert Bay) have good water, it’s not unusual to have hundreds of thousands there too. Right now, in Bear River Bay there are probably 300,000 Green-winged Teal near Promontory. But when compared to the hunt last year at this time, the bird numbers are down. The low Lake level is likely a key factor.

At the Great Salt Lake Technical Team meeting last August, a presentation about the proposed Bear River Water Development Project was made by the Utah Division of Water Resources (DWRe) and consultants from Bowen Collins & Associates. The genesis of this project comes from the 1958 Bear River Compact amended in 1980 that allocates water from the Bear among Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. Through the Bear River Development Act 1991 –DWRe is authorized to develop the surface waters of the Bear and its tributaries to the tune of 220,000 acre feet annually to address the projected water needs of Utah’s growing population by 2060.

The Bear River is the source of 60% of Great Salt Lake’s surface water inflows. A water development proposal of this magnitude would certainly impact the Lake and the range of ecosystem services it provides. We already know about the wildlife and the critical habitat needs that would be at stake but so would mineral extraction, the brine shrimp industry, and recreation and tourism that themselves contribute $1.3B annually, and 7,700 full time jobs to Utah’s economy.

The Bear River Water Development Project is extremely controversial for a variety of reasons. The rationale for building it is weak. It would be a huge burden on Utah taxpayers to construct. Impacts to the Lake’s ecosystem services aren’t even considered. And the modeling and projected water needs to justify the proposal are based on a 1990’s water picture that doesn’t reflect our changing climate or drought cycles.

A Legislative Audit to determine the reliability of DWRe’s data and assess the accuracy of its projections of water demand and supply was released in May 2015. The audit lists a passel of things that need to be addressed to provide a more accurate picture of Utah’s water supply and needs. It also indicates that any shortfall in the water supply by 2060 could be filled from current sources with agricultural water conversions and more efficient water use.  The audit is available at: http://fogsl.org/advocacy

So here we are at the Lake watching some hunters unloading their boat after being out on the water since before dawn. I asked them how they did. Along with a tired smile, one of the hunters said, “It was good. We got two cinnamon teals and a chance to catch up.”

Savor it. Recognize it. Talk about it. Protect it.

In saline,


What you can do: Visit www.fogsl.org  and visit Great Salt Lake

Monday, 26 October 2015 18:32

Kennecott Withdrawal Win for Air Quality

Air quality advocates are expressing their appreciation this week for the recent news that Kennecott Copper has abandoned its plans to construct a new rock crusher plant as part of the mine's overall expansion effort.

Press Release - Kennecott Withdrawal Win for Air Quality

At this year's Fall Fundraiser we celebrated our partnership with the Great Salt Lake Marina. This video highlights the South Shore's diverse community and its significant economic contributions. Thank you to Natalie Avery and everyone else who helped produce this video!





Why We Care

  • The Great Salt Lake has a unique character and, when one becomes acquainted with her, a well-developed personality. She moves and has moods, she sleeps and she wakes. Like any new friend, one can become attached quickly, but will need an entire lifetime to come to know her intimately.

    Rob Kent de Grey, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant