“I want to learn more about it and share what is there with my children and grandchildren that I’m sure don’t know. And probably write down some of the stories of [my husband’s] family that have lived out there.”

-Focus group participant in Carla Koons Trentleman’s Ph.D dissertation Place Attachment

Among Neighbors of Great Salt Lake and Its Environs, May, 2009

One gratifying outcome of the 2014 General Session of the Utah Legislature is H.J.R. 20:

Joint Resolution Recognizing the Significance of The Great Salt Lake. It was shepherded through the legislative gauntlet by Chief Sponsor Representative Larry B. Wiley (House District 31, Salt Lake) and Senate Sponsor Jerry W. Stevenson (Senate District 21, Davis). Please remember to thank them. A copy of the resolution “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED” (and suitably engrossed, I hope) will be sent to the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Great Salt Lake Advisory Council.

Kudos to everyone involved in crafting this formal expression replete with “WHEREAS”es that speaks to the broad and significant range of economic, hemispheric, and cultural attributes that our Lake provides for all of us. Special big briny hugs for everyone who took time from their busy lives to trek to the Hill to speak on the Lake’s behalf. The Lake was heard.

It’s a small but significant gesture for a Lake that keeps on giving to the people of Utah, the hemisphere, and the world. To wit: the economic significance of Great Salt Lake to Utah’s annual GDP is $1.3B. It employs over 7,000 Utahns and annually generates over $375M of labor income. It is home to significant hemispheric and global populations of birds that rest, stage, and nest there. The wetlands of Great Salt Lake account for 75 percent of all wetlands in the State of Utah, whose total land area consists of only 1.5 percent wetlands. In 1991, Great Salt Lake was designated as one of only five Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Sites in the lower 48 States. All five bays of the Lake have been identified as Important Bird Areas by the National Audubon Society because of significant bird use. The Lake’s natural beauty has drawn thousands to make artistic interpretations of its elements, including two landmark earthworks: the Spiral Jetty and the Sun Tunnels. Even Brigham Young swam in the Lake three days after the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. (Borrowed directly from the GSL Resolution of Appreciation).

Now that’s what I call the true spirit of giving.

But what makes this gesture an extraordinary one is that most Utahns dismiss Great Salt Lake as something that’s just “out there”. It’s stinky, buggy, and salty.  It’s a cheap and convenient place for industrial discharges. You wouldn’t be surprised to know that many people think that any water that ends up in the Lake is considered wasted. Clearly it’s a misunderstood resource that’s not often regarded as the treasure it is. Preserving and protecting Great Salt Lake for the future is a far-fetched idea to a large portion of the population throughout the state. Just like good jazz, it’s an acquired taste. But definitely one we have to cultivate in our growing population.

“…maybe we have to learn, maybe you have to learn to appreciate and grow up with those experiences because I don’t think there’s very many people that hadn’t lived out here and could express those same feelings. You get visitors out there, they’d don’t like anything about it. It’s a dead lake to them, it stinks, there’s bugs. So maybe you have to learn, you know, by living there and experiencing some of those things, to appreciate it.”--Weber focus group participant - Trentleman study

Bingo! It is all about learning. Learning about why this dry and scratchy lakescape matters. And why this stunning remnant of ancient Lake Bonneville is a sacred place to the people who came before us. At the same time, funding for research to gather more empirical data about what makes this ecosystem tick needs to continue so we can make sound management decisions for the system today and tomorrow. We owe the Lake our commitment of stewardship for its future so we can continue to honor this place as a refuge for the visionaries who settled the valley and the architects who designed Great Salt Lake City on its shores.

“That’s our name to fame. If someone says, ‘where do you live?’ and I say, ‘Have you heard of the Great Salt Lake,’ I don’t care if I’m in Nebraska, or where I’m at, ‘Have you ever heard of the Great Salt Lake?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘I live about three miles from the Great Salt Lake.’ They know where you’re at.” --Weber focus group participant – Trentleman Study

As the renowned writer and painter, Alfred Lambourne, said, “Under certain conditions a place becomes a part of us; we own it.” That is indeed the case with the Lake.

In tandem with the GSL Resolution of Appreciation, another valuable outcome from the legislative session was the approval of $400,000 to fully fund the development of the Great Salt Lake Integrated Water Resource Management Model (IWRMM). This is fantastic news!

Conceived and recommended by Governor Herbert’s Great Salt Lake Advisory Council, and championed by many of us who recognize the importance of having a good water model that focuses its analysis on Great Salt Lake, the IWRMM would serve as an indispensable tool that will enhance decisions that address issues related to future water supply, salinity and Lake level. These factors have a direct affect on the economics, public health, and ecological viability of the system.

The model will take two years to develop. Stakeholders will be invited to help shape its parameters. However, the key to the success and usefulness of the model will depend upon its resilience and flexibility in incorporating ways of using information that might not be easily quantified, simplified, or reduced in the way most models require. It’s imperative that this model is able to “talk” with other models that have been developed in different disciplines to avoid blind spots in comprehensive planning scenarios. Like a working document, the model should have an iterative capability so that it can consider whatever is dished out that is relevant to the water picture for Great Salt Lake.

What you don’t want to do is what was done for the West Davis Freeway proposal. A proposal that is being marketed as the answer to transportation needs of the future in West Davis County, a vast swath of agricultural landscape that lies between I-15 to the east and Great Salt Lake to the west. The genesis of this proposal came from the 1950’s mentality of large-scale automobile investments that promote more roads and encourage sprawl. Using 2040 growth projections along the Wasatch Front and the presumption that vehicle miles traveled would only be increasing, the transportation demand model was designed to answer only one ill conceived question – How can automobile congestion and delays be reduced in this sector over the next 20 years?

Relying on a paralysis of perspective, the model consists of a complex algorithm that digests information about lane miles and population, and spits out minutes of automobile delay. This model supports the argument that the only solution is to increase road capacity. Running on its own parallel track, the model ignores planning efforts like the Wasatch Choice for 2040 growth vision which “considers how growth, mobility, housing and jobs can be shaped for the next few decades to have outstanding positive impacts on the life of residents in the Greater Wasatch Area”.

We can’t afford to take such chances with Great Salt Lake and its water needs.

As a terminal lake that’s currently without its own water right or water appropriation (we’re working on it) it’s obvious that we need to have a much better handle on the status quo of water use and proposed water development as the population continues to grow and climate change affects precipitation, snowpack and run-off.  The Integrated Water Resource Management Model has the potential to be a significant step forward in effective and sustainable management of the Lake.  Hopefully, it will rise to the occasion

“I would say that the one thing that I learned tonight is that I really take the Great Salt Lake for granted. I never realized that it’s one of the special things in my life that probably I’ve overlooked, and didn’t realize it, how it has affected our community as well as my personal life…You live around it. You were a part of it, it was a part of your life and all of a sudden you’re saying, “wow, yeah, it really was,” and it’s still there and what’s gonna become of it? Because there’s gonna be some changes with the Great Salt Lake. We know there’s dams being formed, or being ready, and it’s going to recede…we’re gonna lose a lot of what goes into the Great Salt Lake.”

[Response from another participant] “We have to fight for that so that doesn’t happen.”

--all from Weber focus group participants – Trentleman Study


FRIENDS will be there for the Lake. I hope you’ll be there with us.

In saline,


Thursday, 13 November 2014 00:00

20 Years Protecting Great Salt Lake

Maybe you have heard already but FRIENDS turned 20 this year! In celebration of 20 years protecting our Inland Sea we are adding a new page to the site. A page for reflection and celebration of the work we have done, and the work we will continue to do.

Click here!


Reflections on our 20th Anniversary!

What a great year it has been...

From our “Call to Binoculars” in 1994 to our “Call for a Conservation Pool for the Lake” in 2010, we’ve definitely made a difference.

We’ve made tremendous strides forward in building awareness and appreciation of the Lake. We’ve created valuable tools and shaped important policies to address water quality protection. And we’re even getting a better handle on the “balancing act” of resource development while maintaining the ecological integrity of the system.

FRIENDS is particularly proud of the programs that we have developed in support of these efforts-

More than 19,000 - 4th grade students experienced the ooids and brine of Great Salt Lake through our Lakeside Learning Field Trips that began 14 years ago.

Last May our 10th Biennial Great Salt Lake Issues Forum continued to promote opportunities to explore the complexities involved in research, management and planning for the Lake.

The 12th Doyle Stephens Scholarship was awarded in 2014 to support research on Great Salt Lake systems by students at the university level.

And in September 2014 , the First Annual Alfred Lambourne Prize was awarded to celebrate creative expression within our community inspired by our Inland sea.

But we can do more. And we will.

-FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake



Click here to see the photo's from our 20th Anniversary Gala held at the Rico Warehouse.


A huge thank you to all our sponsors and silent auction donors, click here to see the full list of supporters!



Tuesday, 04 November 2014 00:00

Title V Complaint

The Salt Lake Tribune reports the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment and Friends of Great Salt Lake sue for Utah to take action on refinery pollution permit.


Saturday, 11 October 2014 00:00

UDOT Considers an Alternative

The Salt Lake Tribune reports there is hope in sight for an alternative to the West Davis corridor freeway.

"This was by far the most exciting and effective wave excursion I ever made this side of the Rocky Mountains; and when at its close I was heaved ashore among the sunny grasses and flowers, I found myself a new creature indeed, and went bounding along the beach with blood all aglow, reinforced by the best salts of the mountains, and ready for any race."

- John Muir describing a swim in Great Salt Lake

An exhibit of all visual submissions for the prize is on display through October 9, 2014 at Alderwood Fine Art. 641 East South Temple. Fox 13 reported on the art inspired by the Great Salt Lake.

To recognize and celebrate local creativity - visual arts, writing, sound, and dance - inspired by our inland sea, FRIENDS established The Alfred Lambourne Prize. 

Thursday, 02 October 2014 00:00

The American Avocet Migration Project

Weber State University Zoology Professor John Cavitt and three of his students are doing ground breaking work on the migration of American Avocets. One of the birds they are tracking has already left GSL... click here to find out where they are headed!

Saturday, 20 September 2014 00:00

Cleaning Up the Great Salt Lake

Fox 13 news reports 1,800 pounds of trash were removed at Great Salt Lake during the Internationa Coastal Clean Up.



Why We Care

  • While photographing at The Great Salt Lake, I learned that it is a vastly different experience than other bodies of water. It is other-worldy, eerie, and beautiful at the same time. It is calming, peaceful, and a very inspirational place to be. Some may call the experience spiritual. Others may call it freeing. I call it magical.

    My favorite quote is by Loren Eisley; “If there is magic in this world, it is contained in water.” I absolutely believe that The Great Salt Lake is a place of magic, and that is what I strive to showcase.

    -- Tylyn Cullison, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant