Laura Ault

Sovereign Lands Program Manager

Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands


Laura Ault is the Sovereign Lands Program Manager for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, which manages Utah's sovereign lands or those lands found to be navigable at statehood.  The Division manages these lands for the Public Trust using multiple-use sustained yield principles.  Currently, the program oversees 1.5 million acres and more than 2,200 miles of shoreline.  These lands include Great Salt Lake, Utah Lake, the Utah portion of Bear Lake, the Jordan River and parts of the Bear, Colorado and Green rivers.  Management activities include comprehensive management planning, leasing, invasive species mitigation and research grant funding.

Panelist: Union Pacific Railroad Causeway Bridge Construction - Where are we Today? And Where are we Going in the Future?

8:55-10:20am - Friday, May 13th

Title: Sovereign Lands, the Public Trust, Great Salt Lake and the UPRR SULA

Abstract: The State of Utah recognizes and declares that the beds of navigable waters within the state are owned by the state and are among the basic resources of the state, and that there exists, and has existed since statehood, a public trust over and upon the beds of these waters. It is also recognized that the public health, interest, safety, and welfare require that all uses on, beneath or above the beds of navigable lakes and streams of the state be regulated, so that the protection of navigation, fish and wildlife habitat, aquatic beauty, public recreation, and water quality will be given due consideration and balanced against the navigational or economic necessity or justification for, or benefit to be derived from, any proposed use.

Great Salt Lake is a unique and complex ecosystem of regional and hemispherical importance. Sustainable use of GSL’s natural resources will ensure that the ecological health (e.g., water quality, shoreline condition, salinity, aquatic organisms, wildlife, wetlands), scenic attributes, extractive industries (e.g., minerals, brine shrimp, microorganisms), and recreation opportunities (e.g., bird watching, hunting, sailing) will be maintained into the future. Forestry, Fire and State Lands (FFSL) coordinates with other state, federal and local entities to ensure that the management of these resources will provide lasting benefit to the Public Trust. Great Salt Lake is managed by FFSL under the Great Salt Lake Comprehensive Management and Mineral Leasing Plans.

The Union Pacific Railroad Causeway bisects Great Salt Lake and was permitted under a Special Use Lease Agreement (SULA) through FFSL in 2015.  It is anticipated that the new opening currently being constructed in the causeway will replace the navigability and bi-directional flow that was lost when the culverts were closed. The SULA allows the state to alter the bi-directional flow and salt transfer through the causeway opening after the 5 year monitoring period has expired.