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The Great Salt Lake is a majestic body of water unique to the western United States and an iconic gem for the state of Utah. However, upstream diversions are quickly putting this vital wetland ecosystem at risk of an ecological collapse and serious impacts on surrounding communities. In response, a new lawsuit is challenging Utah officials to take meaningful action to protect the lake.
The lawsuit, filed in 3rd District Court, claims that the Utah Department of Natural Resources has failed in its duty to protect the lake’s biodiversity as well as its value to the economy. Without enough water, the sediments that make up the lake bed may expose the lake to toxic pollutants and fine particulates.
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment point to dry lakebeds in other parts of the world where toxic dust has created public health disasters. Similarly, the suit seeks a court order directing Utah’s leaders to implement enough water to save the ecosystem and the industries reliant on it.
The Great Salt Lake is also home to millions of migratory birds, over 300 species, and is a stopover point for many of them as they make their journeys each year. Unfortunately, ongoing upstream diversions are now posing a threat to birds and people alike, as well as the lake itself.
According to the polling from Utah State University, the drought and drying up of the Great Salt Lake are the top two environmental concerns for residents in the state. It is something all Utahans are keen to safeguard, and this lawsuit is a call to action for state leaders to do just that.
Protecting the Great Salt Lake is not only crucial for the region’s health, but it is also an important part of Utah’s identity, and the millions of years the area has been home to plants and animals alike. Everyone at Earthjustice, the Center for Biological Diversity, American Bird Conservancy, and the Utah Rivers Council hope that the court will act on behalf of Utahns so that we can ensure the gigantic lake remains a vital part of the Western United States