November 17, 2021

Congressman Blake Moore's Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act Passes the House Committee on Natural Resources

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Blake Moore’s Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act passed the House Committee on Natural Resources with unanimous support. Introduced with Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA), this legislation would establish a scientific monitoring and assessment program to better manage conservation efforts for saline lake ecosystems and migratory birds in the West. 

“The value of Utah’s Great Salt Lake and its neighboring, regional saline lakes cannot be overstated,” said Congressman Blake Moore. “These lakes provide habitats for millions of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl, and they are critically important for Utah’s brine shrimp industry, ski industry, broader recreation industry, water users, extraction industry, and more. I introduced this bill to help us study and better understand what is happening in our saline lake ecosystems to ensure that our water users, animals, habitats, and industry can stay healthy far into the future.”

Saline lakes within the Great Basin—which includes areas of Utah, California, Nevada, and Oregon—provide a critical network of habitats for millions of migrating shorebirds, waterbirds, and waterfowl. Saline lakes generally have higher levels of salts and dissolved minerals than freshwater lakes, allowing them to provide essential habitats, create and drive recreational opportunities, provide public health benefits, and more. However, declining water levels due to demand, drought, and environmental changes have dried out these important lakes within the Great Basin, threatening habitats, public health, and recreation. 

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—resources to conduct 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, broadly 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, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, the Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative, the Utah Audubon Council, and the National Wildlife Federation. The bill supports the work authorized under the Concurrent Resolution to Address Declining Water Levels of the Great Salt Lake, which passed the Utah State Legislature unanimously in 2019.  

Representatives Moore and Huffman were joined in the introduction by Representatives Susie Lee (D-NV), Jay Obernolte (R-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Mike Thompson (D-CA).

The bill text can be found here. The coalition support letter can be found here and Governor Cox's support letter can be found here.