Nonprofit aims to spur advocacy for Great Salt Lake by providing unique aerial views

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Nonprofit aims to spur advocacy for Great Salt Lake by providing unique aerial views

Date: 04/09/2024     Category: News & Media     Author: Jonathon Sharp     Publication: ABC4    

Original Post ➡️

OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — As the spring runoff is about to get underway, a small nonprofit is giving Utah officials, scientists and reporters a valuable perspective on the Great Salt Lake: a bird’s-eye view.

EcoFlight, a Colorado-based company, uses small aircraft to boost conservation efforts across the Western United States. This week, their focus returned to the Wasatch Front.

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Bruce Gordon, the founder and chief pilot for EcoFlight, said that years ago his passengers were shocked when they saw that water from the Bear River wasn’t reaching the Great Salt Lake.

“You can look at statistics all you want, you can look at lines on a map all you want, but when you get up there, all of a sudden it gives the land a voice,” he said. “It really shows you what is going on. It translates those lines into reality.”

Bruce Gordon, the founder of EcoFlight, stands before a small aircraft in Ogden on April 9, 2024. (credit: Kade Garner/KTVX)

In November of 2022, when the Great Salt Lake shrunk to a record low, EcoFlight helped provide some of the first aerial images of the struggling saline lake, which scientists said was on the brink of ecological collapse.

Since then, the nonprofit has returned each year to see the lake begin filling up with water after back-to-back years where snow dumped on northern Utah’s mountains.

“We’re thrilled to see the lake filling up, and I hope it can continue,” said Jane Pargiter, executive director of EcoFlight.
This week, the nonprofit again took to the air over the Great Salt Lake, and ABC4 reporter Kade Garner was onboard, as was Soren Simonsen, executive director of the Jordan River Commission.

While the EcoFlight planes only seat five, the company says it aims to create diverse passenger lists to help key decision-makers come to important management decisions over the lake’s future. Among Utahns chosen for flights are politicians, local officials, filmmakers, and wildlife biologists.

From the plane’s windows on Tuesday, the passengers could see rivers flowing into the lake, the variation in water color from red to green, the wetlands harboring wildlife, swaths of dry lakebed, and the berm that separates the lake’s north and south arms.

“To be up above the lake but close enough in a small aircraft to see what’s happening is pretty amazing, it’s a really unique experience,” Simonsen said.

An aerial view of the Great Salt Lake as seen from an EcoFlight plane. (credit: Kade Garner/KTVX)

He added that it filled him with joy to see water filling up Farmington Bay, something he’d seen dry from the ground.

But while he applauded the Utah Legislature’s recent efforts to pass laws aimed at getting more water into the lake, he said that climate change and other factors still pose a serious threat for the lake’s future.

“We have to be vigilant,” he said, “because there’s a lot more work that has to happen to put those policies into practice to really create long term health and sustainability for the lake.”

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Until that happens, EcoFlight will be returning to Utah to give more people an overhead view of what’s happening to the lake, on which communities, ecosystems and businesses along the Wasatch Front depend.

Gordon hopes his passengers absorb what they see and strive to get involved in the lake’s future.

“We hope to inspire you to be an activist and advocate what you care about in these situations,” he said.