Gunnison Island Deserted by Pelicans

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Gunnison Island Deserted by Pelicans

Date: 09/05/2023     State: UT     Issues: Watersheds, Wildlife     Partners: Friends of Great Salt Lake, Great Salt Lake Institute, HEAL Utah, Save our Great Salt Lake, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment Airport Origin : Ogden, Ut    


Help educate health professionals who are working to save the Great Salt Lake to protect air quality for the surrounding region. And, fly photographers, social media influencers, and members of the media to spread public awareness about the dwindling lake and ecosystem collapse.

The GSL has shrunk by two-thirds, and reached a new historic low water level in November 2022.

Thankfully, spring snowmelt in the basin provided great relief to the lake. In addition, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints donated 20,000 acre-feet of water to the lake in March. However, the GSL is still in crisis. This spring, the GSL's Gunnison Island, a waypoint for migratory birds, was abandoned by thousands of American white pelicans, who historically have nested and raised chicks here. The shrinking lake has created an unstable environment, and the water has become so low that predators can access the Gunnison Island. At its peak, the Island was the nesting ground for nearly 20,000 pelicans.

As the largest saltwater lake in the Western hemisphere, the GSL covered 3,300 square miles in the late 1980s, but now covers only 1,000 square miles. This decrease poses massive threats to the 2 million people living in the surrounding region, which is the most densely populated area in Utah. The lake contains toxic materials and as it dries, dust, metals and chemicals like arsenic will become windblown, poisoning the air. The dwindling water level also threatens the lake's 1.3 billion-dollar economy in recreation, brine shrimp, and mineral extraction, including magnesium, of which 75% of the global supply comes from the GSL. The water level is expected to rise slightly this fall with the demand for agricultural water lessening.

Click for geo-referenced photos the flight.  This .kmz file is best viewed in Google Earth.

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