I recently sent a letter to Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams concerning the Great Salt Lake. The Legislative Session recently came to a close, and Utah lawmakers failed to take meaningful steps to address the ticking time bomb that is our great lake.
I emailed them the following letter:
Dear Speaker Wilson and President Adams,
I write to you as a concerned citizen and high school student. This is not an auto-generated prompt by an organization; this is not a copied and pasted letter that hundreds of citizens will email you with; this is me, talking to you, and I hope you’ll listen.
As you may know, the Great Salt Lake will vanish in 5 years without significant changes to our water use. I know you know this because a group of experts talked to many Utah lawmakers and legislators about this danger in early January. The report, conducted by Brigham Young University, is even direr, stating that if the lake does not receive a dramatic influx of water by 2024, there will be unprecedented consequences for our economy and our residents.
I appreciate your concern, but I want to make it very clear: what the legislature is doing is not enough. HB419, which creates a Great Salt Lake commissioner, does little to address the actual problem: the lake needs water. We need you to focus on water conservation; it’s the only way the lake can be saved. As you may know, alfalfa farming uses 68% of our water but adds only 0.2% to our economy. That blows my mind. How can we continue to farm an extremely water-reliant crop that, according to a Salt Lake Tribune article published on November 10, 2022, adds as much to our state economy as amusement parks (which is not much)? Farmers need economic incentives to use less water. That is the only way they will use less.
I also saw how many legislators wore blue on January 28th to bring awareness to the lake, but I share the concern that our representatives are more concerned with publicity and virtue signaling than taking the necessary steps to address the ticking nuclear bomb that is our drying lake. You are currently taking baby steps when we need to be taking radical ones.
While there are dozens of solutions that have been proposed to the Utah legislature, I’m here to argue for a different one that you may not have heard as much about: granting the Great Salt Lake legal personhood. This has full precedent, look at Lake Erie. Lakes and forests worldwide have been granted this label to help with the same issues we are dealing with: conservation.
It’s time to see the Great Salt Lake as a sovereign entity that deserves rights. Granting legal personhood to the Great Salt Lake would allow groups to sue over damages, something that is currently impossible. Additionally, the lake is symbolically crucial to Utah’s identity, so granting our city’s namesake legal personhood could enrich our state's pride.
Hopefully, you’ve taken my plea to heart. We cannot slow down, we must be radical, we must be decisive, and as a young person, I will say once more: we must save our Great Salt Lake.
Sincerely, a concerned citizen,
I encourage everyone to email their State Representatives. Although we tend to focus on national politics as opposed to local ones, it's these lawmakers that affect our lives the most directly. You can find their contact information at le.utah.gov.