GREAT SALT LAKE

Is tree-thining a solution for saving the Great Salt Lake?

Mar 3, 2023, 7:12 PM | Updated: 7:56 pm

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. Read all of our stories at greatsaltlakenews.org.

SALT LAKE CITY — As we look for ways to raise the levels of the Great Salt Lake, some local leaders are pushing tree-thinning as a way to get more water downstream.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Dea Theodore believes tree-thinning could put as much as 1.5 Million more acre-feet of water per year into the Great Salt Lake.

But some experts say that is at the very least, overly optimistic.

One thing is for sure, the snowpack is everything.

“98% plus of the water we see coming down our streams is cold season precipitation,” said Randy Julander, a retired snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

It’s the water we drink, that feeds our lawns, and our agriculture. And hopefully, when we’re all done, we save some of it for the Great Salt Lake.

Getting the Great Salt Lake back to a comfortable water level is going to take a lot of precipitation and work.

One thing is for certain, we need to keep seeing more of the same stormy patterns we’ve been seeing this winter.

That will help contribute to our snowpack and eventually our runoff, which will help lake levels rise.

Julander said, “Most of the solutions that are being talked about are every drop counts.”

He’s heard and looked over many of the proposed solutions. And one getting attention now is what we could do with our wildlands.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Dea Theodore is asking Governor Spencer Cox and our state legislature to strongly consider tree-thinning.

She sent a letter that said, “The trees in our over-grown forests and other non-native, noxious trees along our rivers and streams are consuming trillions of gallons of water that would otherwise flow downstream to the Great Salt Lake.”

Julander said it’s not that simple, although he agreed that we do need to manage our forests better.

“This is what our snow course looked like back in 1936,” he said as he compared an example from an area in Southeastern Utah to what it is now. “Fundamentally, we have changed our forests.”

While we need more tree-thinning to reduce fire danger, the amount of water those efforts would actually send to the Great Salt Lake Julander said, are essentially a drop in the bucket.

“If you’re going to make a dent in water going into the Great Salt Lake, you’re going to have to buy that water from the farmers,” he said.

It’s not at all an easy solution but between water rights, and what we keep in the reservoirs for our growing communities Julander said that’s the chunk we need to take look at seriously.

We already have some forest thinning coming to the western U-S thanks to about $400 million in federal funding through the bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act.

Councilwoman Theodore did not respond to KSL’s requests for comment.

KSL 5 TV Live

Great Salt Lake

The Lucin Cutoff is seen in a flight over the Great Salt Lake on April 9. The Great Salt Lake's sou...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Great Salt Lake’s southern arm reaches ‘significant’ level as spring rise slows down

The Great Salt Lake's southern arm has reached a "significant" level before the lake's expected summer drop.

5 days ago

American white pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, in the marshes of Farmington Bay, Great Salt La...

Alex Cabrero

‘It is very exciting’: Pelicans return to Hat Island on the Great Salt Lake

There's something happening on a small island in the Great Salt Lake.. that hasn't happened since 1943.

10 days ago

An American white pelican splashes down at Farmington Bay on May 17, 2020. Over 1,000 pelicans are ...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

Pelicans return to nest at Great Salt Lake island for 1st time in 81 years

About 1,300 American white pelicans were found nesting on Utah's Great Salt Lake's Hat Island during a survey that state wildlife biologists conducted last week.

13 days ago

Hay bales used for dust mitigation in a Salton Sea Management Program project are pictured on appro...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

As Great Salt Lake nears key level, Utah finds inspiration elsewhere to help lake’s recovery

The Great Salt Lake's southern arm reached 4,195 feet elevation at times over the stormy weekend as it nears reaching that figure daily for the first time in five years.

20 days ago

The Bear River pictured on April 24, 2024. On the topic of the Bear River's resources for water in ...

Mike Anderson and Mary Culbertson, KSL TV

‘Sacrifices’ will need to be made from Bear River water supply to help Great Salt Lake

With the Bear River serving so many different purposes in the state of Utah, agricultural producers are trying to make sure their uses for the river aren't forgotten as lawmakers discuss the preservation of the Great Salt Lake.

25 days ago

A view of the Great Salt Lake from Fruit Heights on January 20, 2023. (Lisa Ward)...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

How much will the Great Salt Lake rise? State to offer a reward if you guess it correctly

Levels at the Great Salt Lake are higher now than at any point in the past five years, and those who are tasked with overseeing its level believe it will rise about another foot in the coming weeks.

26 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Is tree-thining a solution for saving the Great Salt Lake?