Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
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.

Utah 30x30 coalition formed to meet Biden’s conservation goals

A photo of the Great Salt Lake.
Emily Allen
Utah lawmakers have made the Great Salt Lake a priority for protection. Conservationists hope they can use it as an example to address other environmental issues in the state.

Environmental groups across Utah have formed a new coalition that’s focused on working toward President Joe Biden’s climate goal to conserve 30% of public land and water by 2030.

The Utah 30x30 coalition estimates 12% of the state’s lands are already protected. Olivia Juarez, with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said preserving Utah’s public lands is a way the state can address the climate crisis.

“To maintain healthy functioning ecosystems, preserve biodiversity and mitigate impacts from climate change, we need to protect more land,” Juarez said. “The benefits increase dramatically when we can protect large landscapes that connect ecosystems across the state and across the continent.”

The coalition held a press conference Thursday that included Save Our Canyons, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, Utah Diné Bikéyah, Conserve Southwest Utah, Great Salt Lake Audubon and others.

Deeda Seed, an organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity, said there are about six other Western states that have formal 30x30 efforts. She said Utah’s coalition is open for anyone to join.

“This is really a people-powered effort,” she said. “We're hoping to get the attention of the Biden administration.”

Seed presented results of a survey done by Utah 30x30 of over 1,000 Utahns. They found just over half of respondents think the 30x30 goal is not enough to “maintain properly functioning ecosystems.” The people surveyed said the top two priorities for protection should be Utah’s river corridors and the Great Salt Lake ecosystem.

Mary O’Brien is the executive director Project Eleven Hundred, which is a group that focuses on protecting native bees. She said how the Utah Legislature is approaching the crisis of the Great Salt Lake is an example of how they can address other environmental issues.

“I think that that's emblematic of the kind of thinking that then needs to be done around other aspects, whether birds or wildlife corridors or native bees or rethinking how we graze public lands,” O’Brien said.

The coalition plans to make specific proposals to federal and state leaders of how Utah’s landscape can be better conserved.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
KUER is listener-supported public radio. Support this work by making a donation today.