SALT LAKE CITY — A proposed "buffer zone" between the Great Salt Lake and encroaching development has gotten a major financial donation.

The Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust, created by the Utah State Legislature to help get water into the lake, has given Salt Lake City $2.2 million to purchase land for a wetland preservation area on the south shore of the lake.

"The wetlands surrounding the Great Salt Lake are an essential part of our ecosystem, and we have a responsibility to defend this habitat," said Mayor Erin Mendenhall in a statement Tuesday. "The City is committed to protecting as much of the wetland area as possible through intentional collaboration and meaningful partnerships with the lake’s stewards."

FOX 13 News first reported on the plans in May, when environmental groups approached Mayor Mendenhall with the concept and found her more than supportive. With the inland port project approaching the Great Salt Lake, the idea was to create a buffer between critical wildlife habitat, the lake itself and the rapidly growing development of big box warehouses.

The grant will include matching funds, bringing the total to $4.4 million to pursue the preservation area. Mayor Mendenhall also lobbied the Salt Lake City Council to move forward with the idea.

The trust, created by House Speaker Brad Wilson with $40 million from the legislature and run by the Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy, handed out $8.5 million in total grants on Tuesday for projects designed to improve Great Salt Lake watershed. They also include:

  • Blackhawk Water Control Structures for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources ($125,625)
  • State Canal Dam-Burnham Dam: Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area for Ducks Unlimited ($1.1 million)
  • Burton Dam and Sewage Canal for Ducks Unlimited ($683,112)
  • West Layton Marsh Restoration for The Nature Conservancy  ($789,443)
  • Bypass Canal: Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area for Ducks Unlimited ($785,742)  
  • Monitoring Flows from Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge to Great Salt Lake for the US Fish and Wildlife Service ($385,532)
  • South Run and Unit 2 Restoration: Ogden Bay Waterfowl Management Area for Ducks Unlimited ($2.3 million)

"On behalf of the Trust, we are excited to direct funding to collaborative projects that will conserve and restore wetlands and their important connections to sustaining Great Salt Lake’s water flows and the quality of life for surrounding communities," Marcelle Shoop, Executive Director of the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Trust, said in a statement.

Fox 13 Reporter
Ben Winslow is FOX 13's reporter on Capitol Hill covering a wide variety of topics including politics, polygamy, vice and courts. He has been in the news business in Utah for more than 20 years now, working in radio, newspaper, television and digital news. Winslow has received numerous honors for his reporting, including a national Edward R. Murrow award; the Religion Newswriters Association Local TV News Report of the Year; the Utah Broadcaster's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Readers of Salt Lake City Weekly and Q Salt Lake have named him their "Best TV news reporter" for many years now. He co-hosts "Utah Booze News: An Alcohol Policy Podcast," covering the state's often confusing and quirky liquor laws. Winslow is also known for his very active Twitter account keeping Utahns up-to-date on important news.

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