Over the past couple of years, the U.S. Forest Service has been doing strategic forest thinning in Parleys Canyon and Lambs Canyon.

SALT LAKE CITY — Over the past couple of years, the U.S. Forest Service has been doing strategic forest thinning in Parleys Canyon and Lambs Canyon.

In a Salt Lake County Council meeting Wednesday, District Ranger Bekee Hotze told council members about the millions of federal dollars going toward Salt Lake’s watershed all across the Wasatch.

“If a catastrophic fire goes through our watersheds, as we've seen all over the West, we'll have increased runoff, sediment flows, all sorts of things that will degrade the water quality that we have coming out of the canyons," said Hotze. “We're going to be doing surveys and Big Cottonwood Canyon so that we can soon start doing field projects and Big Cottonwood Canyon, so you should be seeing that in a couple of years.”

The Forest Service hopes that cutting down trees will improve the water quality in the canyons' runoff, but scientists like Ben Abbott, a Professor of Ecosystem Ecology at Brigham Young University, don’t believe this is the full solution to helping the Great Salt Lake’s levels rise.

“If you get into a relatively dry environment like we have here in Utah, it actually works differently," he said. "As often as not, you can have no increase, or even a decrease in water, when you remove those trees. The trees aren't just straws that are consuming water. They also are shading the ground, so they're reducing the amount of sunlight that's hitting the snowpack, so that can extend the length of time that we have snow on the ground.”

Removing trees might reduce our water quantity, but still, Abbott doesn’t think cloud seeding, making islands or piping in Pacific Ocean water are the right solutions.

“Water augmentation proposals, they always have trade-offs, and they're very expensive," he said. "Water conservation is fast, low cost and much more resilient.”

Utah needs more funding for agricultural efficiency and better monitoring of water use, said Abbott.

“We're going to be the pioneers," he said. "And nature doesn't negotiate. We either solve this problem, or we're going to suffer the consequences of losing the lake.”

The best thing you can do if you’re concerned about the Great Salt Lake is to each out to your elected officials, and when the snow melts after the winter, let your lawn go dormant to save water, said Abbott.

FOX13 News Reporter
A graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Jenna has a degree in broadcast and digital journalism and a minor in Spanish (she's fluent!). Before heading to Utah, Jenna worked in Green Bay so she's no stranger to the cold and snow. Jenna is a New Englander through-and-through; she was born and raised in Connecticut and spent her summers by the ocean in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. In her free time, Jenna enjoys going for runs, listening to music or reading a good book--her favorite is the Harry Potter series. She loves food and will eat just about anything, and is excited to try everything Utah has to offer. You can follow Jenna (and send her food or book recommendations) on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or email her at jenna.bree@fox13now.com.

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