UPR hosted an event on Tuesday with Bridgerland Audubon Society and Grow the Flow called “Is Great Salt Lake a Person?” The event brought 90 community members to Cache Bar in Logan.

A screening of a lyrical dance-poetry short film opened Tuesday’s event. The film focuses on Great Salt Lake in the context of a collapsing ecosystem, with particular focus on Red-necked Phalaropes, which are migrating birds that call the lake ecosystem home during the spring and fall months.

Sarah Woodbury is the communications and outreach director for Sageland Collaborative as well as a poet and artist who directed the film.

“I kind of, during COVID, had this like, deep kind of grief come up, as I was hearing about what was happening with the lake. And so came together with some other local artists and we started to build this project and film,” shared Woodbury. “Growing up Great Salt Lake was a huge support to me, and a big part of my life. And so, yeah, this felt like kind of the least I could do to express like love and grief and kind of moving into this kind of feelings that I was experiencing during COVID.”

Brynn Watkins danced as a phalarope in the film, and discussed her inspiration for participating in the project.

“I've always had a good connection with the natural world I feel most at home when I am dwarfed by bigger natural bodies. And I definitely feel that way about the lake. I feel that way about our mountains. And it feels best when I'm humbled. So that's my, that's why I come to this work,” Watkins explained.

UPR’s Tom Williams moderated a discussion with four panelists following the film screening. Panelists included director Sarah Woodbury, Northwestern Shoshone Nation historian and storyteller, Darren Parry, Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air Executive Director, Brian Steed and a PhD Student at Utah State University, Molly Blakowski, whose research focuses on dust.

The event largely stemmed from current legislative discussions on Great Salt Lake’s legal standing. A recently proposed bill would prevent Great Salt Lake from qualifying for legal personhood which could greatly impact protection for the lake and its ecosystem.

These distinctive voices brought unique perspectives on our relationship with Great Salt Lake and what this relationship to the lake looks like going forward.

Woodbury expressed gratitude for Utah's community commitment to the lake, sentiments shared by many at the event, “I'm just moved by this community, honestly, who's coming together around the lake. I feel like there's a lot of folks listening deeply to the lake and to water and to land and kind of engaging in this work and with the wind in the ways that they can and with their own gifts and skill sets.”

A full recording of the panel discussion will air on Utah Public Radio March 8 at 10:00 a.m. and March 9 at 3:00 p.m. The film can be watched on the Great Salt Lake Collaborative’s anthology website.

Utah Public Radio Reporter
Erin Lewis is a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a PhD Candidate in the biology department at Utah State University. She is passionate about fostering curiosity and communicating science to the public. At USU she studies how anthropogenic disturbances are impacting wildlife, particularly the effects of tourism-induced dietary shifts in endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana populations. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting and getting outside with her dog, Hazel.

Related Articles