Executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air at Utah State University appointed Great Salt Lake commissioner.
Executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air at Utah State University appointed Great Salt Lake commissioner.

Brian Steed has a big job ahead of him, if the Utah Legislature confirms his new role as Great Salt Commissioner. If so, his official work overseeing the rescue of Great Salt Lake could start as early as July 1. 

At the helm of USU’s Institute for Land, Water, and Air and member of the Great Salt Lake Strike Team, Steed is already well equipped for the new role appointed by Governor Cox.

“Essentially to herd the cats that are at the state level, bringing together the various different policy divisions that are dealing with the lake to make sure Utah is speaking with a singular voice as well as making the policy calculations that we need to make in order to have a healthy lake,” said Steed. 

During the interview with Great Salt Lake Collaborative, Steed said the good news is the lake level is up over 4' from its historical lows, and he anticipates that to increase.

“On the other side, those things that are driving the decline of the Great Salt Lake, those structural factors have not changed and my guess is that we are going to continued challenges on the Great Salt Lake eco-system over longer-term horizons. And so, while we are all still heartened by the year we have had, we still have great cause for concern,” said Steed.

Challenges include mitigating toxic dust blowing off the lake and into Utah communities and making sure that water saved through conservation from all sides, industrial, municipal and agricultural, makes it to the lake.

When asked what insights he could provide that we may not have heard before, Steed said it’s important for everyone to avoid Great Salt Lake "fatigue." Essentially, meaning that just because the lake is on the rebound and the sky didn’t fall, it’s not time to give up.

“I think it's really incumbent on all of us to point out the successes that we are seeing and can't see. I think there's a tendency in environmental reporting generally, to really point out the negatives. And part of that becomes the sense of hopelessness that, 'well, what I do doesn't really matter.' And just the opposite is true. Well, what we do really does matter. And in this case, individually, we can make a big impact. How much you water your lawn actually does matter when it comes to how much water we're going get into the Great Salt Lake.

Overall, Steed said he is looking forward to combining his two roles with the goal of saving the lake.

“Ultimately, I look forward to working with those established connections in the academic world, as well as those established connections in the policy world in a more meaningful way. Because we've kind of been working on the outside of that and this gives us an opportunity to work in a more effective way on the inside. And so, I think it's going to be a challenge, I'm not going to lie about that. But ultimately, I'm optimistic that we can make a difference.”


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