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USU's Institute for Land, Water and Air releases first annual Report to the Governor

Great Salt Lake
Brent Pace
Great Salt Lake

USU’s newly established Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air has released their inaugural report.

The Institute was created to help communicate scientific research findings to the Utah Legislature to inform policy addressing the state’s key environmental issues.

“We hope that the Institute allows us to enhance the collaborations that we have with state and federal agencies. We hope to have this umbrella organization that helps us to figure out what are the most important issues, and how should we divert resources to deal with those issues?” said Chris Luecke, Dean of the Quinney College of Natural Resources at Utah State. Luecke co-chairs the Institute, along with Brian Steed, the Executive Director of the Utah Division of Natural Resources. The Institute has released their first annual “Report to the Governor” which identifies issues, summarizes findings and pinpoints areas where further study is needed. The report covers a wide array of topics, including land, water and air, but Luecke said there’s some flexibility with what gets covered.

Despite the range of topics, Luecke said one resource wove its way into many issues: “I was surprised by how many of them revolve around water, the drought situation that we're in right now.”

He explained how prolonged drought impacts other issues like air quality, and recreation. As the Great Salt Lake recedes, dust and toxic chemicals are exposed in the lakebed and released into the air. This dust is harmful for people to inhale and it can settle on snow making it melt faster, affecting ski seasons and snowpack runoff timing. Luecke expects the report will further motivate the legislature to implement water conservation initiatives like water banking, and determining how secondary water is used.

“It’s become obvious that we need to figure out ways to meter, the secondary water, the irrigation water, because we don't right now, we don't really even understand completely where all the water goes," said Luecke.

Luecke also explained that Utah is warming, and because of this, the rate of evaporation is increasing, meaning the same amount of precipitation doesn't go as far as it once did.

“So even the same amount of precipitation that comes we don't really it doesn't really get down to our rivers and lakes and reservoirs. It ends up going back up into the atmosphere," said Luecke.

The report also includes a dashboard of metrics the Institute will continue monitoring every year.

Ellis Juhlin is a science reporter here at Utah Public Radio and a Master's Student at Utah State. She studies Ferruginous Hawk nestlings and the factors that influence their health. She loves our natural world and being part of wildlife research. Now, getting to communicate that kind of research to the UPR listeners through this position makes her love what she does even more. In her free time, you can find her outside on a trail with her partner Matt and her goofy pups Dodger and Finley. They love living in a place where there are year-round adventures to be had!