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An Antelope Island vigil raises awareness for the Great Salt Lake

A crowd of people sit outside in an amphitheater watching a person reading from a sheet of paper on a sunny day.
Aimee Van Tatenhove
Participants read parts of a praise poem to Great Salt Lake near the Antelope Island visitor center.

Drought and water diversions have been draining Great Salt Lake for decades, generating concern about the waterbody and its impacts on humans and wildlife. This past weekend, a group gathered at Antelope Island to share poetry about the lake to raise awareness about its plight.

Nan Seymour is a professional storyteller and the founder of River Writing, a community-based writing practice. She has been holding a vigil on Antelope Island since the beginning of the 2022 legislative session to bring awareness to Great Salt Lake.

“The vigil is very much a community vigil…we have collectively as a community been here 24/7 through the legislative session and we'll finish it out that way,” Seymour said.

Legislation and funding for Great Salt Lake protections are already in the works, but Seymour thinks we need to shift how the public views the lake if we are to make lasting changes.

“There's an emergency. And there's also a long game here. And the long game is probably what we're addressing today, which is to shift culture, to make a culture of love and reverence for this incredible body,” Seymour said.

Seymour recently invited anyone concerned about Great Salt Lake to contribute to a praise poem titled “irreplaceable,” which was read in its entirety by Seymour, collaborators, and audience members at an overlook at the Antelope Island visitor center this weekend. As of the reading, the poem was over 1,700 lines long and growing.

Seymour hoped the poem will grow interest in protecting Great Salt Lake, and likened her stay on Antelope Island to keeping watch over a close friend or family member.

“Life of someone you love is at stake. You stay with them. And you do that regardless of the outcome, right? So sometimes love and presence will beckon someone back and sometimes it doesn't but it's the right action,” Seymour said.

Aimee Van Tatenhove is a science reporter at UPR. She spends most of her time interviewing people doing interesting research in Utah and writing stories about wildlife, new technologies and local happenings. She is also a PhD student at Utah State University, studying white pelicans in the Great Salt Lake, so she thinks about birds a lot! She also loves fishing, skiing, baking, and gardening when she has a little free time.