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Great Salt Lake commissioner explains why Utahns should avoid 'Great Salt Lake fatigue'

 Brian Steed, new Great Salt Lake commissioner
Utah State University
Utah State University
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 Lake 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.”

This story is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late. You can read all our stories at

Sheri's career in radio began at 7 years old in Los Angeles, California with a secret little radio tucked under her bed that she'd fall asleep with, while listening to The Dr. Demento Radio Show. She went on to produce the first science radio show in Utah in 1999 and has been reporting local, national and international stories ever since. After a stint as news director at KZYX on northern California's Lost Coast, she landed back at UPR in 2021.