The Nature Conservancy’s Great Salt Lake Shorelands Preserve (4,500 acres/11 shoreline miles) will be directly impacted by the footprint of the WDC (loss or isolation of acres). Some Mitigation Commission property will also be affected. But as with others who have replied, it is the indirect impacts that they have so far not addressed in the EIS. We feel that there will be indirect effects due to noise, light, traffic visibility, etc. that will radiate out from the entire length of the highway as it passes the Preserve. We also worry about interrupted subsurface/surface hydrology, continued management access in current locations, storm water runoff, etc.
We are initiating some bird surveys in about a month that will begin to quantify bird use/location within the Preserve in proximity to the proposed WDC alignment. We also expect that a number of the Preserve’s more sensitive species will likely be affected – bobolink, Sandhill cranes, Snowy plover, etc. Even in winter, there is a great variety and number of birds using the Preserve. This week we have several hundred Tundra swans using the wet meadow habitat that is now being created by the melting snow (finally!). For more information on birds at the GSLSP, Chris Brown can be contacted at 801-791-1661. Additionally, one of the unique characteristics of the Preserve is that there is meaningful, key upland habitat – not only important today for bird feeding habitat and nesting, but doubly vital when the lake is up. UDOT seems to be treating important upland habitat as simply “not wetlands” and therefore not a problem issue for mitigation planning. We hope to change that perception.
In a nutshell, TNC’s strategy is to achieve mitigation that goes above and beyond the loss of acres and indirect damage of the WDC. The success of the Legacy Nature Preserve is a great model (thanks to those individuals and groups who worked through the Legacy Highway process). The WDC Draft Final EIS will be out for comment in the next couple of months and I suggest that the GSL Alliance convene and discuss how to respond.
Director of Conservation Programs
The Nature Conservancy
559 East South Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84102
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