Lake Abert and Other Saline Lakes: Thanks to legislation passed by Congress this week, a new initiative focused on restoring the health of salt lakes in the American West is progressing. Migration-dependent birds depend heavily on saline lakes, but many of these habitats are disappearing, notably the Great Salt Lake in Utah and Lake Abert in Oregon.
Lake Abert and Other Saline Lakes of Oregon Are the Subjects of Laws Passed by Congress
The law would require organisations like the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to coordinate monitoring efforts with regional land managers, universities, and nonprofit organisations. Due to the declining wildlife habitat and the potential hazard of airborne heavy metals like arsenic in the exposed lakebed, the quickly drying Great Salt Lake has recently made the news. Unknown Lake Abert in southern Oregon offers a special haven for birds making their way to South America.
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According to some scientists, it is second only to Great Salt Lake in importance to shorebirds, according to Marcelle Shoop, director of the Audubon Society’s saline lakes programme. “When you consider the vastness of the Great Salt Lake and the number of birds it harbours, thinking of the significance of Lake Abert for shorebirds in that context, it’s very important.”
Goose Lake, a temporary saline lake, is located on the Oregon-California border.
The Act would create a programme to assess the hydrology and stresses on saline lake ecosystems in Great Basin states if President Biden were to sign it into law. It would give the “scientific underpinning” required, in Shoop’s words, to manage and maintain these environments more.
The five-year, $5 million funding period is authorised under the law by both parties. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Rep. Jared Huffman of California, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, and Rep. Blake Moore of Utah all cosponsored the bill.
“Public waterways, such as the saline lakes of the Great Basin, are essential for the survival of animals and the communities whose way of life depends on them. Science should guide how we manage them, particularly in light of climate change and severe drought, Rep. Huffman wrote in a release following the legislation’s passing this week in the Senate.
Southern Oregon’s lesser-known Lake Abert provides a unique refuge for birds during their migration to South America, but it and other salt lakes in the West have been drying up. A new program passed by Congress this week aims to help. By @ErikMNeumann: https://t.co/fhQGVZ9laW
— OPB (@OPB) December 23, 2022
According to Shoop, there haven’t been any instruments to gauge and quantify the water in Lake Abert and its source, the Chewaucan River, for years. However, the law specifies that the saline lakes initiative will not interfere with any existing Great Basin water rights or interstate water compacts. According to her, gathering this data can help water rights organisations and owners make better decisions that would benefit these special environments.
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Each of these saline lake ecosystems, she continued, “is really rather important in and of itself.” But when it comes to migrating birds, it is essentially irreplicable as a network or ecological web of habitats.
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