Joan Degiorgio

Northern Mountains Regional Director

The Nature Conservancy


Joan Degiorgio has been working in the field of natural resources planning for over 30 years. These years have included positions with the State of Utah, U.S. Forest Service, private consulting, the Utah Mitigation Commission, and as an adjunct professor at the University of Utah. For the past fifteen years she has been working for The Nature Conservancy responsible for identifying and managing projects in Northern Utah that preserve sensitive landscapes and species. These include the Bear River where she  assembled a team of public and private partners to develop and implement a science-driven landscape plan that includes a climate change element.

Title: Connecting Bear River to Great Salt Lake Health: Collaboration Concepts

Thursday, May 10th 3:25 PM

Abstract: At last, there is growing recognition of the importance of the Bear River system to Great Salt Lake (GSL) health, including its contribution of approximately 60% of the inflow to the GSL. With concerns over a historically low GSL and the possibility of future withdrawals from proposed Bear River development – it really can seem like the sky is falling (and the GSL will continue to shrink and blow away). But is there a way forward? While no promise of a silver bullet, there are opportunities to explore a new way of doing business on the Bear River.

Last year the Bear River Commission completed its second 20-year review. The first 20-year review resulted in the Commission establishing a tri-state water quality committee. In that spirit, and with new concerns emerging in the intervening 20 years, National Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy together requested that the Commission 1) create a stakeholder task force or a new committee to foster collaboration on watershed health; 2) develop and implement contingency planning to address drought and the effects of a changing climate; and 3) investigate the feasibility of  water banking and other mutually acceptable ways of sharing water within the basin. While not a complete answer to the many concerns that plague GSL, we think implementing these suggestions could represent progress towards more holistic basin management, including water management that accounts for: the potential impacts of climate change, water needs of the environment, increasing societal awareness about the importance of ecosystem services, and environmental impacts of development projects. 

This is an opportune time for all who are interested in ensuring a healthy Bear River watershed (that includes Great Salt Lake), to move forward together with better information and collaboration to develop solutions that will continue to provide water for people and nature. We hope that this panel can be a step in that direction.