Ella Sorensen

Gillmor Sanctuary Manager

National Audubon


Ella Sorensen received a BA degree in Chemistry from the University of Utah and is registered as a Medical Technologist by the American Society of Clinical Pathologist. Since 1992, she has overseen all aspects of creating the 3184 Audubon Gillmor Sanctuary on the south shore of Great Salt Lake including land and water acquisitions and restoration planning and implementation and was UDOT Legacy Nature Preserve Lead 1999 – 2004. She co-authored Utah Birds: Revised Bird Checklist published in 1985 by Utah Museum of Natural History with the late Dr. William Behle and Seductive Beauty of Great Salt Lake with photographer John George, wrote a monthly bird feature column for fifteen years for Salt Lake Tribune as well as numerous other local and nation publications. She was lead author of the chapter on Great Salt Lake Shorebirds, Their Habitats and Food Base in the newly published Great Salt Lake: Biology: A Terminal Lake in a Time of Change Springer Series. (2020). She currently serves as a member of the Tracy Aviary Science and Conservation Committee and the Great Salt Lake Technical Team. 

Title: Breathing Room: Why Does the Lake Need a Buffer from Development? 

Abstract: Annual concentrations of birds on Great Salt Lake and its associate wetlands are among the largest on the planet. A narrow strip of land extends north and south between Great Salt Lake and the Wasatch Mountains. For thousands of years, human populations utilizing this strip of land were small and consisted mainly of roaming hunters and gatherers with very limited areas of permanent residence. Settlement by Europeans that began in the mid-1800s, utilized water from creeks flowing from the adjacent mountains for farming and dwellings. But it was the large-scale water projects in the 1950s that allowed massive escalating development. As the population continues to explode, the wetlands and uplands near the shoreline of Great Salt Lake are every year experiencing greater development pressure. There is a delicate balance between the responsibilities of good stewardship and development. This presentation addresses the need for a protection zone that functions as a buffer between the wetlands of Great Salt Lake and development. Many government and private entities are currently attempting to identify areas adjacent to the lake that will help provide a buffer from direct or indirect human disturbance. Buffers can also provide places for attenuation of storm water flooding, increase water quality before it enters the lake and refugia during periods widely fluctuating lake levels.


Why We Care

  • Great Salt Lake, the second most hypersaline Inland Sea in the world, has a fate of becoming even more salty with permanent loss of a large portion of its Bear River fresh water life supply.

    Precious fresh water diverted to support more of the same, the endless expansion of the human race, big box stores, and shopping centers duplicated around the country ruining any future adventure of small town exploration and road trips.

    Everything is becoming the same. Everyone is looking the same. Everyone does the same things. Great Salt Lake is unique and the planet is loosing it as its life blood is stolen from its soft salty shores, waves gently breaking further and further out, leaving vast arrays of dry barren mudflats waiting for phragmites to invade.

    Utah does not own Great Salt Lake. Great Salt Lake is owned by the world.

    Karri Smith, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant