May 31, 2023 – In mid-May, Utah’s Governor Spencer Cox announced his pick for the Great Salt Lake Commissioner, a new position in the state. The nominee must be confirmed by the state’s senate, which is scheduled for a hearing in June.
The nominee, Brian Steed, is currently executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air at Utah State University, a position that he will keep in addition to his duties as Great Salt Lake commissioner. As part of that role, he has served as co-chair of the Great Salt Lake Strike Team, a cooperative effort by Utah State University, the University of Utah, the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the Utah Department of Environmental Quality that provides up-to-date data and analysis of the lake and policy recommendations to the governor and legislators to help restore the lake to healthy levels.
Previously, Steed has served as executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, deputy director of policy and programs and the official exercising of the director of the Bureau of Land Management, and chief of staff to Congressman Chris Stewart.
Steed has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in political science from Utah State University, a juris doctor and certificate in natural resources and environmental law from the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah, and a doctorate in public policy from Indiana University.
“I am honored by this nomination and am very excited to continue working on the challenges facing the Great Salt Lake,” said Steed. “The decisions we make today will have a huge impact on the lake and its future, as well as on the quality of life Utahns have historically enjoyed. I am optimistic that by working together we can get it right.”
“Brian has been a trusted advisor for many years and I appreciate his willingness to re-enter public service at this critical time,” said Gov. Cox. “We have a unique opportunity right now to protect and preserve the Great Salt Lake, and Brian’s expertise and passion for the lake will ensure its future is secure for generations to come.”
“Brian Steed’s immense natural resource knowledge at the local, state and federal levels, combined with his leadership skills, will help facilitate collaboration and increase Utah’s ability to find long-term solutions for the Great Salt Lake,” said Senate President J. Stuart Adams. “Like those who came before us, it is our turn to prepare for the next 100 years by planning for future growth, conservation and development. With Brian at the helm, our state is one step closer to finding lasting solutions to our water challenges.”
“There is perhaps no role more important in the state at this time than that of the new Great Salt Lake commissioner,” said House Speaker Brad Wilson. “While no small task, I have the utmost confidence in Brian Steed. He has proved time and time again that he’s capable of tackling big issues and working toward the greater good. I know this will continue as he oversees efforts to protect, preserve, and enhance the Great Salt Lake.”
The position was created by H.B. 491, Amendments Related to the Great Salt Lake, signed by the Governor in March this year.
Following a wet winter that eased drought conditions, lake levels are expected to rise another 1-3 feet. KUTV reports that the turn in events has not changed preservation efforts by the state government, quoting the director of the Utah Division of Water Resources as saying, “We can’t take our eyes off the ball. Utah is either in a drought or preparing for the next drought.”
Wildflowers growing near the Great Salt Lake in Utah, USA, photographed by Altochic in January 2021 and available under Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.