SALT LAKE CITY. (December 17, 2020) – Today is a momentous one for Audubon’s efforts to restore shorebird habitat along Great Salt Lake. Epperson Associates, LLC has donated a 413-acre property worth $1 million to Audubon’s Gillmor Sanctuary. The true value of this donation, however, lies not in these numbers, but in water.
The Epperson property not only contains portions of the ancient Jordan River delta that are highly desirable for wetland restoration; it also holds the North Point Canal, the water delivery system that sustains critical habitat for countless shorebirds at Gillmor Sanctuary.
“The North Point Canal delivers water to the entire sanctuary. So the donation of this land is critical for one reason: it allows us to control our water delivery system into the future,” said Audubon’s Gillmor Sanctuary Manager Ella Sorensen.
The sanctuary was founded on the southeast shore of Great Salt Lake in 1994 by the National Audubon Society to conserve important and threatened habitat for birds and other wildlife. This donation brings its total size to nearly 3,600 acres.
The sanctuary’s value to wildlife increases every day as widespread development encroaches upon Great Salt Lake. Construction for Utah’s inland port, a prison, and many other projects have buried vast swaths of wildlife habitat under asphalt and threatened the health of the entire Great Salt Lake ecosystem. The Epperson property is located within the Natural Area Buffer that was designated to dampen the impacts of rampant development on wildlife.
This donation also bolsters conservation on a regional scale. “Great Salt Lake and its surrounding wetland habitats, including Gillmor Sanctuary, are part of an important network of saline lake ecosystems that millions of birds depend on. Across the Intermountain West, these lakes are threatened by declining water levels, due to diversions and changing climate conditions,” said Marcelle Shoop, director of Audubon’s Saline Lakes Program. Conserving these specialized habitats requires on-the-ground restoration like the work being done at Gillmor Sanctuary.
“This property has some of the premiere parts of the old river delta. With minimal construction, we’re going to be able to restore water to almost half of the property to make absolutely incredible shorebird habitat,” said Sorensen.
Secure and reliable water delivery is essential to Gillmor Sanctuary’s future, and the Epperson property provides just that. Audubon’s plans include installing water control structures to restore water flow and connectivity across the sanctuary and removing vast stands of non-native tamarisk and other invasive plants.
Given the property’s pivotal position, Sorensen began working with the landowners in 1997 to secure water delivery and to add the entire 413-acre parcel to the sanctuary. At the time, Epperson Associates, LLC owned 2,600 acres in Salt Lake City’s northwest quadrant. Recently, most of that land was zoned for development.
Last September, Christine Bothwell Pedroncelli, former president of Bothwell & Swaner Company, which is a majority member of Epperson Associates, LLC, passed away. She was the third generation of her family to own and manage the property being donated.
“She was the last of her generation to be actively involved in the management of the company,” said her daughter, Maureen Davison. “So it has been an ‘end of an era’ with her passing, and with this donation an end to the family’s involvement in Salt Lake City, where she was born. With our history with Ella [Sorensen], we wouldn’t donate it to anyone other than Audubon.”
Although it has been 2,600 years since water from the Jordan River coursed through the property, it will soon see wetlands again, and with them, an abundance of wildlife.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @audubonsociety.
Audubon Rockies, the regional National Audubon Society office for Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, conserves and restores natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. Learn more at rockies.audubon.org and by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @audubonrockies.