An excellent overview of the ecological setting, waterbird biology and habitat management of the Great Salt Lake and the surrounding wetlands is provided in "Avian Ecology of Great Salt Lake" by Tom Aldrich and Don Paul in Great Salt Lake: An Overview of Change. (Edited by J. Wallace Gwynn, Ph.D., Special Publication of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, 2002.) The article states that, "Within the GSL basin there are essentially four water regions with differing ecologies. These regions are Bear River Bay, Farmington Bay, the Gilbert Bay (southern arm) and Gunnison Bay (north arm). . . . The major differences between these regions is salinity, although there are other features that play roles in defining their ecological peculiarities."
This site contains roughly 50 miles of shoreline that were surveyed in the Great Salt Lake Waterbird Survey from 1997 through 2001. These surveys started west of Stansbury Island and went east of the Saltair exit on I-80 and continued north to the old causeway fill to Antelope Island. The site contains a total of roughly 85 miles of shoreline. This encompasses sites that were not surveyed along the shore including much of the western shore of Antelope Island as well as the area north of the U.S. Magnesium dike on the western shore to the Southern Pacific Causeway. The site contains three inland areas - the Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve, the Lee Creek area and The Gillmor Sanctuary in Salt Lake County. Public access to the Gilbert Bay/South Arm includes the old Saltair Beach and the marina that are accessible via the Saltair exit off I-80, the southeastern part of Stansbury Island by exiting to Stansbury Island off I-80 in Tooele County and the northwestern portion of Antelope Island. Specific directions to the Great Salt Lake South Shore-Lee Creek area are included in the Great Salt Lake Birding Trails Map.
Gilbert Bay is recognized as a Globally Important Bird Area.
This site contains over 1,000 square miles of open water and miles of unconsolidated shoreline. (The major areas that are heavily diked and altered are the old causeway fill to Antelope Island, where the railroad and I-80 cross from Black Rock to the eastern part of Stansbury Island and the MagCorps dike from the northwestern corner of Stansbury island to the western shore of the Great Salt Lake.) The open water of Gilbert Bay provides valuable habitat for such species as Eared Grebes and Wilson's Phalaropes. The undiked shoreline provides significant natural habitat for species such as California Gulls, American Avocets, Snowy Plover, Western Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper. The mudbar south of Antelope Island had an estimated 66,000+ adult breeding California Gulls in May 1994 and at that time was considered the largest California Gull colony in the world. (Estimates of Adult Breeding California Gulls at Selected Colonies on the Great Salt Lake May 9, 10,16, 1994, Memo from Don Paul, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 6-14-94.) In areas such as Lee's Creek and the Goggin drain the freshwater from these inflows mixes with the saline water and provides a rich habitat for shorebirds, waterfowl and gulls. Finally, the upland areas of the Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve and Gillmor Sanctuary provide valuable habitat for Long-billed Curlews and the Inland Sea Shorebird Reserve provides additional habitat for numerous types of waterbirds. Finally, Gilbert Bay provides habitat for a large number of the world's total population of specific bird species such as Wilson's Phalarope, Eared Grebe, California Gull, and American Avocet.
Criterion UT-1: Sites important to endangered, threatened or species of special concern in Utah.
Peak count for Long-billed Curlews was 49.(Also, there were 50 Long-billed Curlews counted on the Gillmor Sanctuary and the bordering Mitigation Commission properties, that were not included in the waterbird survey counts.) Documented use of 40 breeding pairs of Caspian Terns at Hat Island.
Criterion UT-2: Utah Partners in Flight Priority Species.
There are significant numbers of Long-billed Curlews as mentioned above as well as American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts as documented in 4d below.
Criterion UT-3: Site containing species assemblages associated with a representative, rare or threatened natural community in Utah.
This category specifically mentions ?saline environments in close association with emergent marshes harboring populations of avocets and stilts.? This description fits the Lee Creek area as well as the Goggin Drain.
There are long-term surveys of Wilson's Phalaropes and Eared Grebes that have been conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.