Westminster’s Great Salt Lake Institute Registers Under State’s First Bioprospecting Act
Researchers hope new law fosters long-term protection of state lands
SALT LAKE CITY – The Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College is the first entity to register under the state of Utah’s new Bioprospecting Act. Utah is the only state in the U.S. to enact a law that requires a person engaged in bioprospecting to notify the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands before removing certain microorganisms, plants or fungi from state land.
Bioprospecting is the search for and collection of biological material, usually microbes, that could prove useful either commercially or in environmental protection efforts. For example, if extreme algae living in Great Salt Lake can make a biofuel, this capacity can be harnessed in the laboratory without impacting the ecosystem. Since research may turn those algae into a profitable fuel, the new law lays the groundwork for Utah to benefit from profits made off the research or development of microorganisms removed from state land. Westminster’s Great Salt Lake Institute (GSLI) helped draft the legislation and was recently the first to utilize the online registration. http://www.ffsl.utah.gov/sovlands/leases/BioprospectingForm-Revised.pdf
“We support the Bioprospecting Act as a means to underscore both the scientific value and the economic potential of all our unique ecosystems in Utah,” said Dr. Bonnie Baxter, GSLI director. “If our state sees the value of renewable resources on their land, we’re more likely to protect state lands.”
The mission of the GSLI is research, education and stewardship of Great Salt Lake, one of the extreme ecosystems in the world. Westminster faculty and students are particularly interested in the UV resistance of salt-tolerant bacteria, biofuel potential of microalgae, and the unique genetics of Great Salt Lake brine shrimp.
For more information about Westminster’s Great Salt Lake Institute visit http://www.greatsaltlakeinstitute.org. Anyone interested in bioprospecting on state lands should contact the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands at 801-538-5555 or http://www.ffsl.utah.gov.
Media Contacts: Krista DeAngelis and Arikka Von (801) 832-2682
Dec. 7, 2011
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