Rep. Joel Ferry named new executive director of Dept. of Natural Resources

SALT LAKE CITY — On Friday Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced that Rep. Joel Ferry will be joining his administration as director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Ferry has represented District 1 in the Utah House of Representatives since January 2019 and played a role in multiple water-related bills signed by Gov. Cox this year.

He was featured prominently in the Times earlier in June, where he called the drying Great Salt Lake a “potential environmental nuclear bomb.” He is co-chair of the Legislative Water Development Commission, which voted in May to authorize a study of a pipeline from the Pacific Ocean to the Great Salt Lake.

State officials said earlier this year that the Great Salt Lake is projected to fall two feet this year, which would be a new historic low. The body of water has dropped 11 feet since records were first taken in the 1800s.

The exposed lake bed contains high levels of arsenic, and as the water level continues to fall, it could leave wind storms to create a harmful environment for residents of the Wasatch Front. Other concerns include losing the vital lake effect for snow precipitation in the mountains.

Ferry currently serves as chairman of the House Business and Labor Committee and Legislative Water Development Commission, and is a member of the Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee, Medical Cannabis Governance Structure Working Group and Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee.

Professionally, he operates a ranch, farm, feedlot, and hunting properties in Corinne. In 2013, Ferry and his wife Becca Ferry were named the Top Young Farmer and Rancher by the Utah Farm Bureau. In 2018, he was named Conservationist of the Year by the Intermountain West Joint Venture. In 2019, he was awarded the Leopold Conservation Award, and in 2021 he was awarded the Environmental Stewardship Award from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

His past service includes chairman of the Box Elder County Republican Party, Box Elder Farm Bureau Board member, chairman of the Willard Peak Chapter of Delta Waterfowl, board member of the Friends of the Bear River Bird Refuge, and member of the Northern Regional Advisory Council for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

“From water conservation to air quality to public lands, Joel has been an effective voice for wise stewardship of the rich natural resources in our state,” Gov. Cox said in a statement. “His legislative experience as well as his foundation as a farmer and rancher will help shape our vision around natural resources and I’m grateful he’s willing to take on this new challenge.”

The appointment is subject to approval from the Utah Senate.

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