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AP: Search for solutions drives race to save Bonneville salt flats

A visitor to Bonneville Salt Flats poses for photographs near Wendover, Utah, Oct. 8, 2022. The salt has thinned by roughly one-third in the last 60 years, but as climate change drags the West into its third decade of drought, it’s unclear how that affects the seasonal flood patterns the salt flats relies on to maintain its size and footprint. (AP Photo / Rick Bowmer)

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The team of photographer Rick Bowmer, reporter Sam Metz, Climate team photo editor Alyssa Goodman, Deputy Director for Digital News Darrell Allen, News Editor and video journalist Brady McCombs and animation producer Panagiotis Mouzakis collaborated on the most comprehensive coverage yet by a major news organization on a shrinking natural wonder, the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwest Utah near the Nevada border.

The salt flats has long lured speed-obsessed racers and filmmakers,and,more recently,social media fans looking for a spectacular photo,but its future is in peril because the salt has been thinning for decades. When a Utah state agency launched yet another study to assess what was happening at the salt flats,AP’s Salt Lake City bureau recognized an opportunity explore the state of one the American West’s most unique sites.

Bowmer led the way by suggesting the story, then spending countless hours documenting the look and feel of the flats. His photos and drone video elevated the entire package, the striking still images meriting an additional photo gallery.

Metz wrote a thoroughly reported,reader-friendly story that summarizes why the flats are shrinking and what is at stake if researchers can’t find a solution. Brady McCombs contributed by shooting and editing video and he shared a byline on the story. And Goodman created an engaging stacked presentation to showcase the outstanding visuals.

Allen and Panagiotis teamed up with Metz and McCombs on animated videos showing how the salt is thinning and its effect on the overall salt flats footprint. Sophia Eppolito and AP’s digital team contributed posts on Twitter,Instagram and Facebook,with threads full of excerpts,drone footage and the graphics.

Elements of the package played widely with AP members and customers,and the story scored the highest reader engagement for all AP stories on Nov. 2, calling attention to a recognized but little-understood environmental problem.

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