As Joel Brammeier described in the last issue of GLAHNews, the work of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) is underway. Along with federal agencies, the Great Lakes governors and mayors, local communities,Native American tribes, and regional bodies, many Great Lakes based environmental groups are actively engaged in the process. The GLRC is charged with designing a strategy to restore and protect the Great Lakes now and into the future.
Much of the work of the GLRC is being accomplished in eight Issue Area Strategy Teams which are focused on issues such as habitat, nonpoint sources of pollution, invasive species, Areas of Concern, and others. Different Strategy Teams are taking different approaches to their task, but all will be required to submit a 5-10 page document that outlines problems and recommendations specific to their issue area. These documents will be compiled by an Executive Committee that will release a comprehensive draft document in July, 2005. The Collaboration will then take 60 days of public comment on the comprehensive draft document before submitting a final report next December.
The environmental groups working on the various Strategy Teams are optimistic that the end product will drive a significant effort to restore the Great Lakes, but realize it won’t happen without a transparent process with multiple opportunities for the public to influence the plan. To that end, many of the environmental groups sent a letter to the GLRC Executive Committee requesting stakeholder input while the Executive Committee is compiling the Strategy Team drafts into the comprehensive draft document. The input and energy of GLAHNF members will be critical to making sure that the result of the GLRC is more than just another report that collects dust on the shelves of bureaucrats. It is indeed important to organize and coordinate restoration work across the basin in order to more effectively utilize limited financial resources. However, it is also imperative for restoration advocates to send the message that organization and planning alone will not restore the Great Lakes. In addition to the work of the GLRC, the federal government and states must commit to substantial and sustainable restoration funding before we will see progress on the ground.
If you would like to learn more about the GLRC and ways you can help promote restoring the Great Lakes, please visit the Great Lakes restoration website at www.restorethelakes.org.