U.S. Great Lakes Restoration Plan Signed in Chicago Coalition’s challenge is to keep the dust away!

U.S. Great Lakes Restoration Plan Signed in Chicago Coalition’s challenge is to keep the dust away!

By Chris Grubb

Scanning the shelves of most Great Lakes institutions – be they government, academic, non-profit, or otherwise – one is likely to be struck by the prevalence of large, black binders looking unopened and covered in dust. Over the past 12 months, more than 1,500 people have been deeply involved in a process, called the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC), which has produced an “Action Plan to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes” that will undoubtedly be delivered to these same Great Lakes institutions in big black binders. The Action Plan contains many strong recommendations for restoring the health of the Great Lakes.The challenge for grassroots advocates now becomes persuading state and federal governments to act on the plan and not let it be filed and forgotten.

A Look at the Plan
Kicked off in December 2004, the GLRC has included representatives from government, industry, agriculture, shipping, environmental/conservation groups, and other stakeholders. Eight issue area strategy teams focused on things like invasive species, habitat/species, polluted runoff, and coastal health. These Great Lakes stakeholders developed consensus recommendations to address the most pressing restoration needs in the region. Some of the major consensus recommendations that are included in the final plan are:

  • Substantial new investments to upgrade sewage systems and stop the dumping of raw sewage that closes our beaches and fouls our waters;
  • Passing federal legislation with the provisions contained in the pending National Aquatic Invasive Species Act to prevent the spread of invasive species that are destroying the Great Lakes food web;
  • Restoring 550,000 acres of wetlands to provide habitat and filter polluted runoff;
  • Increasing authorizations of the Great Lakes Legacy Act that helps pay for cleanup of Great Lakes Areas of Concern (the most toxic areas in the Great Lakes Basin).

Keeping the Dust Away
The Healing Our WatersSM– Great Lakes Coalition has formed this year to make sure that we not only plan for restoring the Great Lakes, but that we actually do it! Led by the National Wildlife Federation and the National Parks Conservation Association, and with over 70 member organizations, the coalition aims to build a regional and national campaign to restore the Great Lakes for our children and future generations.

Next year will be critical for the campaign to restore the Great Lakes. Early in 2006 we expect to see the Great Lakes Congressional delegation get behind a single Great Lakes Restoration bill that will invest in implementing the consensus recommendations of the GLRC plan. In addition, the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election in 2006; and, six of the eight Great Lakes states could have new Governors.

Passing Great Lakes restoration legislation will not be easy, and we need the support of grassroots groups across the region. The Healing Our WatersSM– Great Lakes Coalition is currently working with the Biodiversity Project to create a Great Lakes restoration message kit that will contain a number of fact sheets and other materials to help you communicate the importance of restoring the Great Lakes in your community. The message kit will be available in 2006 – in the meantime if you would like to learn more about Great Lakes restoration, please visit www.restorethelakes.org.

For more information:
Chris Grubb, GLAHNF Lake Advisor
National Wildlife Federation
213 W. Liberty, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
(734) 769-3351 • grubbc@nwf.org



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.