On December 12th, 2005, Great Lakes elected officials, tribal leaders, state and federal agencies, environmentalists, industry representatives, and others joined together in praise of a shared product: the release of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes. The release culminated a year-long process to produce a blueprint for the lakes’ restoration that was initiated by an Executive Order from President Bush.
According to Great Lakes scientists, the plan comes just in time. Prior to the release of the consensus-based restoration plan, over 70 scientists in the Great Lakes released a report, Prescription for Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection and Restoration – Avoiding the Tipping Point of Irreversible Changes, that warned of disturbing signs of environmental decay and emphasized the urgency for acting to restore the lakes.
The unprecedented restoration plan recognizes that we have manageable solutions to the problems facing the Great Lakes. It contains common sense recommendations like investing in aging sewage infrastructure,restoring 550,000 acres of wetlands, planting urban and agricultural buffer strips, and cleaning up toxic hot spots. In total the plan calls for over $20 billion of state and federal investments in the Great Lakes over a period of five years.
While all the members of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration stood in praise of the plan on December 12th, one notable sticking point is how to fund it. The Healing Our WatersSM – Great Lakes (HOW) Coalition, made up of over 85 groups dedicated to restoring the Great Lakes, has developed a campaign to secure investments from state and federal governments commensurate with the job at hand. The HOW Coalition will be looking at the President’s Budget released in February as the first real signal of the federal government’s commitment to the Great Lakes.
Readers can stay apprised of progress to restore the Great Lakes and get involved at http://www.restorethelakes.org.
Great Lakes Restoration Plan: http://www.glrc.us