A new study showing which areas of the Great Lakes are suffering the greatest environmental insults found that efforts to restore the lakes are targeting the right places. The three-year study by scientists at the University Michigan produced a map that identifies environmental stressors across the Great Lakes basin. View the map at http://www.greatlakesmapping.org.
Researchers concluded that Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan’s Green Bay are under the greatest environmental stress; Lake Superior and Lake Huron have the fewest problems. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also concluded that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is correctly focused on the areas most affected by toxic pollutants and other problems.
“The project provides scientific validation that the $1 billion spent on federal Great Lakes restoration programs is targeting the right places,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center and a co-author of the report. “When combined with other research, it will be useful in determining what actions should be taken at those places and measuring the impacts those actions will have.”
Buchsbaum, who serves on the governance board of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said the study’s findings “underscore the fact that the nation is on the right track to restore the Great Lakes. In communities across the region, we’re seeing results. But there is more work to do.”
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, which represents 115 conservation, business and community organizations around the lakes, recently urged Congress to maintain funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. To date, the GLRI has provided $1 billion to clean up toxic hotspots in the lakes, restore wetlands and other nearshore habitat, reduce polluted runoff and combat invasive species.
“We urge Congress and President Obama to not scale back their commitment to a resource that more than 30 million people depend on for drinking water,” Buchsbaum said. “Cutting restoration funds will only allow projects to be harder and more expense the longer we wait.”