ANN ARBOR, MI (October 24)—The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today applauded Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) for introducing an amendment to re-authorize a vital program in the Farm Bill, the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control.
“We thank Sen. Stabenow for standing up for the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them for their economy and quality of life,” said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “The program is one of the manageable solutions we need to implement now to restore the lakes, because the longer we wait the problems get worse and the solutions more costly.”
Conservation programs contained in the Farm Bill like the Great Lakes Basin Program are key elements of a comprehensive strategy to restore the lakes, as identified in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, a plan put forward in 2005 to prevent sewage contamination, stop invasive species introductions and restore wetlands and other habitat.
That strategy has since been introduced in Congress as the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, which awaits passage.
The Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control is a federal and state partnership to protect and improve Great Lakes water quality by reducing soil erosion and controlling sedimentation.
Sen. Stabenow’s amendment authorizes $5 million for the program, which seeks to reduce the on-site damages caused by soil erosion on farms, developments, stream banks and shorelines, while also curbing off-site damage to harbors, streams, fish and wildlife habitat, recreational facilities, and public works systems.
Since 1991, the program has funded 389 projects. The program has recently helped communities in Michigan restore coldwater trout streams and horse farm owners in Ohio operate facilities that do not harm the surrounding natural resources.
For every $1,000 spent by the program, 128 tons of soil is kept on the land and out of Great Lakes rivers and lakes.
“This program is vital to the restoration of the Great Lakes, and it’s vital to people in our communities,” said Skelding. “This program clearly illustrates that we have solutions. It is time to use them.”
Farm Bill conservation programs are critical to restoring the Great Lakes, providing funding and technical assistance to farmers to restore and protect wetlands and wildlife habitat that serves to filter pesticides, fertilizers and sediment out of water that millions of people depend on for drinking, bathing and swimming.
Farm Bill programs also support the region’s $18-billion annual hunting, fishing and wildlife-watching industry.
However many more Great Lakes farmers want to participate in the Farm Bill conservation programs than can be accommodated because of insufficient federal funding. Two out of three farmers willing to take actions to help the environment are turned down due to lack of funds.
The recently passed Farm Bill includes increases of $4 billion to enroll more farmers in the successful conservation programs.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 24, 2007