CHICAGO (December 12, 2005) – All levels of government and Great Lakes citizens today united to release a precedent-setting, historic blueprint to restore the Great Lakes. “This is the first time in history that we’ve had a single plan to restore and protect the Great Lakes,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association and co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters—Great Lakes Coalition. “And this is the first time in history that federal, state, tribal and municipal governments have joined with the citizens of the region to unite behind the same plan.”
The release of the Great Lakes restoration plan comes on the heels of a paper issued by 60 of the region’s leading scientists that warns that the Great Lakes are on the edge of ecological collapse from toxic pollution, invasive species, and sewage contamination.
“This restoration plan comes just in time,” said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office and co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters coalition. “The Great Lakes are sick. Their immune system is damaged. If we quickly take the actions in this plan we can heal the lakes.”
The restoration plan, unveiled today by U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, Ohio Governor Robert Taft, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Tribal Chairman Frank Ettawageshik, and Congressmen Mark Kirk and Vernon Ehlers, is the culmination of a historic year-long process initiated by President Bush to craft a plan to clean up the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world.
The plan calls for $20 billion in federal, state, local and private investments in such recommendations as modernizing waste treatment systems and restoring wetlands and other vital habitat. The plan also calls for new policy actions such as stopping oceangoing vessels from discharging aquatic invasive species into the lakes.
“The next step in implementing the plan is to obtain funding,” said Reg Gilbert, senior coordinator for Great Lakes United. “The mayors, tribes, governors and members of Congress have each independently recommended significant new funding next year to implement the plan – at least a net increase of $300 million over this year’s federal budget for the Great Lakes ecosystem. Now we are waiting for the administration’s commitment for significant new funding.”
“The litmus test for Great Lakes restoration was the publication of this consensus plan,” added Cameron Davis, executive director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. “The next question is whether the president’s budget will have a net increase of $300 million for the Great Lakes to put this plan into action. And the question after that is whether Congress will appropriate the money to do the same.”
In addition to funding needs, the plan recommends changes in state and federal policies.
“We can’t expect to fix Great Lakes problems without fixing Great Lakes policies,” said Emily Green, director of the Great Lakes program for the Sierra Club. “In addition to much needed new investments, we need to act on the common sense policy recommendations in the plan.”
The Great Lakes comprise almost 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water and supply drinking water to more than 40 million U.S. and Canadian residents. They are home to eight national parks. The Great Lakes also support a diversity of wildlife, including a world-class fishery, maritime trade, industry, and agriculture.
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.
The National Wildlife Federation is America’s conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children’s future.
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