Scientists and Environmental Leaders from Throughout the U.S. and Canada Agree
On Federal Level Priorities to Restore Great Lakes Ecosystem

Grand Rapids, Michigan (May 27, 2004) – National environmental leaders and scientists, compelled by serious threats to the health of the Great Lakes, convened in Grand Rapids this week to draft an agenda identifying federal-level priorities to restore and protect the Great Lakes ecosystem. The Healing Our Waters Agenda released today challenges the federal government to take the lead in this effort.

“Environmental leaders from throughout the nation stand united in the belief that Great Lakes restoration is a national responsibility. Their presence here is testimony to that fact,” stated Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers, and conference participant. “For those of us who don’t live here, visiting this region – talking with people whose life and livelihood are intertwined with the life and health of the lakes, standing on the Lake Michigan shoreline and watching the sunset over that magnificent body of water – helps
us gain a deeper understanding of the Lakes as a national treasure.”

At the conference, more than 70 scientists, conservationists and environmental leaders from educational institutions and local, regional and national environmental organizations concluded:

“Our magnificent Great Lakes are under siege. Containing over 90 percent of America’s surface fresh water, the Lakes sustain millions of people and diverse wildlife. The Lakes are vital to the region’s economy and way of life. But we have contaminated the water, sediments, and fish; we have introduced alien invasive species that are destroying the Lakes’ natural ecology. To save our national treasure, governments, businesses, and
citizens need to cooperate now in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes. The federal government must take the lead immediately in several key areas.”

In addition to Wodder, other participating presidents and CEOs from national environmental organizations included:

  • John Adams, president, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Gene Karpinski, executive director, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
  • Kevin Knobloch, president, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Tom Kiernan, president, National Parks Conservation Association
  • Bill Meadows, president, The Wilderness Society
  • Larry Schweiger, president & CEO, National Wildlife Federation

Through a pre-conference on-line discussion, participants established three topics for discussion at the conference: water quality, invasive and exotic species, and cleaning up areas of concentrated toxic pollution. At the conference this week, participants developed a set of solution statements – the Healing Our Waters Agenda – identifying several key areas requiring immediate federal action.

“I’ve been working on clean air and clean water and the proper disposal of waste for 40 years. This conference is the culmination of all that effort,” said Peter Wege, President of the Wege Foundation and sponsor of the Healing Our Waters conference. “We’ve brought together some of the brightest minds in the country to help us educate people about the need to restore and protect the Great Lakes. This is the most important thing I’ve ever done. It’s for all our grandchildren and for future generations.”

Following the conference, the Wege Foundation, the Healing Our Waters advisory committee, and other committed business, foundation and environmental leaders will develop a comprehensive strategy for implementation of this agenda.

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