great lakes 219 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
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Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Courtesy of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
Courtesy of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), is a four year investment in the Great Lakes, and is the largest investment in the past two decades. This collaborative program includes a task force of 11 federal agencies* that are working to address five urgent issues:

  1. Cleaning up toxic substances and areas of concern;

  2. Combating invasive species;

  3. Promoting near-shore health by protecting watersheds from nonpoint source pollution;

  4. Habitat and wildlife protection and restoration;

  5. Accountability, education, monitoring, evaluation, communication, and partnership.

The variety of topics addressed by these goals, allow regions to tailor their efforts on the most urgent issues in their area. In addition to the federal agencies that are a part of the GLRI, there are numerous local agencies and organizations that receive funding and are able to further localize GLRI efforts. Click here for an interactive map of GLRI projects within the entire Great Lakes basin.

Courtesy of USGS
Courtesy of USGS

The state of Michigan is one of the largest recipients of GLRI funds, because of the state’s position within the Great Lakes basin. Michigan is bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, and has 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline within its borders. Michigan alone had more than 52 projects during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, with a total of more than $33,479,262 in funding. Northern Michigan is fortunately able to focus less on the clean-up of toxic substances and can instead work on the promotion and protection of sensitive habitat. Further south, particularly in the thumb area, a primary focus is combating invasive species.

In July of this year, the proposed budget showed cuts to the GLRI of almost 80%, decreasing funds from approximately $285 million to roughly $60 million. Amidst continued budget concerns, the representatives from many Great Lakes states have begun to urge the president to request no less than $300 million in the 2014 budget; arguing that, “the longer restoration waits, the more expensive it will be to address the problem.”

I believe, that a government’s priorities are reflected in its budget. To date, more than $1.3 billion have been invested in the Great Lakes; the initiative has seen broad bi-partisan support and advocates expect for that support to continue. To contact your senator and share your thoughts and/or concerns about the need for the continuation of the GLRI, please visit this website.

*The federal agencies that are a part of the task force include:

  1. Council on Environmental Quality

  2. Department of Agriculture

  3. Department of Commerce

  4. Department of Defense

  5. Department of Health and Human Services

  6. Department of Homeland Security

  7. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  8. Department of the Interior

  9. Department of State

  10. Department of Transportation

  11. Environmental Protection Agency

Emily Shaw, Contributing Writer

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