Detroit Free Press: Why the Great Lakes are worth protecting
When folks in Washington ask me why I care so much about the Great Lakes, my answer is pretty straightforward: they are simply part of who we are as Michiganders.
Whether it’s kayaking around Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula, hiking the Sleeping Bear Dunes, visiting Belle Isle in Detroit or stopping by towns all along the Great Lakes, it’s no exaggeration to say that the Great Lakes define Michigan.
So when I fight back against any effort to cut support for the Great Lakes on the federal level — I do so knowing firsthand that when we protect the Great Lakes for future generations, we can keep Michigan strong as well.
Recently, I led the successful charge in the Senate to increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, or GLRI — the first increase since the program was established nearly a decade ago.
The GLRI has been a proven success. The program works with regional partners to identify the top threats to the Great Lakes and implement lasting solutions. All across Michigan, I’ve seen projects supported by the GLRI restore wetlands and habitats, combat invasive species like Asian Carp, and protect public health by cleaning up toxic pollution.
I know this program works because I’ve seen it work.
But when I initially announced my effort to boost funding, I was told it would be very difficult to get any additional support — and that we should be lucky we had any funding at all. In a sense, that was true: This program has been at risk before.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly proposed slashing funding for the Great Lakes by 90% or more. Each and every time, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have united in a bipartisan way and ensured this critical program is funded because we all know how important the Great Lakes are.
However, it was another reminder that we need to stay vigilant. Increasing funding for the GLRI will put us in a strong position in the years ahead to prioritize this program and secure more support in the future.
Working with Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), we were able to secure an additional $9 million for the GLRI. It took hard work and bipartisan negotiations, but part of being an effective lawmaker means working with everyone at the table. And I’m glad we were able to get it done.
It’s a stark contrast to when the Trump Administration proposed drastically reducing — or even eliminating — support for the GLRI.
Supporting the Great Lakes is something that has brought all of us as Michiganders together. As a member of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to work with my colleagues on other important, additional efforts to support the Great Lakes.
For example, I’ve introduced a bipartisan bill with my Great Lakes colleagues that will finally treat the Great Lakes fisheries as importantly as our marine fisheries. Right now, the Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor does groundbreaking research on invasive species and fisheries — but does not have a dedicated authorization and funding stream like its saltwater counterparts. We need to close the research gap and make sure Great Lakes scientists have the stability they need to do their work.
By: U.S. Senator Gary Peters
Source: Detroit Free Press
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