Coalition to Next President: Commit to Action on Great Lakes, Asian Carp

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is calling on White House aspirants to commit to supporting Great Lakes restoration

02-07-2012 // Jordan Lubetkin
Asian Carp

In a pledge sent to election committees of former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul, Gov. Mitt Romney, former Sen. Rick Santorum and President Barack Obama, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is calling on White House aspirants to commit to supporting Great Lakes restoration and action on Asian carp.

Millions of people are counting on the next president of the United States to stand up for the Great Lakes,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Great Lakes programs are producing results in communities around the region—but there is more work to do. Cutting restoration funding and failing to take action on the Asian carp will cost taxpayers more money because problems will only become more difficult and expensive the longer we wait.”

The pledge reads: “As a candidate for President of the United States of America, I will not put off addressing the nation’s most severe problems. Therefore, I pledge to make Great Lakes protection and restoration a priority within my administration.”

The “Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Candidate Pledge” asks all the candidates to support funding for the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and action to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins to protect U.S. waters from invasive species like the Asian carp. Read the full pledge at: http://bit.ly/2012GLpledge

Release of the pledge comes as Republican presidential hopefuls begin to compete for votes in Great Lakes states. Minnesota holds its caucus today, with Michigan holding its primary on February 28 and Ohio hosting its contest on March 6, Super Tuesday.

The Great Lakes region promises to play a major role in the 2012 elections, as candidates vie for votes in electoral-rich “battleground” states such as Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

Great Lakes restoration has played prominently in the last two presidential elections.

In 2004, in the heat of a challenging re-election bid, then-president George Bush signed an executive order declaring the Great Lakes a resource of national significance and established the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. The effort brought more than 1,500 people together to craft a plan to restore and protect the Great Lakes. The $20 billion plan—the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy—has been widely credited with galvanizing support for Great Lakes restoration among conservation, business, industry and civic leaders in the eight-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In 2008, then-candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney all committed their support to restore the Great Lakes.  After candidate Obama signed the Great Lakes pledge, he released a 5-point plan to restore the Lakes. In his first year in the White House, President Obama launched the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a multi-year investment in the Great Lakes aimed at confronting urgent problems such as invasive species, habitat destruction, toxic pollution and dirty run-off from farms and cities.

“Presidential leadership,” said Skelding, “has been essential in the effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes.”

Support for restoration activities by the last two presidents has helped the country make strides in restoring the Lakes. Progress can be seen in communities across the region:

  • Fish and wildlife are returning to places after decades-long absences;
  • Businesses are emerging and thriving on restored waterfronts; and
  • People are fishing, kayaking and swimming in restored waterways.

Despite the progress, there are continued signs that the Great Lakes need help:

  • Algae blooms are returning in Lake Erie, hurting tourism, small businesses and fishing;
  • Fish consumption advisories and beach closures still persist; and
  • New threats like the Asian carp have been discovered within the Lakes.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is dedicated to ensuring that the next president and Congress maintain the nation’s commitment to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

“We are making progress so the nation cannot let its guard down in the effort to protect the Great Lakes,” said Skelding. “We need the next president to show leadership on this issue. Great Lakes restoration is not a Democratic or Republican issue—it is an issue of national significance and utmost urgency. Standing up for the Great Lakes is like standing up for the Grand Canyon or Everglades. We’re asking each presidential candidate to commit to restoring a piece of America that helps define who we are as a people and nation.”

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of 120 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at: www.healthylakes.org

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