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Great Lakes Article:

Groups to push Great Lakes cleanup
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
Published April 28, 2005

A coalition of 55 environmental and conservation groups on Wednesday joined forces to push for a massive national effort to clean up the Great Lakes.

The National Wildlife Federation, National Parks Conservation Association and dozens of other groups announced they will push for a federal Great Lakes restoration plan that rivals the nation's commitment to restore the Florida Everglades.

The announcement was made as state, tribal, federal, business and local officials from around the Great Lakes gather this week in Traverse City, Mich., for the second meeting of the Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. The gathering is to begin work crafting a comprehensive Great Lakes restoration plan.

The EPA collaboration was called by President Bush last year to focus Great Lakes cleanup efforts to avoid duplication and to coordinate research and programs. The EPA collaboration first met in Chicago in December amid renewed optimism that all parties were ready for a bipartisan cleanup plan for the lakes.

While momentum is building behind the lakes restoration, environmental groups worry there will be little new money earmarked for the effort.

"Our coalition is working hard to make sure that, this time, there's a plan that results in the action and funding the Great Lakes and our region need," said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Natural Resource Center.

In October 2000, the federal government approved $1.4 billion to start a landmark 36-year restoration of the Everglades. The total bill for projects is expected to top $8 billion.

The Everglades effort happened only because the entire nation, and most of Congress, became convinced of the problems and the value of saving the area, said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association.

Members of the 55 organizations involved in the Great Lakes effort, called the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, say that's what is needed to restore the Great Lakes.

"We need to convince a national audience, and all of Congress, that we have to do this now," Kiernan said Wednesday in a telephone news conference.

The stakes for saving the Great Lakes are even higher than the much-smaller Everglades, and the price tag will be much higher as well.

The 55 groups are focusing efforts in eight areas:

Invasive species

Toxic pollution that builds in the environment

Runoff and erosion

Habitat protection

Human health issues

Contaminated sediments

Sustainable development

Monitoring and research

Among the 55 groups are the Minnesota Council of Trout Unlimited, Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Wisconsin Association of Lakes and Wisconsin Trout Unlimited, Sierra Club Great Lakes Initiative, Ducks Unlimited and Great Lakes United.

The Wege Foundation at Steelcase University in Grand Rapids, Mich., last year pledged $5 million over five years for environmental groups to coordinate their Great Lakes efforts.

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