Planning for lakes restoration follows
By Tom Henry
Published April 28, 2005
Environmental groups are often seen as not following the
Bush administration's lead, but in restoration planning
efforts for the Great Lakes, that appears to be happening.
On Dec. 3, the setting was a downtown Chicago hotel. An
event billed as history's largest gathering of Great Lakes
area government officials and tribal leaders was held
amid much fanfare, with dignitaries entering a packed
ballroom to the sounds of bagpipers.
Then-U.S. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt and outgoing
Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge revealed President Bush's
vision for a program called Great Lakes Regional Collaboration.
The effort was described as one to unify the region with
a single voice for congressional funding requests, rather
than leaving it up to a hodgepodge of interests spread
across eight states.
Yesterday, a coalition of 55 Great Lakes area conservation,
parks, and academic groups announced the formation of
a coalition called Healing Our Waters to have a single
voice as a watchdog for that process.
There were no bagpipers. No hotel. Just a telephone conference
call with reporters and e-mail distribution of a two-page
press release. But the scope of their mission was described
Co-chairmen Tom Kiernan and Andy Buchsbaum said that
Healing Our Waters goes beyond traditional environmental
activists and includes the venerable National Parks Conservation
Association, of which Mr. Kiernan is president. That association
was established in 1919 with the mission of protecting
the National Park System.
Academia weighs in with at least one member, the University
of Michigan's school of natural resources, according to
a partial list of groups identified in the press release.
Other identified groups included the Alliance for the
Great Lakes (formerly the Lake Michigan Federation), American
Rivers, Ducks Unlimited, Great Lakes United, The Nature
Conservancy, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Sierra
Club, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited,
the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and the Wisconsin
The Wege Foundation at Steelcase University in Grand
Rapids, Mich., has pledged $5 million over five years
to support the activities of Healing Our Waters.
The model for Healing Our Waters will be a similar coalition
which stimulated congressional interest in Florida's Everglades,
the co-chairmen said.
Five years ago, Congress agreed to spend $8 billion to
restore the Everglades, the largest allocation for a single
ecosystem in the nation's history. It created a buzz among
many admittedly envious Great Lakes political leaders.