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GLIN==> "Citizens' agenda" for Great Lakes ecosystem restoration

Citizens' Groups Unveil Sweeping
"Action Agenda" for Restoring Great Lakes

In the context of discussions by basin politicians of a massive new effort to restore the Great Lakes, a large coalition of groups coordinated by Great Lakes United is today releasing the Great Lakes Green Book. The book is an "action agenda" -- intended to serve as a citizens' blueprint for restoring the health of the largest freshwater ecosystem in the world. It can be found at www.glu.org/greenbook.htm.

The Green Book action agenda will be a main topic of discussion at the annual meeting of Great Lakes United in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, June 6-8, where U.S. and Canadian officials will be present to offer responses to the document.

In the last two years, political representatives on the U.S. side of the basin have expressed an interest in developing and funding a broad-based plan for restoring the Great Lakes. Among the organizations and politicians who are working on or have spoken in favour of such an initiative are the Council of Great Lakes Governors and federal Sens. Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Carl Levin (D-MI), and Reps. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rahm Emanuel (D-IL).

The action agenda partner groups believe any effective restoration plan must also involve governments on the Canadian side of the lakes since basin environmental challenges know no borders. We are therefore urging governments on both sides of the border to work together on such an initiative. Says Elizabeth May of the Sierra Club of Canada, "The challenges facing the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem today are more numerous and complex than any it has faced before. This is certainly the time for both the U.S. and Canadian governments to act in a comprehensive way."

"We welcome any efforts governments make to provide the funding necessary for a comprehensive restoration of the Great Lakes," says Margaret Wooster, executive director of Great Lakes United, a basinwide coalition of 170 member groups representing hundreds of thousands of individuals living on the U.S. and Canadians sides of the Great Lakes basin. "But we want to make sure these efforts are solely dedicated to restoring rather than exploiting this precious ecosystem. Citizens must be at the table early and often, working with government parties on developing a restoration plan for this shared ecosystem."

Says Dave Dempsey of MEC: "Many of our recommendations come with strict timelines for governments to address these challenges before they lead to consequences that could prove catastrophic. These recommendations are being put forward with one ultimate goal in mind -- to protect and restore an ecosystem that makes up almost 20 percent of the worlds supply of fresh surface water."

The action agenda summarized in the Great Lakes Green Book is the most detailed plan developed by grassroots groups to date for addressing the many challenges facing the Great Lakes. The Green Book, the full "action agenda" of which it is a summary, and other support documents are available in full at www.glu.org/greenbook.htm.

Key Green Book recommendations:

        Fully restore to health all 43 Great Lakes toxic hotspots or Areas of Concern by 2015. "We do not have to live with this toxic legacy," says Emily Green, director of the Sierra Club's Great Lakes Program. "We have the tools and knowledge to clean up these sites, and we need to put them to work to get the job done."

        Phase out unsustainable navigation practices like dumping ballast water and halt expansion plans until the resolution of problems such as introduction of invasive species, lowered water levels from deeper channels, and habitat damage from dredging. "The enormous economic and environmental costs of allowing more foreign ships access to the Great Lakes far outweigh any benefits of pie-in-the sky plans to deepen shipping channels," says Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federations Great Lakes office. "The region must protect and enhance the $4 billion in fishing, tourism and related benefits generated by the lakes,."

        Increase the amount of electricity that must be generated by new, clean, renewable sources (e.g., wind and solar power) to 20 percent by 2020, accompanied by phaseout of coal and nuclear power plants. "With the conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy opportunities available to us now," declares Brennain Lloyd of the Ontario group Northwatch, "we can replace the fossil fuels that have helped generate so much smog and poisoned so many of the regions lakes with acid rain and mercury."

        Adopt by 2004 a binding agreement for regulating the withdrawal of water from the Great Lakes system that is based on sound science for protecting the ecosystem. Says Sarah Miller of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, "We will only be safe from huge out-of-basin diversion proposals when we finally start managing our own water withdrawals according to environmental protection principles."

        Adopt "extended producer responsibility" legislation requiring manufacturers to be fully responsible for the recovery and safe disposal of high-risk waste associated with products such as automobiles, electronics and packaging products. "When producers are required to be responsible for their products, they will design products that are less toxic and more recyclable -- and that will benefit the Great Lakes environment," says Jim Mahon, Canadian Auto Workers Local 1520.

        Set strict urban boundaries that remain fixed for at least a 20- to 30-year period to stop low-density urban sprawl. "We need our governments to direct public investment into existing urban areas," says Linda Pim of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists.

        Reverse the ongoing loss of wetlands and increase the amount of protected Great Lakes wetlands, by one million acres by 2025. "Wetlands are one of the regions greatest sources of wildlife biodiversity and one of its best protections against floods and water pollution," says Jill Ryan of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. "With two-thirds of the Great Lakes basins wetlands already destroyed, we must begin both protecting and restoring the region's wetlands immediately."

        Develop and implement timetables for phasing out uses and releases of long-lived toxic substances, for example, by phasing out pollution from highly toxic mercury from all sources by 2020. "Mercury is the most potent and pervasive water pollution problem in the Great Lakes," says Cam Davis of the Lake Michigan Federation. "Every Great Lakes state and province has advisories against eating certain fish due to mercury contamination and the threat it poses to human health, particularly to young children."

General Green Book contacts

Margaret Wooster, Great Lakes United (716) 886-0142
Doug Draper, Great Lakes United (905) 227-7951
Green Book contributors quoted in this release

Contacts quoted in the Green Book

Andy Buchsbaum, National Wildlife Federation, (734) 769-3351
Cameron Davis, Lake Michigan Federation (312) 939-0838 x2
Dave Dempsey, Michigan Environmental Council, (517) 487-9539
Emily Green, Sierra Club Great Lakes Program Office, (608) 257-4994 x16
Brennain Lloyd, Northwatch, (705) 497-0373
Jim Mahon, Canadian Auto Workers, (519) 681-3680 or (519) 851-5288
Elizabeth May, Sierra Club of Canada, (613) 241-4611
Sarah Miller, Canadian Environmental Law Association, (416) 960-2284 x213
Linda Pim, Federation of Ontario Naturalists (416) 444-8419 x243
Jill Ryan, Tip of the Mitt Environmental Council (231) 347-1181, x115
Margaret Wooster, Great Lakes United (716) 886-0142

Additional Green Book contributors available for contact

Joel Brammeier, Lake Michigan Federation, (312) 939-0838
Doug Cornett, Northwoods Wilderness Recovery, (906) 226-6649
John Jackson, Great Lakes United, (519) 744-7503
Ziggy Kleinau, Citizens for Renewable Energy, (519) 795-7725
Jean Langlois, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, (613) 232-7297
Lynda Lukasik, Environment Hamilton, (905) 560-1177
Michelle Miller, Clean Wisconsin, (608) 255-5885
Patty ODonnell, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, (?)
Anne Reynolds, Environmental Advocates, (518) 462-5526
Keith Schneider, Michigan Land Use Institute, (231) 882-4723


Reg Gilbert
Senior Coordinator
Great Lakes United

Buffalo State College, Cassety Hall
1300 Elmwood Ave.
Buffalo, New York, 14222

Fax: -0303