Alliance for the Great Lakes
EMBARGOED FOR RELEASE
Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 12:01 a.m.
Eric Elk (Rep. Kirk)
Kathleen Connery (Rep. Emanuel)
Top Officials Call for Presidential Candidates to Sign Great Lakes Protection Pledge
Next president must preserve and protect the drinking water for more than 30 million Americans
WASHINGTON Congressmen Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) joined environmental leaders today to call on all Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to sign a candidate pledge to protect and restore the Great Lakes.
The pledge, which was sent to all presidential candidates, requests that the next president: (1) appoint a cabinet-level official to oversee and lead the implementation of a recently-finalized Great Lakes Collaboration Restoration Strategy, (2) prepare an interdepartmental Great Lakes restoration budget for their administration if elected to allow the public to gauge progress, and (3) fund the implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Collaboration Strategy to ensure all of the identified activities have been fully funded.
"The Great Lakes are our Grand Canyon, yet they remain vulnerable and face enormous conservation challenges," said Emanuel. "The Great Lakes are the economic engine that drives the Midwest, and it is going to take strong commitments to provide the necessary resources to restore the Lakes."
The Great Lakes are the most important part of our Midwest ecosystem, Congressman Kirk said. But never before have the Great Lakes seen so many threats. From invasive species and mercury contamination to the 24 billion gallons of sewage dumped annually into the Great Lakes, we are quickly poisoning the words largest surface supply of freshwater. Full restoration of the Great Lakes will not only sustain the health of this critical ecosystem, but it will also provide at least $50 billion in direct economic benefits to the region, according to a recent study by the Brookings Institution. No matter who our next president is, he or she must implement the recommendations of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to help protect and restore the Great Lakes.
Congressmen Kirk and Emanuel both proposed the pledge as keynote speakers at a September conference of the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition conference in Chicago.
"We have a moral responsibility to protect and preserve the Great Lakes for ourselves and future generations," said Lipinski. "I grew up with Lake Michigan just a bus ride away from my home, and I've seen the progress that has been made, but it's not enough. We need to do more, and we must do it now. The Great Lakes continue to be threatened. The next President, whomever it is, must commit to protecting and restoring the Great Lakes."
Millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their jobs, drinking water and way of life are looking for a president who will not stand by as the health of the lakes deteriorates from ongoing sewage contamination, invasive species and habitat loss, said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. Presidential commitment to the Great Lakes means one thing: fully funding restoration now, because the longer we wait, the problems get worse and more costly.
Water is the new oil, said Cameron Davis, president & CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes* and co-chair of the HOW Coalition. With 95 percent of the nations fresh surface water, the Great Lakes are a national resource requiring national leadership to conserve and restore. We have a dream team of Congressional leaders working night and day for the Great Lakes, but its time for all presidential hopefuls, regardless of party, to step up and take the Great Lakes pledge.
Congressman Kirk is a co-chair of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force and an original co-sponsor of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act (H.R. 1350). Congressman Emanuel co-authored with Congressman Ehlers the first such bills as early as 2003. Congressman Lipinski is also a co-sponsor of H.R. 1350.
* Non-partisan organization referenced for identification purposes only.
PLEDGE LETTER AND CANDIDATE PLEDGE BELOW
As you work to craft your presidential platform, we, as elected officials encourage you to adopt comprehensive Great Lakes restoration as a key element of your campaign. One of the clearest ways to demonstrate your support is to sign the attached pledge so we know that Great Lakes restoration will be a priority of your administration.
The Great Lakes are truly one of Americas most precious natural resources. As the worlds largest freshwater system, the Great Lakes represent 95 percent of our countrys fresh surface water. The Great Lakes region serves as our nations ecological, educational, and economic lifeblood. The lakes themselves are a source of jobs, food, and recreation for more than 30 million Americans and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife that are important to our proud outdoor way of life.
Yet, today the Great Lakes suffer from serious threats such as toxic pollutants, sewage overflows, invasive species, water loss, and contaminated sediments. These have led to illness, record beach closings, habitat loss, and billions of dollars in lost economic opportunity and environmental damage.
Recognizing these problems, the public decided to act. Citizens, states, tribal, local and civic leaders produced the first-ever multi-stakeholder Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, which was released in December 2005. This strategy outlines an action plan of manageable solutions to protect and restore the Great Lakes.
Great Lakes restoration is about more than just protecting the environment. It is also about stimulating our economy and safeguarding a way of life. As was noted by a recent Brookings Institution report, fully funding the Strategy will produce a direct economic benefit of at least $50 billion and thousands of new jobs.
Great Lakes recovery also represents as much a political as an ecological and economic imperative. Five of the eight Great Lakes states are perennially swing states in most modern presidential elections and all of the states represent 141 electoral votes. Recent polling shows that 96 percent of regional residents want the Great Lakes restored.
We are serious about ensuring that this plan gets implemented. After years of stop and start restoration efforts, the time has come for a full commitment to restore the Great Lakes. Investing in this valuable resource now will save us from having to later spend many times more. Just as it is important for any administration to protect the Everglades, Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, it is crucial that the next Administration commit to Great Lakes restoration for generations to come. We strongly urge you to sign the following pledge to demonstrate your commitment to Great Lakes protection and restoration.
Mark Kirk Rahm Emanuel
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Vern Ehlers Dan Lipinski
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Great Lakes Protection
I recognize that with 95 percent of the nations fresh surface water, the Great Lakes are one of Americas most precious natural resources, serving as a source of drinking water, jobs, food and recreation for more than thirty million Americans and a critical habitat for fish and wildlife. As such, the restoration of the Great Lakes is an essential national public health, security, economic and environmental imperative.
I recognize that today the Great Lakes suffer from serious threats such as toxic pollutants, sewer overflows, invasive species, water level reduction and contaminated sediment. These dangerous problems have led to illness, record beach closings and fish consumption advisories, habitat loss and billions of dollars in economic damage.
I recognize that investing in the restoration of the Great Lakes is not only sound environmental policy, but also has significant economic benefits for the region and the country.
Therefore, as a candidate for President of the United States of America, I,
pledge to make Great Lakes restoration a priority within my administration by:
Appointing a cabinet-level official to oversee and lead the implementation of the Great Lakes Collaboration Restoration Strategy and all Great Lakes restoration policies;
Preparing an annual comprehensive interdepartmental Great Lakes restoration budget to effectively and efficiently address the problems facing the Great Lakes without duplication or waste; and
Including significant funding in my annual budgets for the priorities outlined in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy and future needs of the Great Lakes, such as fewer beach closures and sewer overflows, more clean up of toxic sediments, more restoration of wetlands, and greater prevention of new invasive species.
Sign and return to:
Kirk for Congress
P.O. Box 8
Winnetka, IL 60093
Contact (224) 639-1070 with questions.
Presidential Campaign Release.doc
Description: Presidential Campaign Release.doc