Are the Great Lakes Local, Regional, or a National Treasure?

Change is a-coming at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  And not just in a new Administrator.  While searching for background information on the President’s nominee, Scott Pruitt, I found this: Additionally the EPA should steer clear of addressing local or regional challenges, Loris said. That means programs such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative should be cut, he said. In this newly limited role, the EPA’s funding could be significantly reduced, he said. That’s not necessarily Scott Pruitt’s view, of course.  If it is, that’s a departure from not only the Obama Administration, but the second Bush Administration, which declared the Great Lakes a national...

Obama and the Great Lakes

The majesty of the Great Lakes compels wise stewardship by all citizens and all levels of government.  The Obama Administration committed the powers and resources of the federal government to protection of this resource. The Obama Administration invested approximately $2 billion in new federal funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), making measurable progress in cleaning up contaminated areas of concern, restoring habitat, and reducing pollutants entering Great Lakes waters. The Obama Administration worked with the Canadian government in successful renegotiation of the Great Lakes Water Quality, giving new life to binational commitments. The Obama Administration appointed a special Great Lakes advisor, Cam Davis, to champion Great Lakes commitments in and outside of government. The Obama Administration, through the IJC, put in place a water levels regulation plan that will restore 64,000 acres of Lake Ontario wetlands. The Obama Administration reactivated the national marine sanctuary nomination process, spurring interest in four different potential designations in Great Lakes waters. Appointments are policy, too, and I know from firsthand observation that the President appointed three engaged, knowledgeable and creative members of the International Joint Commission. Actions that address nationwide issues also benefited the Great Lakes: The Obama Administration promulgated Mercury Air Toxic Standards, helping the Great Lakes and the people who depend on them by reducing toxic pollution from power plants contaminating fish. The Obama Administration’s efforts to foster energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help slow climate change, which is already causing detrimental impacts to the Great Lakes. The largest immediate threat to the Great Lakes is the risk of Asian carp colonization, which the Administration was...

A Tribute

Tomorrow is my last day on the staff of the International Joint Commission.  It was a profound honor to be a public servant again — and to work for a national treasure.  Her name is Lana Pollack. First, the IJC.  It’s an underrated institution.  In the Great Lakes, it is an independent voice providing an honest assessment of the good and the bad in governments’ work to protect and restore this globally significant ecosystem. Some of the most principled and talented people I’ve ever known staff the offices in Ottawa, Windsor and Washington, D.C.  The mere fact of working with Canadian colleagues opens up new vistas, reminding one that this resource is shared with a nation which, for all our differences, cares just as much as we do. All of the commissioners, Canadian and U.S., under whom I’ve served have brought fresh perspectives and commitment to the often grueling work and travel schedule.  But I and all of the people of Michigan and the Great Lakes owe one, the U.S. co-chair, a particular debt of gratitude. I have known Lana for 35 years — as a state senator, a publisher, president of the Michigan Environmental Council and IJC co-chair.  I have known no one in public life with the  unfaltering commitment to principle Lana has.  I have known few with as much policy sense and similarly sound values.  She has a work ethic that puts people half her age to shame. There is no time here to count up all of her accomplishments, but a crowning achievement came recently.  Working with her fellow commissioners, she put in place a new plan for managing...

Michigan Notable Books 2017

This year’s Michigan Notable Books are now on record.  The 20 titles make a diverse lot.  I have my reading cut out for me.  I have read only one of the 20, Bill Rapai’s thoroughly researched, engaging book on biological threats to the Great Lakes, Lake Invaders.  Experience suggests I will find 3 or 4 unforgettable titles.  Books by Michigan authors and/or with Michigan themes deserve national...