Great Lakes Commission, Sea Grant to partner on restoration effort

Efforts to “Restore the Greatness” move forward

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes ecosystem are taking a significant step forward, thanks to a new initiative by the Great Lakes Commission and the National Sea Grant College Program.

The Commission will partner with university-based Sea Grant programs in the Great Lakes states to help identify ecosystem restoration needs and the science behind them. This information can then be used by the region’s governors – and the larger community of policymakers and opinion leaders – as a basis for a formal plan to ensure the sustainable use, management and protection of the resource.

Funded by the National Sea Grant College Program, this ambitious two-year initiative will research ecosystem problems and needs; assess existing restoration initiatives; conduct focus groups to identify priorities; and convene a restoration planning forum to assemble outcomes. The process will help regional leadership in preparing a blueprint for congressional action that offers practical guidance in allocating funds for programs and projects that will move the region toward a shared vision for the future.

“Development of a restoration plan must be based upon sound science, and proceed with a clear understanding of ecosystem conditions, objectives and research activity,” said Dr. Michael J. Donahue, Great Lakes Commission president/CEO. “Working together, the Commission and Sea Grant make a great team that will help shape and support regional priorities.”

A regional consultation process will be used to gather information on the range of prospective priorities. The process will be an inclusive one and will welcome the involvement of all interests in the binational Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region. A special emphasis will be placed on local perspectives on restoration priorities, with consultations to include state coastal management programs, mayors and municipal officials, and a range of user groups.

“Restoration planning is an emerging priority in regions throughout the country,” said Dr. Ronald C. Baird, director of the National Sea Grant College Program. “The foundation for a successful plan – and ecosystem improvement – is sound science, and our state Sea Grant Programs are a tremendous source of scientific expertise.”

A centerpiece of the effort will be a series of state-specific stakeholder workshops convened by the Great Lakes Commission and Sea Grant. The inaugural workshop will take place on Sept. 18, 2003, in Ann Arbor, Mich., as part of a Great Lakes symposium led by Michigan Sea Grant and the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. Similar workshops in other Great Lakes states will follow over a nine-month period, also helping to lay the foundation for the governors’ plan.

This restoration planning initiative comes amidst recent U.S. and Canadian reports highlighting the need for an overarching strategy, enhanced interagency coordination, and adequate funding for Great Lakes restoration and protection programs.

“Our governors are ideally positioned to spearhead the development of restoration priorities and, subsequently, a restoration plan,” said Commission Chair Sam Speck, who is also director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “The Great Lakes Commission and Sea Grant are well-suited to work with our many stakeholders to identify needs and the scientific basis for them.”

A plea to “Restore the Greatness” was first issued by the Great Lakes Commission two years ago with the inaugural release of its Great Lakes Program to Ensure Environmental and Economic Prosperity. Endorsed by the Commission’s eight member states, the document presents legislative, policy and appropriations priorities addressing seven goals: cleaning up toxic hotspots; shutting the door on invasive species; controlling nonpoint source pollution; restoring and conserving wetlands and critical coastal habitat; ensuring the sustainable use of our water resources; strengthening our decision support capability; and enhancing the commercial and recreational value of our waterways. Together with a number of other regional and jurisdiction-specific strategies, including the U.S. Policy Committee’s Great Lakes Strategy 2002, it will help to inform and advance the large-scale, ecosystem restoration priorities development and planning effort.

For immediate release: July 15, 2003
Contacts: Mike Donahue, mdonahue@glc.org, office: 734-971-9135
Leon Cammen, leon.cammen@noaa.gov, office: 301-713-2435 ext. 136

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The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck (Ohio), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials, and governors’ appointees from its eight member states.Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer programinvolving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The National Sea Grant College Program encourages the wise stewardship of our marine resources through research, education, outreach and technology transfer. Sea Grant is a partnership between the nation’s universities and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that began in 1966, when the U.S. Congress passed the National Sea Grant College Program Act.

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