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Ecosystem Charter for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Why is the Ecosystem Charter needed?
There are two
principal reasons why the Charter is needed. First, many of our laws,
programs, policies and institutions support the concept of an ecosystem
approach to management in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Basin. However,
application of the concept is difficult due to often narrow,
single-media or issue-specific mandates. The Charter provides a single,
concise and clearly articulated statement that defines goals for an
ecosystem approach, and ties a common thread through our many laws,
programs, policies and institutions.
Second, citizens, elected
officials and even resource managers are increasingly asking the
question "Who speaks for the Great Lakes?" Few seem to understand how
our many laws, programs, policies and institutions relate to one
another. The Ecosystem Charter through the endorsement process
demonstrates that many agencies and organizations despite their
individual priorities, strategies and mandates do subscribe to a
commonly held set of principles. Thus, the Charter is a valuable
educational tool that can explain how concepts of an ecosystem approach
can actually be applied by the many public and nongovernmental interests
in the Basin.
- How will my agency/organization benefit from the Charter?
You will benefit in several ways. First, by endorsing the Charter ,
your agency/organization will be recognized as a "team player" in a
Basin-wide partnership that shares common objectives. Second,
referencing the Charter can help strengthen your program and project
proposals by demonstrating that those proposals address widely held
principles and acknowledged unmet needs. Finally, your public policy
advocacy efforts can be strengthened by referencing Charter principles
consistent with your positions.
- What is expected of endorsing agencies/organizations?
endorsing the Charter are expected to
A. consider Charter principles as
guidance when developing work plans and priorities;
B. communicate and
cooperate with others, to the extent possible, in pursuing those
C. consider the Charter as a means for periodically
Those endorsing the Charter are not expected to
pursue principles that go beyond the scope of their mandate. Further,
they are not required to develop elaborate evaluation or reporting
- Will the Charter establish a new bureaucracy and reporting
No. The Charter is a community effort and is "owned" by all who
endorse it. No new organization or reporting requirement will be
established. The Great Lakes Commission will provide coordination
services over the long term, and opportunities for Charter principles
and related actions to be reviewed on a voluntary basis will be
- Is the Charter a legally binding document?
Charter is a voluntary "good faith" agreement among endorsing agencies
and organizations. Simply stated, it is an expression of an
agency's/organization's understanding of what an ecosystem approach to
management should entail. It provides guidance that the endorsing
agency/organization can consider in pursuit of its own mandate. It does
not supplant, compete with or otherwise directly influence
implementation of existing laws, agreements, policies, etc.
- How does the Charter relate to existing laws, programs and
policies with an ecosystem focus?
The Charter is intended to
showcase and advance, rather than compete with, existing laws, programs
and policies. An addendum to the Charter will identify and describe
documents such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Boundary
Waters Treaty, Great Lakes Toxic Substances Control Agreement, etc. The
addendum will also describe signatory organizations, each of which will
have the opportunity to prepare the text of their own description and
include any brief comments on the Charter and its implementation.
- Does the Charter depart from established policy?
The Charter consolidates and summarizes principles found in existing
laws, programs and policies. More than 60 documents ranging from local
partnership agreements to global policies were reviewed to generate
Charter language. The Charter is consistent with and, in fact, derived
from documents such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Boundary
Waters Treaty, Great Lakes Charter, etc. Endorsing the Charter
reaffirms an agency's/organization's commitment to existing policies.
The Charter is not intended to be a vehicle for introducing new
policies, but to concisely present those that have already been widely
- Why are the principles as broad as they are?
is a product of consensus that reflects the input of a very large and
diverse set of public, non- governmental and citizen interests. A
35-member Drafting Committee has carefully crafted the document to
achieve a fine balance whereby the principles are broad yet meaningful.
Individual agencies and organizations are encouraged to interpret the
principles and apply them in a way that is most relevant to them. In
fact, the breadth of the principles is viewed as a strength of the
- Will signing the Charter force my agency/organization to pursue
new programs or commit limited resources to new priorities?
No. The Charter is intended to showcase and reference existing
ecosystem efforts, while offering guidance as new ones are developed.
The endorsing agency/organization is asked only to pursue those
principles within its mandate and current priorities. It will
encourage, but not require, pursuit of new programs where needed.
- What does the endorsement process entail, and what is the
A large number of diverse interests have been invited
to participate in the Charter development and endorsement process.
These interests range from local watershed organizations to
international agencies, and includes governmental units, the private
sector and citizen organizations.
A signing event was held in conjunction with the 1994 Annual
Meeting of the Great Lakes Commission (October 25-26, Dearborn, Michigan). All signatories were invited to formally sign the Charter and make a brief statement. This event marked the public release of the Charter. Endorsements are accepted on an ongoing basis. Any agency, organization or business interested in becoming a signatory can do so by completing the Signatory Response Form. The Charter addendum is periodically updated to reflect new signatories. All signatories will be kept apprised of developments via the Great Lakes Commission as the coordinating organization.