Since 2010, a federal program known as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has funded a variety of projects to help water quality, wildlife habitat and a range of other issues. Congress could slash this funding — a move that could reverse years of progress for the region’s 13 national parks.
Our national parks in the Great Lakes region have tremendous value for area residents, the local tourism economy and the more than 6 million people that visit each year. But the Great Lakes and the 13 national park sites in the watershed also face an array of threats.
The National Park Service battles invasive species, falling water levels, eroding shorelines and contaminated tributaries, and the agency’s shrinking budgets mean fewer resources to combat these threats. Since 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) has provided supplemental federal funding to help to protect and restore the Great Lakes and improve water quality for the more than 30 million Americans that depend on the lakes for their drinking water.
But now the Trump administration wants to cut this important funding source by 90 percent in the fiscal year 2019 federal budget. These damaging cuts would be catastrophic to the Great Lakes and the people who depend on them.
The GLRI has provided about $300 million each year to projects in cities, rivers and harbors around the lakes. It allows the National Park Service to respond to critical ecosystem needs in eight of our Great Lakes parks. And thanks to these funds, we are seeing great results.
The nearly 3,000 restoration and toxic clean-up projects that have been funded by the GLRI have improved water quality, prevented beach closings and fought invasive species like the Asian carp from advancing in our lakes and streams. Thanks to GLRI funding, scientists at Sleeping Bear Dunes are working to save Great Lakes shorebirds from fatal outbreaks of disease caused by toxins in Lake Michigan; workers at Indiana Dunes are restoring hundreds of acres of wetlands used by migrating birds in the Great Marsh; and park staff and volunteers at Apostle Islands have restored eroding Lake Superior shorelines and rebuilt boardwalks for visitors to enjoy.
We cannot afford to shortchange this world-famous watershed and risk reversing years of success.
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