Congress Makes the Right Call on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: Providing Communities with Cost-effective Conservation Programs

The following statement was released by Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

By fully funding the very popular and impactful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), Congress guarantees our generation’s best chance to protect and restore the Great Lakes.l michigan13 12rz

Since 2009, GLRI has returned to our states more than $2 billion in the eight-state region. The successful initiative has removed toxic waste from industrial sites, combatted invasive species such as Asian carp, restored critical wildlife habitat and maintained clean drinking water for 40 million Americans. However, President Trump’s original budget released last year slashed funding for the vital program by 90 percent.

In our communities of Ozaukee and Washington counties and the surrounding region, GLRI has been a godsend for our families who depend on a healthy Lake Michigan for our drinking water, our economy, and our way of life.

With funding from GLRI, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) initiated a project to support local community efforts to control invasive plants across southeast Wisconsin.

Invasive species are serious threats to coastal communities along Lake Michigan.  If not stopped now, the great majority of our coastal shoreline, riverbanks and other wetlands will be overtaken by these species and our Wisconsin wildlife habitat and the quality of our water will be greatly diminished by this invasion. The longer we wait, the more costly control efforts will become.

GLRI has allowed the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust to continue its leadership role as an innovator in public and private partnerships. Since 2016, we’ve protected almost 27 miles of shoreline from invasive species – roughly the distance between Port Washington and Milwaukee!

The need for collaboration has never been more urgent as the pervasive threat of invasive species burns across our region like wildfire.

What’s more, our public-private collaborations mean more bang for the buck! Through the GLRI Program, OWLT has generated $831,000 in public and private investment for our community with only 4% administrative overhead. That means more dollars on the ground, doing conservation work and spurring local economic growth.

In addition to OWLT’s efforts to eradicate invasive species across our publicly accessible preserves, our GLRI project’s impact can be seen across the region: from Friends of the Cedarburg Bog’s effort to annually survey and eradicate invasive species from sixty-one miles of roadways surrounding the world class bog (that is one of the largest and most outstanding wetlands remaining in southeast Wisconsin) to efforts by the Cedar Lakes Conservation FoundationRiveredge Nature Center and Mequon Nature Preserve to control invasive plants located on their respective preserve lands, which are visited by tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.

In Milwaukee County, grant support will fund invasive species control efforts at Hunger Task Force Farm, which features one of only two publically-owned remnant oak savannahs surviving in Milwaukee County and will assist Friends of Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in support of its Early Detection and Rapid Response Project, which will lead to long-term benefits to the Great Lakes ecosystem by managing and restoring nearshore wetland and upland habitats to sustain the health and function of natural communities.

The same spirit of cooperation for the Great Lakes has extended all the way to the halls of Congress where a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, including Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin and local U.S. Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner and Glenn Grothman, rallied to fully fund GLRI.

The enormity of the Great Lakes in both size and significance – and the tremendous challenges they face – demand that we continue to work together to care for this extraordinary natural resource. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the surest way to continue to protect and restore the Great Lakes in a cost effective and collaborative manner.

Sincerely,

Tom Stolp, Executive Director