Friday, July 11, 2008

Lt. Governor Cherry Speaks out on Great Lakes Protection

Lt. Governor Cherry has been touring the state to raise public awareness of preserving the Lakes – especially to urge Congress to reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act. He's been posting on blogs during his trip and today I'm fortunate enough to announce that he is using Black Bear Speaks to get the word out. He started in Port Huron and is now on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Over the past several days, Cherry has been in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and Muskegon where he has been talking with local leaders, residents and the media about the Lakes.

Cherry, who chairs the Ann Arbor-based Great Lakes Commission, announced a restoration project at a press conference this morning at the Grand Trunk boat launch site. The project will focus on the south shoreline of Muskegon Lake, from the Lake Michigan channel to the mouth of the Muskegon River. The project aims to restore hundreds of acres of wetlands along the shoreline by planting native species, removing old seawalls, etc.

This is a tremendous opportunity, so please use the comment feature below to tell the LG Cherry exactly what you think needs to happen in regard to protecting and conserving the Great Lakes.

"Yesterday's activities began in Michigan's Twin City Region—St. Joseph/Benton Harbor. Historically, these two communities were sited at the confluence of two major Indian transportation routes. The Sauk Trail was the major land route across Michigan's Lower Peninsula, and connected to the major water route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The Miami and Potawatomi established camps in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor area.

St. Joseph is also the home of one of my duck hunting companions—Judge Charlie LaSata.

The purpose of our stop here was to celebrate the work that The Conservation Fund, in conjunction with the Berrien County Drain Office and Health Department, has done to reduce the sediment load that the Galien River dumps into Lake Michigan. Non-point source pollution is a major pathway for the deposition of toxics and other contaminants into the Great Lakes. Through a local, state, and federal partnership, a watershed management plan was developed and is in the process of implementation. A number of conservation easements have been purchased. This year's $300,000 grant will be used to tackle E. Coli contamination by identifying failing septic systems and protecting wetland areas. Additionally, local residents are organizing two river cleanups this year.

The celebration took place at Warren Dunes State Park. My wife, Pam, and I were met by Peg Kohring of the Conservation Fund, Frank Rustwick, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Mike Terrell, the Park Manager at Warren Dunes. Mike had previously been assigned to Seven Lakes State Park near my home. Now he manages the gem of the Michigan State Park system. Mike tells me that 20 per cent of the revenue for the entire state park system is generated at Warren Dunes. That tells us something about the economic impact of breathtaking natural wonders and why it makes economic sense to protect them.

We held a ceremonial grant transmittal to the Conservation Fund at a park pavilion on the shore of Lake Michigan and at the foot of the world's largest body of fresh water dunes. A great crowd of local conservation activists gathered for the event, and we talked about the enormous opportunity that this presidential election presents to secure a strong federal commitment for Great Lakes restoration. Both candidates have signed a pledge to support Great Lakes restoration and protection. This is the year to put the Great Lakes on the federal agenda for 2009."

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