The world’s largest freshwater ecosystem will be better protected from water withdrawal and diversion with President Bush’s action today signing and finalizing legislation known as the Great Lakes Compact.
The Senate had unanimously passed the Compact in early August, and the House of Representatives passed it with a majority vote in late September. This federal action came after years of state legislatures from around the Great Lakes basin working towards and approving the Compact in an historic, collaborative and bipartisan effort. The Canadian government has also voluntarily agreed to the Compact’s provisions to protect the binational waters.
“Because of the collective action of everyone from local citizens and national conservation groups to state and federal lawmakers and leaders, we have succeeded in ensuring some very important protections for Great Lakes water,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “There is more to be done but this is a great step towards conserving the world’s greatest freshwater system.”
The Compact sets the stage for The Nature Conservancy and others to begin having discussions with the states on ways to better manage these globally significant water resources in a way that recognizes and protects biological function, according to Rich Bowman, chair of The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Public Policy Team.
“It’s important to note that the Compact doesn’t specifically manage and regulate the Great Lakes – it only sets the stage for it to happen,” he said.
The Nature Conservancy recently convened its first-ever meeting of scientists, business leaders and conservationists from around the Great Lakes basin to support and commit to its 10-Year Vision for the Great Lakes. At the close of the conference, more than 260people promised “to assure a healthy and resilient Great Lakes ecosystem where the connection between natural systems and the quality of human life is understood and valued,” according to “A Pledge of Action, Collaboration and Support” signed at the gathering.
The organization intends to work towards this goal by protecting a network of 1million acres of natural areas, 20priority watersheds and 15coastal areas within the Great Lakes basin, thereby making the Great Lakes one of the best-managed ecosystems in the world and a model for other large lakes of the world.
In Minnesota, the Conservancy has helped conserve more than 350,000acres since 1958. The Conservancy has 23,000members in Minnesota and offices in Minneapolis, Cushing, Paynesville, Grand Rapids, Glyndon, Duluth, Karlstad, Mentor and Preston.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.