A couple weeks ago, a leaked early federal budget draft showed a 97% cut in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Today, the official Trump administration budget proposal was released showing a total elimination of funding for the program which has pumped $2 billion into the Great Lakes region since 2009 for wetland restoration, pollution cleanup and invasive species control, for example. Michigan United Conservation Clubs isn't taking it sitting down, though: our Executive Director Dan Eichinger spoke in front of the U.S. Capitol steps yesterday about why the GLRI is so important for hunting and fishing in the region.
Eichinger is in Washington, DC with Michigan United Conservation Clubs Board of Directors member Greg Peter, from the Chelsea Rod and Gun Club, as part of Great Lakes Day, organized by the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition. The coalition is composed of more than 150 organizations from around the Great Lakes region, many of whom sent members to lobby Congress for Great Lakes funding, especially the GLRI. Speaking to the coalition yesterday during a public rally in front of the Capitol, Eichinger said:
"Every human being who lives in Michigan is touched by these waters. The resources that we depend on for our recreation are so culturally significant to those of us who hunt and fish in the Great Lakes State. But beyond that, the Great Lakes represent a huge component of the $4 billion economy that is driven by hunters and anglers in the State of Michigan. And that story is true not only in our state, but in our sister states all across the Great Lakes region.
Having clean air, having clean water, having healthy and vibrant lakes drove the rebirth of an industrial state like Michigan so that now one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy is our tourism industry, and that's driven by the communities that overlook lakes that have been fully restored. We have abundant and diverse fisheries that are only possible because of programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and we have waterfowl populations that are at record numbers now, more than at any time over the course of the last hundred years because we have diligently restored our marsh and wetland communities.
All that work is possible because of GLRI. The sportsmen's community supports this work, supports this program, and we support our brother and sister organizations in fighting this fight with you."
This morning members of Michigan's Congressional delegation including Congressman Jack Berman (R-MI), Congressman Bill Huizinga (R-MI), Congressman Sandy Levin (D-MI), Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI), Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) spoke in support of the GLRI at a congressional breakfast. Members of both parties from the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force sent a letter to President Trump in February asking for full $300 million funding for the GLRI.
Congress must approve any final budget, so we will work with Michigan's bipartisan Congressional delegation to see that the final budget fully funds the GLRI.