Conservation Contingent Meets with CongressmanAugust 7th, 2013
Representatives from Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Ducks Unlimited and the Metro West Chapter of the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fisherman’s Association met with Congressman Gary Peters (D-MI) on Monday to discuss pressing conservation issues affecting the Great Lakes region, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Farm Bill and reducing phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is a federal program to restore the Great Lakes by funding projects which clean up toxic areas, prevent invasive species, protect watersheds from polluted runoff and restore wetlands by working with partners. Funding for the GLRI was proposed to be slashed just a few weeks ago to $60 million, but funding was restored to $210 million by a proposal in late July from a House subcommittee.
One of the priorities of the GLRI is also a 2013 MUCC policy resolution. The GLRI seeks to prevent nutrient runoff into the Great Lakes, and MUCC’s policy resolution seeks to specifically reduce phosphorus runoff into Lake Erie, which causes toxic algae blooms harmful to fish populations. The Metro West Steelheaders sponsored the resolution and presented information about Lake Erie algae blooms to Rep. Peters.
Much of the phosphorus in Lake Erie comes from fertilizer runoff from farms, which brings us to the Farm Bill. After Congress failed to pass a Farm Bill last year, it is scheduled to expire this fall. Both the Senate and House have passed versions with significant differences this year, and a conference committee will meet to work out the differences between the two (hopefully!).
Conservation groups are pushing for the inclusion of Conservation Compliance in the final bill, which was included in the Senate but not the House version. Conservation Compliance re-connects conservation measures to crop insurance subsidies paid by the federal government on behalf of farmers. Conservation requirements – such as retaining wetlands – were previously linked to direct payment subsidies, which were eliminated and were becoming less effective as crop prices increased. Re-linking conservation responsibilities to crop insurance is a fiscally responsible way to make sure that the public is getting something in return for the crop insurance subsidies, which is wildlife habitat.
MUCC also met with staff from Congressman Dan Benishek’s (R-MI) office last month to discuss the GLRI and the Farm Bill. As we like to say, here at MUCC we’re not blue or red: we’re camo.