Proposed Great Lakes restoration cuts would damage economy, environment
There is no shortage of issues that Democrats and Republicans disagree about. Thankfully, protecting the Great Lakes has never been one of them.
Since 2010, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have joined together to support funding, through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, to protect the Great Lakes from harm. For good reason: the Great Lakes are a national treasure. They’re the world’s largest freshwater body and represent 90 percent of America’s surface freshwater resources.
The Great Lakes are also big job creators—generating billions of dollars in economic activity and supporting over a million jobs in the tourism, boating and fishing industries.
That’s why there is strong bipartisan opposition to the Trump administration’s recent draft budget that slashes Great Lakes protection efforts by 97 percent. Under this proposed Environmental Protection Agency budget, essential programs to reduce pollution and protect the Great Lakes from invasive species would all but be eliminated. These extreme cuts would have disastrous consequences on the health of the Great Lakes and our economy.
These cuts would cease programs seeking to stop the spread invasive species like Asian carp and zebra mussels. Habitat restoration efforts, like a recent project by Ducks Unlimited to restore wetlands near the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, would no longer happen. And public health would be jeopardized—funding to prevent harmful algal blooms, like the one that occurred in Toledo affecting the drinking water of 400,000 people, would be gone.
I’m from Flint, Michigan – with our city’s ongoing water crisis, we know what happens when government tries to cut their way to prosperity.
Such deep cuts would also hurt our economy and contribute to the loss of thousands of jobs. Great Lakes protection efforts have a direct positive impact on America’s economy. The Great Lakes propel approximately $62 billion in industries such as sport fishing, boating, hunting and wildlife observation. Taken together, the Great Lakes support 1.5 million good-paying jobs in states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Indiana—all states President Trump won last November. All of these jobs depend on the environmental quality of the Great Lakes.
Our constituents get it – according to a recent poll, 86 percent of residents in a state bordering the Great Lakes understand and support Great Lakes protections programs that President Trump is seeking to end. Many of these voters cast their ballots for President Trump and oppose these deep cuts.
Last year, Congress authorized full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, with 25 Republicans and 21 Democrats co-sponsoring the measure. And just last month, 40 Members of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – wrote to the President asking him to maintain the current level of funding, $300 million, in his Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
It’s my hope that President Trump will recognize the economic value of the Great Lakes and reconsider these terrible cuts. My colleagues in Congress, representing Great Lakes states but also other parts of the country, should also speak up in opposition to this harmful proposal.
Simply put, our livelihood, our jobs and our way of life depends on having clean and vibrant Great Lakes. We should not cut vital Great Lakes efforts that are critical to supporting our economy and protecting our environment.