An alliance of Great Lakes environmental groups applauds the Ontario government’s draft Great Lakes Strategy, released today in Toronto. The groups also welcome the government’s proposal for a Great Lakes Protection Act. The Act and strategy aim to address some of the biggest problems facing the Great Lakes. Among the strategy’s focuses are: water quality; beaches, coastal wetlands and biodiversity; and sustaining economic activity.
The groups say that immediate action is required for the Great Lakes’ health to improve. Although there are success stories, like improved sewage treatment, and the drop in toxic chemicals like PCB’s, the Great Lakes are described as being “at a tipping point.”
“We feel that our collective advice to the government has been heard. We are looking forward to seeing all party support for an important Act to restore the Great Lakes, a huge economic engine, and the drinking water of 37 million people,” said Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.
“The government’s proposed bottom-up approach to identifying problems and solutions based on local input and involvement is efficient and inclusive. I am also pleased to see that this Act follows the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s advice to bring multiple Ministries together to address cross-cutting issues,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel to Canadian Environmental Law Association.
A number of factors, including population growth, loss of green space, invasive species, and an increasingly complex chemical soup, made worse by climate change, are combining to put stress on the Great Lakes.
“Americans will be pleased that Ontario now has a plan to work together with all stakeholders to restore degraded areas and protect what good habitat we have left in the Great Lakes,” said Sierra Club’s Mary Muter.
“Strong policies to conserve wetlands across the Great Lakes basin, particularly in heavily settled regions, are essential to stop and reverse wetland loss thereby ensuring that our Great Lakes remain healthy and resilient to current and future pressures,” says Mark Gloutney, Director of Regional Operations , Eastern Region, Ducks Unlimited Canada.
“Ontario’s planned actions are a major step forward in putting us into a leadership role, which will strengthen Ontario’s ability to encourage actions in other states and provinces through our own example. This is critical to address the major problems now threatening the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem,” said John Jackson, Program Director for Great Lakes United.
The groups are pleased that the government intends to create action plans for particular priority areas, or lakes, based on the issues affecting that area.
Over the summer the organizations will encourage people to learn about the government’s strategy and participate in the discussion about the future of the Great Lakes.