(January 12, 2021) Thanks to strong bipartisan support, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act became law last week. This will allow Congress to increase the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) program’s funding incrementally from 300 million to 475 million by 2026.
The protection and restoration of the Great Lakes is crucial for the well-being of birds, wildlife and people and is a top priority for Audubon Great Lakes and the more than 200,000 Audubon members and 130 chapters in the region.
“Holding 20 percent of the world’s fresh water, it’s hard to overstate the value that the Great Lakes provides to millions of birds, people and countless other wildlife. The signing of this bill is a huge win for the all those that depend on the largest freshwater ecosystem on the planet,” said Marnie Urso, policy director for Audubon Great Lakes. “Protecting and restoring our Great Lakes must be a top priority and the GLRI is a crucial investment in this vital natural resource. This bill will ensure the continued improvement of our water quality and the protection of native wildlife all while creating jobs and benefiting the economy.”
For the past ten years, the GLRI has been a proven success, funding more than 5,000 projects that have improved water quality and driven real and positive impacts for our region’s communities, wildlife, and economy.
The GLRI has helped restore habitats for shorebirds, including the endangered Piping Plover which returned to Chicago in 2019 for the first time in over 60 years. Because of the GLRI’s prioritization of restoration of dune and beach habitat, endangered Piping Plover numbers are trending upward and are on their way to reaching their restoration goals. Moving forward, GLRI will also benefit breeding marsh birds, like the Black Tern, which rely on high-quality coastal wetlands.
Last year, Audubon Great Lakes shared input to inform phase III of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan, a 30-page document will guide federal investment in Great Lakes’ conservation through 2024.
In addition to providing vital habitat to more than 350 bird species, the Great Lakes supports fisheries, recreation, and tourism. According to one recent study from the University of Michigan, every GLRI dollar spent from 2010 to 2016 will produce $3.35 in additional economic activity in the Great Lakes through 2036.
We applaud our representatives in the Great Lakes region as well as the Democrats and Republicans who came together to support clean water and a healthy ecosystem. We thank Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for their leadership in the U.S. Senate, and Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), for championing the bill in the House.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive.
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