Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan III
Over the last nine years, Congress has invested more than $2.9 billion in more than 4,000 projects as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
The protection and restoration of the Great Lakes is crucial for the well-being of birds, wildlife and people throughout the region and is a top priority for National Audubon Society and our over 200,000 members and 130 chapters in the region. The Great Lakes support fisheries, recreation, and tourism and provide vital habitat to more than 350 bird species and countless other wildlife.
Earlier this month, the EPA’s Great Lakes National Policy Office released a draft Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan for public comment. This 30-page document will guide federal investment in Great Lakes’ conservation through 2024. Last year, the EPA held partner meetings to gather input and Audubon once again stood up for the lakes, birds and people of our region. In addition to the formal comments made by Audubon Great Lakes, chapters and members attended all 6 public meetings, made informed comments on the document and participated in a robust discussion on the importance of birds to the GLRI Action Plan on social media across the region.
What the plan has right:
Audubon’s collective voice has been heard and the Action Plan is solid. We commend the EPA on their commitment to restore our lakes, coastal communities and bird populations to their former glory. Climate change, an issue at the heart and center of Audubon’s work, is now emphasized in the action plan with a strategy for building coastal resiliency is outlined. Audubon is eager to partner with other agencies to restore coastal wetlands and improve natural infrastructure that will provide optimal breeding habitat for waterbirds while cleaning and storing water. This dual-functioning infrastructure is particularly critical during this era of increasing storm intensity and uncertain lake level fluctuation.
Audubon has also elevated the attention of colonial waterbirds like Black Tern, which has suffered regional declines of nearly 80% over the past 40 years. Colonial waterbirds are now a focal suite of species in the new draft action plan. Audubon has compiled an overview of the status of three priority colonial waterbirds – Black Tern, Black-crowned Night-Heron and Common Tern – in order to facilitate goal-setting and strategic conservation action.
There is one significant oversight in this plan: breeding marsh birds continue to suffer annual population declines despite our investment in re-establishing quality marshes around the Great Lakes. For example, 10 of 15 marsh bird species breeding in the Great Lakes region are exhibiting significantly declining population trends since 1995. Rails, grebes and bitterns are species that need focused attention as they are not yet responding positively to restoration. Now is the time to re-double our efforts in coastal wetlands and high-priority areas of coastal watersheds. Utilizing recent data from the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program, Audubon has built a roadmap to where these investments can be the most sufficient. We now call on the EPA to prioritize this issue.
Audubon has been advocating for over a century through local citizens who utilize their deep passion for birds to build long-term change. Launched in 2010, this is the third five-year action plan for the Great Lakes. Now it is critical that we focus on using our investments wisely. Multi-million dollar restoration projects that lack local monitoring and support will quickly degrade in the face of pollution and invasive species. We call on the EPA to work with Audubon to monitor and engage with people to recruit long-term stewards and champions for our Great Lakes habitats.
What you can do:
Please add your own comments on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan III
Consider including Audubon’s priorities in your comments to help us have a large-scale impact on birds and habitat across the region: https://www.glri.us/node/191
Focus Area 4
- Page 22: ‘Examples of such projects include restoring riparian habitat corridors associated with significant fish barriers already removed and/or bypassed, further connecting high-quality terrestrial and aquatic habitat areas, and restoring coastal wetlands for breeding marsh birds’.
- Page 24: Add ‘breeding marsh birds’ to the table of ‘Example of species that may benefit under this measure’
- Page 24: ‘Federal agencies and their partners will evaluate population dynamics to aid in successfully maintaining fish and wildlife communities, including marsh birds breeding in Great Lakes coastal wetlands’.
Focus Area 5
Please consider allocating resources to marsh bird monitoring and adaptive management with deep engagement of local community groups like Audubon in order to make our investments in Great Lakes restoration are sustainable now and into the future.