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GLIN==> Commission calls for new advocacy strategy for 107th Congress

Egrets, alligators, lake trout and eagles

By: Dr. Michael J. Donahue, Executive Director, Great Lakes Commission
Online at http://www.glc.org/announce/00/11-00newstrategy.html

In the closing weeks of the 106th Congress, landslide votes in both the
House and Senate yielded one of the largest environmental restoration
projects in U.S. history. Some $7.8 billion will be directed at efforts
to reverse decades of environmental damage in the Florida Everglades.
One leading advocate of the project described the bill as "our best hope
to save the Everglades, to protect the egrets and alligators, and to
restore the balance between the human environment and the natural system
in south Florida."

Who was this advocate? Was it a Florida legislator looking after the
interests of his constituents and their treasured resource? No.  It was
none other than Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, an upstate New York Republican
and chair of the House Transportation Water Resources Subcommittee. And,
I might add, a good friend of the Great Lakes.

What induced Rep. Boehlert, and his House and Senate colleagues, to
collectively vote 479-15 in favor of this landmark initiative? The
answer is obvious. It was a large-scale, long-term strategy that
succeeded through a groundswell of unified local support and bipartisan
action in Congress. And, it succeeded because the Florida Everglades
were (very appropriately) characterized as a resource of national
significance. The New York Times recently called them a "treasured
ecosystem that lawmakers ranked with the Mississippi River, the Grand
Canyon and the redwood forests of California." (Note that the Great
Lakes were not mentioned among these treasures. Talk about adding insult
to injury!)

As a former Florida resident, I'll be the first to agree that this
initiative is important and well-deserved. The Everglades are indeed a
national treasure, woven into the ecological and economic fabric of
south Florida. I'm glad they're receiving this much-deserved attention
and support. But, with all due respect, they aren't the Great Lakes.

What was the status of Great Lakes deliberations as all this was going
on? While a nationwide bipartisan coalition was brokering a multibillion
dollar initiative for the Everglades, Great Lakes advocates seemed
content to seek only incremental improvements to the status quo. And,
when a modest infusion of prospective funds was proposed by the
administration ($50 million for Areas of Concern cleanup), advocates
seemed to expend all their energy debating how to allocate the funds,
rather than how to develop a unified front to make sure the funds became
a reality.

It's time to think big, to raise our sights and our ambitions. It's time
to reassert the national and global stature of the Great Lakes and let
Congress know that saving the Everglades and the Mississippi and the
redwoods is only part of the equation. It's time for all Great Lakes
advocates to join forces and support the big picture, and leave
quibbling over the details for another time and place. And, it's time
for us to reject the "inside the beltway" philosophy that focuses on
what is possible from a political standpoint; we need to focus on what
is good for the resource. Indeed, the greatest system of freshwater on
the face of the earth deserves no less.

Let's take the "phantom $50 million" of last session, add one or two
zeros, and make it the goal for the Great Lakes in the 107th Congress.
Working together, it can happen. Wouldn't it be great, a year or two
from now, to have a Florida congressman singing the praises of a bill
that is "our best hope to save the Great Lakes"? The egrets and
alligators are enjoying their day in the sun; our lake trout and eagles
deserve theirs.

Note: The Great Lakes Commission is supporting a renewed focus on
congressional advocacy through a new staff position and regional
strategy. For details, contact Mike Donahue at 734-665-9135 or

The above article is excerpted from the November/December 2000 issue of
the Advisor, the bimonthly newsletter of the Great Lakes Commission
(publication pending). Past issues of the Advisor are available online
at http://www.glc.org/docs/advisor/advisor.html

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