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GLIN==> Sportsmen Support Great Lakes Restoration Now

Great Lakes Require Immediate Legislative Action, Says Coalition

Sportsmen, Conservationists Urge: ‘Pass Legislation Currently

ANN ARBOR, MI – A coalition of organizations representing more than
850,000 anglers, hunters, conservationists and sportsmen urged
Congressional leaders to pass legislation authorizing up to $6 billion
to restore the Great Lakes – the largest surface freshwater source in
the world.

In an open letter to Congress, the coalition of state and regional
organizations called for legislators to support bills in the House and
Senate to restore and protect the five freshwater seas, which suffer
from a number of serious threats, including the introduction of invasive
species, destruction of wetlands and coastal marshes and contamination
from toxic pollutants.

“The lives of sportsmen are inextricably tied to the Great Lakes,”
said Andy Buchsbaum, executive director of the National Wildlife
Federation’s Great Lake’s office in Ann Arbor, Mich. “The lakes
are in trouble. It’s time to act. We’re issuing this letter today to
add momentum and urgency to national restoration efforts to save this
national treasure.”

The coalition’s endorsement of House and Senate restoration bills
comes as Congress holds hearings today and tomorrow on Great Lakes
restoration and two days after President Bush issued an executive order
establishing a task force to coordinate programs and develop a
restoration plan for the Great Lakes.

The authors of the letter support current legislation that grants
between $4 billion and $6 billion for restoration efforts, while
providing the regions’ governors, mayors and state governments with
the authority and funding to develop, manage and implement restoration
efforts in coordination with the federal government.

“The Great Lakes need a large-scale federal effort to restore this
global treasure,” said George Meyer, executive director of the
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. “In recent years, Congress has provided
much-needed funding to restore and protect some of this country’s
greatest wildlife areas, including the Chesapeake Bay and the Florida
Everglades. Restoring the Great Lakes will require a similar

Once enacted, the legislation will help:

--Establish a task force that would coordinate the diverse federal,
state, business and conservation groups;

--Shut the door on invasive species that threaten recreation and the
region’s food web;

--Protect against coastal pollution and sewage overflows that cause
beach closings and swimming bans;

--Cut toxic pollution so that anglers can eat their catch, and so fish
can once again become a healthy food source for pregnant women,
children, and other sensitive populations;

--Rebuild fish and wildlife habitat enjoyed by the region’s many
anglers and hunters.

“We believe the bills go a long way to ensure that beaches are safe
for swimming, fish are safe for eating and water is safe for
drinking,” said Richard Bowman, executive director of Trout
Unlimited, Michigan Chapter.

“Great Lakes Restoration is a very high priority for hunters,
anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts,” said Barbara Prindle, first
vice president of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. “The health
of our economy also depends on these activities. We understand that
we’re asking for a substantial commitment of federal dollars in
uncertain fiscal times. But we cannot put the responsibility off to
future generations. The time to act is now.”

The Great Lakes have made a comeback since Lake Erie was nearly
declared dead in the early 1970s – a state of affairs that led to the
Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Clean Water Act. While toxic
chemical pollution has subsided, the five freshwater seas face serious

Invasive species which enter the lakes through the ballast water of
ocean-going vessels often out-compete native species, threatening local
fisheries and disrupting the aquatic ecosystem. Wetlands and coastal
marshes continue to disappear, threatening waterfowl and other wildlife.
And toxic pollutants such as mercury continue to contaminate the water
and fish – leading to more than 1,500 fish-consumption advisories in
the Great Lakes.

“Restoring the Great Lakes poses an immense challenge,” said Sam
Washington, president of Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
“Sportsmen are up to the challenge. For decades, hunters and
anglers have been leaders in the monumentally successful effort to
conserve natural resources and restore wildlife in North America. Now,
we’ll do all we can to protect the Great Lakes.”

Sportsmen purchase millions of fishing and hunting licenses every year
– providing funds that support wildlife management and conservation
efforts. More than 26 million sportsmen in the eight Great Lakes states
– Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin – purchased fishing and/or hunting licenses in
2001, according to the 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and
Wildlife-Associated Recreation produced by the U. S Fish and Wildlife

“Sportsmen have invested millions of dollars to improve and maintain
the Great Lakes,” said Larry Mitchell Sr., president of the League of
Ohio Sportsmen. “We’re prepared to do all we can to protect this
magnificent resource – and we’re doing our share and then some.
It’s time for the federal government to make a commitment to these
lakes so that our children and their children will be able to enjoy them
for generations to come.”

Sportsmen also contribute billions of dollars to the region’s economy
each year. The annual economic impacts in the Great Lakes states total
more than $6.65 billion from fishing; more than $4.89 billion from
hunting; and more than $6.84 billion for wildlife watching, according to
2001 statistics from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Our concern over the Great Lakes extends beyond the economic value
of the lakes,” said Paula Yeager, executive director of the Indiana
Wildlife Federation. “We are fighting to uphold a way of life –
something that we care deeply and passionately about.”

“We’re urging Congress to show leadership on this issue,” said
Joe Wilkinson, president of the Iowa Wildlife Federation. “Restoration
has broad bipartisan support. The bills have more than 120 co-sponsors
in the House and Senate. And I’ll tell you what: The bills have
millions of supporters in the Great Lakes states and beyond.”

The Great Lakes comprise 95 percent of the United State’s fresh
surface water and supply drinking water for more than 28 million U.S.
residents. The lakes provide a medium for international trade, and the
10,900 miles of Great Lakes coastline is a valuable source for
recreation, tourism and economic development.

“The Great Lakes are a magnificent resource whose value extends
beyond the region,” said Jim Thompson, president of League of Kentucky
Sportsmen. “The Great Lakes are a national and international treasure.
We all are stewards of this resource. We need to be vigilant in
maintaining a healthy Great Lakes so that our children and grandchildren
can fish, swim and enjoy the lakes for generations to come.”

Signatories to the letter include: Ducks Unlimited, Indiana Wildlife
Federation, Iowa Wildlife Federation, League of Kentucky Sportsmen,
League of Ohio Sportsmen, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Minnesota
Conservation Federation, National Wildlife Federation – Great Lakes
Natural Resource Center, Trout Unlimited – Michigan Charter, and
Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

Protecting wildlife through education and action since 1936, the
National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization,
creating solutions that balance the needs of people and wildlife now and
for future generations.

Immediate Release: May 20, 2004
Contact: Jordan Lubetkin, NWF – (734) 769-3351
               Paula Yeager, Indiana Wildlife Federation – (317)
               Joe Wilkinson, Iowa Wildlife Federation – (515)
               Jim Thompson, League of Kentucky Sportsmen – (606)
               Larry Mitchell Sr., League of Ohio Sportsmen – (614)
               Sam Washington, Michigan United Conservation Clubs –
(517) 371-1505
               Barbara Prindle, Minnesota Conservation Federation –
(651) 690-3077
               Richard Bowman, Trout Unlimited – (616) 460-0477 
               George Meyer, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation – (715)

Jordan F. Lubetkin
Regional Communications Manager
Great Lakes Natural Resource Center 
National Wildlife Federation 
213 W. Liberty, Suite 200 
Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1398 
734-769-3351 Voice 
419-787-7744 Cell
734-769-1449 Fax 

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