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Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding is being threatened – what can we do?

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world – the Great Lakes (source). Today, its’ very existence is being threatened by Donald Trump and his administration. They have shown that they do not think the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) has any use in the federal budget and have called for it to be eliminated.

So, what can we do? We can write and call our representative asking them to rally against this effort. That is good, but we can do more. We would like to a present an even more persuasive argument against this effort: it will eliminate jobs and hurt the economy. It is too easy for this administration to ignore environmental issues because they have paid no attention to them since January. However, the message of this administration has focused around creating more job for Americans and stimulating the economy, all of which is supposed to “make America great again.” So let’s do that. If we can draw on facts and statistics that show the elimination of the GLRI will cause people to lose jobs and hurt the regional and national economy, the administration will have no choice but to listen.

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How the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative creates jobs and stimulates the economy:

It can be easy to forget or not realize the immense economic impact the Great Lakes has on the region and the nation. Below, we have listed a number of facts from reliable sources that provide a snapshot of just how important the lakes are and how many jobs would be threatened and/or lost if the GLRI is eliminated.

  • 65 million pounds of fish are harvested each year, contributing to more than $1 billion in sales
  • Sport fishing and related expenses (licenses, bait, equipment, etc.) contribute about $4 billion to the economy each year
  • Every year, more than 200 million tons of products are shipped over the 1,270 mile commercial shipping channel
  • In Ohio, every year, tourism in the Lake Erie region brings in $10.7 billion from visitors, supports 100,000 jobs, and generates $750 million in state and local taxes (source)
  • In Illinois, recreation in and around Lake Michigan generates $3.2 billion annually and employs 33,000 people (source)
  • In Michigan, inland lakes that attract residents and visitors create property values worth more than $200 billion and $3.5 billion in annual taxes (source)
    • Similar impacts are seen in New York and Wisconsin
  • A 2011 report of the economic impact of the Great Lakes as a whole found that 1.5 million jobs are directly connected to the Great Lakes which generate $62 billion in wages annually (source)

Even putting all of the environmental importance of the Great Lakes aside, it is very clear that the economic impact – in the form of jobs, wages, property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes – is immense. Removing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would cause a significant blow to the economic impact it produces. People will lose jobs, businesses will close, property values will decrease, tourism will decline, recreational activities will decline, and the whole region will suffer. That does not sound like a way to “make America great again.”

Please feel free to send this to your representative