The governor of Michigan is blocking a request by a town in
Wisconsin to pump water from Lake Michigan. The GLRC’s Sarah
The governor of Michigan is blocking a request by a town in
Wisconsin to pump water from Lake Michigan. The GLRC’s Sarah
Under federal law right now, any one of the eight Great Lakes
governors can veto a proposed water withdrawal, but a
proposed agreement between the eight states would allow
communities that straddle the boundary that defines the Great
Lakes basin to draw water from the lakes.
The town of New Berlin, Wisconsin sits on the boundary. It’s
asking for permission to draw water from Lake Michigan for the
half of the city that sits outside the basin, but Governor Granholm
of Michigan says she won’t consider the request.
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Spokesman Bob
McCann says he realizes one town won’t drain the lake:
“But a thousand such proposals coming in may do that. So the question is,
where do you draw the line?”
Michigan’s governor says until that new multi-state agreement is
ratified, it’s important not to set a bad precedent.
The Great Lakes is the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world. Preservation and usage of the Lakes is a hot issue for 2005. (Photo courtesy of michigan.gov)
This coming year will likely see some major policy decisions regarding the Great Lakes. Because the lakes stretch out along eight states in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada, getting all the governments to agree on issues is a long and sometimes trying process. But… those involved think 2005 will be the year that some real progress on Great Lakes issues will be made. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham recently talked with the Chair of the U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission, Dennis Schornack. The IJC deals with disputes and advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on issues regarding the Great Lakes:
This coming year likely will see some major policy decisions regarding the Great Lakes. Because the Lakes stretch out along eight states in the U.S. and two provinces in Canada, getting all the governments to agree on issues is a long and sometimes trying process. But those involved think 2005 will be the year that some real progress on Great Lakes issues will be made. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham recently talked with the chair of the U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission, Dennis Schornack. The IJC deals with disputes and advises the U.S. and Canadian governments on issues regarding the Great Lakes:
The International Joint Commission and the Government Accountability Office both have been critical of the U.S. government for not finding clear leadership on Great Lakes issues. Different agencies sometimes find their efforts overlap or conflict with others. At times, it seems there’s no organized effort to restore the health of the Great Lakes. Dennis Schornack says he thinks things were starting to get better because recently appointed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt took a real interest in the Great Lakes. But now Leavitt is leaving to become the new Health and Human Services chief.
“It’s going to be hard to beat the enthusiasm of Mike Leavitt. He spent literally about fifty percent of his time as EPA Administrator in the Great Lakes throughout. He was everywhere this past summer. But it does fall to the new administrator, whomever he or she may be; but in the meantime, the governors and mayors are proceeding forward on the priorities that they set over a year ago, and fleshing those out into very tight kinds of recommendations.”
Countless studies and reports on the Great Lakes point out one of the biggest threats to the lakes is invasive species. Those are foreign critters such as zebra mussels and round gobies that hitchhike in the ballast water of cargo ships, or are introduced unintentionally. Often the invasives damage the native fish, plants, and ecosystems of the Great Lakes. Nothing has been done to effectively stop importing the invasives, and some have gone so far as to suggest that the St. Lawrence Seaway connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean should be closed. The IJC’s Dennis Schornack says he’s hopeful that we’ll soon see laws that will do more to help prevent invasive species from getting into the Lakes.
“In the United States, at least, there is pending legislation that has been pending for over two years now called the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act. This legislation is overdue. It’s time for Congress to act on it. And in the ’05 legislative Congressional year, it’s time for them to act. And that’s the place where the standards get set, the authority gets established and where all of the rubber really hits the road. Now, that’s just in the United States. Bi-nationally, because the Great Lakes are a shared resource, the IJC, that I’m the chair of the U.S. section, has continued to advocate cooperation and collaboration between the two countries in terms of at least setting a common standard, a common rule, common regulation on the Great Lakes. Because, obviously, setting it on one side of the boundary line doesn’t do any good if the other side doesn’t follow.”
Another issue that’s recieved a lot of attention in the Great Lakes region recently is water diversion. A document called Annex 2001 tackles the issue of how much water can be used or withdrawn from the Lakes. The various state governors and province premiers put together draft agreements for public comment. Schornack says there’s been a huge response, and a lot of it hasn’t been positive.
“They recieved, I think, over ten-thousand public comments. And there is differing viewpoint, a growing difference between the view taken in Canada and the view taken in the United States on this effort. Canada, the province of Ontario, has come out and point-blank opposed the existing documents. There are concerns in Canada that this is just some kind of a ruse to somehow allow diversions of the Great Lakes waters to occur. I’m not part of that viewpoint, to tell you the truth. What’s being done right now and what will happen in 2005 is that the comments are being digested, we’ll see new draft documents come out from the governors and premiers and hopefully begin the process making those agreements stick.”
Schornack says 2005 will also see some important reports on the economic costs of invasive species. Studies on the logistics of shipping, cargo ship traffic and alternative freight haulers and design plans that look at the total cost of shipping – including the infrastructure costs and the environmental damage caused by invasive species. It should be an interesting year for the Great Lake if Congress moves on key issues, and then finds money to make the Great Lakes more sound.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Once hunted nearly to extinction, the gray wolf has recently rebounded under the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to take the wolf off of the Endangered Species List and hand wolf management back to the states. (Photo by Katherine Glover)
A captive wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota. (Photo by Katherine Glover)
Peggy Callahan, Executive Director of
the Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota. Callahan works to minimize conflicts between wolves and people. (Photo by Katherine Glover)
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to remove the eastern population of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List and turn over wolf management to state control. But not everyone thinks the states are up for it. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Katherine Glover has the story:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to remove the eastern population
of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List and turn over wolf management
to state control. But not everyone thinks the states are up for it. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Katherine Glover has the story:
(sound of wolves howling)
The image of the wolf has always had a powerful effect on people. Wolves seem dangerous,
mysterious, romantic. They are a symbol of the untamed wilderness. Before Europeans came
to America, wolves roamed freely on every part of the continent. In 1630, the colony of
Massachussetts Bay started paying bounties to settlers for killing wolves. Over the next
300 years, wolf killing spread across the country, until all that was left was a few small
pockets of surviving wolf packs.
When the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, the only wolves left to protect in the
Midwest were in Northern Minnesota. By some estimates, there were as few as 350 of them.
Today, Minnesota has a healthy wolf population of around 2400 animals, and smaller populations
are growing in Wisconsin and Michigan. Becaue of this success, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
has proposed removing the animals from the Endangered Species List. This would mean wolves would
no longer be federally protected – it would be up to the states.
(sound of gate opening)
Peggy Callagan works with captive wolves at the Wildlife Science Center in Minnesota. She’s the
Center’s co-founder and executive director. She and her staff research ways to minimize
conflicts between wolves and people. Callahan is looking forward to seeing the wolf taken off
the Endangered Species List.
“It’s a good thing for the Endangered Species Act, to take a wolf off or an eagle off or a
peregrine off when it has recovered. The act was not established to provide a permanent
hiding place. It was established to protect a species until such time that they could be
managed in a different way.”
Wisconsin and Michigan have wolves because young born in Minnesota have migrated east to start
their own packs. Callahan says how Minnesota manages its wolves will affect wolf numbers in the
Midwest. And she isn’t crazy about Minnesota’s current wolf management plan, which has different
rules for different parts of the state.
“Now, there’s a boundary; there’s a boundary called a wolf zone, and there’s a boundary that’s
called the ag zone. And nobody likes it. We went backward.”
In Northeastern Minnesota, where the majority of wolves are, landowners can only kill wolves
if they can demonstrate an immediate threat to pets or livestock. In the rest of the state, where
there is more agriculture and more people, the rules are more lenient. On their own property,
landowners can kill any wolf they feel is a danger, without having to prove anything to the state.
The Sierra Club is opposed to taking the wolf off the Endangered Species list, largely because
of Minnesota’s management plan. Ginny Yinling is the chair of the Wolf Task Force of the Sierra
Club in Minnesota.
“They’ve pretty much given carte blanche to landowners, or their agents, to kill wolves
pretty much at any time in the southern and western two thirds of the state; they don’t even
have to have an excuse, if a wolf’s on their property they can kill it. Instead of this being
what should have been a victory in terms of wolf recovery and the success of the Endangered
Species Act, instead we’re afraid it’s going to turn into something of a disaster.”
Yinling is also concerned with the protection of wolf habitat, such as den sites, rendezvous
sites, and migration corridors.
“The current management plan protects none of those areas; it leaves it entirely up to the
discretion of the land managers.”
But wildlife managers say these are not critical for a large wolf population
like Minnesota’s. Mike DonCarlos is the wildlife program manager for the Minnesota
Department of Natural Resources.
“As you look at the range of species that are threatened by habitat change, ironically the wolf
in Minnesota is not one of them. As long as there’s a prey base that continues, wolves should
do just fine. The key is mortality rates and availability of food.”
In Wisconsin and Michigan, where there are fewer wolves, state laws will continue to protect
wolf habitat. Peggy Callahan says she has faith that the wolves will be fine, even if the
Minnesota state plan is not perfect. But at the Sierra Club, Ginny Yinling says they have
plans to challenge wolf delisting in court.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Katherine Glover.