The federal government, states, and Indian tribes recently finished a plan to restore the Great Lakes. The plan is expensive, but environmentalists hope federal money is in the works. They’re looking to other restoration projects for inspiration. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee
The federal government, states, and Indian tribes recently finished a plan
to restore the Great Lakes. The plan is expensive, but environmentalists
hope federal money is in the works. They’re looking to other restoration
projects for inspiration. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn
Congress already backs cleanup plans, such as the one in Chesapeake
Bay, but will Congress support Great Lakes restoration, too?
One advocacy group says the track record’s unclear. A report by the
Northeast Midwest Institute compared seven eco-restoration efforts. Co-
Author Karen Vigmostad says Congress starts projects, but doesn’t
always stay committed.
She cites the Florida Everglades.
“There’s been some planning money, but in terms of actually
implementing the plan, the money has not been forthcoming. The state
of Florida’s pretty much been footing that bill.”
The Great Lakes restoration plan faces its first major hurdle soon.
President Bush will release his budget by February. Great Lakes
advocates want 300 million dollars to kick-start the project.
The administration staff is divided on whether to spend that much.
Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk, Ohio Governor Bob Taft, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. This was right taken after they signed the agreement. (Photo by Shawn Allee)
In the spring of 2004, President Bush created a task force to develop a comprehensive Great Lakes restoration plan. The group recently released its final recommendations. But members already disagree about the future of their proposal. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee reports:
In April 2004, President George Bush created a task force to develop a
comprehensive Great Lakes restoration plan. The group recently
released its recommendations, but members already disagree about the
future of their proposal. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn
Efforts to improve the Great Lakes face a major hurdle. Local, state and
federal programs overlap and sometimes duplicate one another. That
wastes a lot of time and money. President Bush wanted to change this. So, he
created a task force called the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. For the
first time, cities, states, federal agencies, and Indian tribes would agree to
specific goals and how to reach them. By most accounts they succeeded.
Here’s Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.
“I can’t overstate what a major step forward this is for the Great Lakes.
For the first time, we’re all the same page with a common vision.”
The parties agreed to eight major goals. Among other things, they want
to restore wetlands along Great Lakes shorelines, they want to clean up
heavy metals that pollute lakebeds, and they want to keep sewage away
from public beaches. The cost for all this would stand at billions of
dollars, and that price tag caused a major rift.
Bush administration officials agreed to spend 300 million additional
dollars per year. That’s just a fraction of what states and environmental
groups hoped for.
Derek Stack is with Great Lakes United, an advocacy group. He says
states want to participate, but sometimes they can’t.
“I think a lot of the states simply don’t have the dollars necessary to pull
Tribes, cities and states are being careful with their criticism. They want
to keep the door open for the administration to change its mind.
“To be fair to the federal administration, the states are saying we don’t
have federal money, and the feds are pointing out that we don’t exactly
have state money either, but the states have committed themselves to the
plan. So, now that they know what they’ve committed themselves to, the
budget building can begin. It’s hard to build a budget if you don’t have a
Some critics are more strident, though. Illinois Congressman Rahm
Emmanuel says the administration needs this clear message. Federal
leadership requires federal money.
“There’s either action or inaction. This is the ninth report in five years,
and I hope it’s the last report. Now, there’s nothing that can’t be cured when
it comes to the Great Lakes that resources can’t take care of.”
Great Lakes advocates and state governments will be watching the next
few months closely.
Cameron Davis directs the Alliance for the Great Lakes. He says he’s
reserving judgment until the President releases a budget proposal.
“That budget will be released the first week of February, and if it has 300
million dollars in new funding, then we’ll know that the administration’s
serious. If it doesn’t we need to ask Congress to step in.”
Some legislators say that deadline might be too soon to judge the
ultimate success of the restoration plan.
Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk says other federal cleanup efforts came
after several reports and years of waiting. Congressman Kirk says the
prospects for the restoration plan are good. The Great Lakes region has
the strength of eight states standing behind it.
“When you look at the success of the Chesapeake Bay, and then the success
of protecting the Everglades, you see, once you come together with a
common vision, what a unified part of state delegation or in the case of
Florida, what an entire state delegation can do.”
On the other hand, it might be hard to keep eight state governments
focused on a common purpose.
There’s another wrinkle in the restoration plan as well. Canada lies on the other
side of the Great Lakes, and any comprehensive plan will require its
cooperation as well.
Aldo Leopold found fame by writing "A Sand County Almanac"... but even sixty years after his death, scholars say his theories about living in harmony with nature are influencing conservation practices today. (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation Archives)
Aldo Leopold writing near the building he called "the shack" with dog Flick in 1942. (Photo courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation Archives)
If you feel you just cannot live without wild things, you have something in common with a conservationist who’s still influencing conservation practices almost sixty years after his death. Scholars say the theories of Aldo Leopold continue to help shape wildlife management and land preservation, especially in the Upper Midwest. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
If you feel you just cannot live without wild things, you have something in
common with a conservationist who’s still influencing conservation practices almost
sixty years after his death. Scholars say the theories of Aldo Leopold continue to help shape wildlife management and land preservation, especially in the Upper Midwest. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Aldo Leopold is probably best known for writing A Sand
County Almanac. That’s a collection of essays about finding harmony
with nature. His ideas about preservation changed while working for the
Service in the southwestern U.S. Rick Stel of the Aldo Leopold
says one day in the early 1900’s Leopold shot a wolf thought to be a threat
cattle. The female had pups with her.
“And he says he got there in time to see the
fierce green fire die in her eyes… and it was at this time he realized
we’re going about this in the wrong way… we really need to look at all
creatures and everything as a community.”
Leopold’s epiphany led to writings that won him national attention. he
eventually moved to Madison, Wisconsin – first to work in forest
research and later at the University of Wisconsin. There, he taught the
first course in game management.
In 1935, he bought an abandoned farm in the sandy floodplain of the
Wisconsin River. It became the inspiration for many of the essays in A Sand County
(sound of unlocking door)
Most tours of the site start at an old chicken coop that was the only
building left when Leopold bought the place and is the only structure
now. The shack, as Leopold called it, has no electricity or furnace.
(sound of fire)
On chilly days tour guides light a fire in the fireplace and talk about
the ideas Leopold developed while visiting the shack with his family.
The Leopold Foundation’s Buddy Huffaker says Leopold worried about
becoming disconnected from nature.
“His February essay talks about the two spiritual dangers of
not owning a farm. One is to assume food comes from a grocery store, and the second is that heat comes from a furnace.”
Outside the shack Leopold and his family worked to return the land to its
pre-agricultural state. They planted thousands of pine trees. The also undertook
the first prairie restorations. The Leopold family spent a lot of time
people were damaging the environment.
(sound of brushing)
About one hundred yards from the shack Buddy Huffaker brushes off
a plaque that’s set in the ground. at this spot, Leopold sawed apart a
lightning-damaged oak tree that he called the good oak. He wrote
about the experience in a famous essay that Huffaker says is really
about natural history.
“As he and his family saw through the growth rings of the oak, he
goes back in time to see how people have disregarded other natural
elements in the landscape – the decimation of turkeys and other
species that we hunted into extinction locally or entirely.”
But turkeys, sandhill cranes and a few others species have come
back–in part because of Leopold’s conservation ethic. Now his
followers are trying to protect more things.
To spread Leopold’s message some groups have started sponsoring
readings of Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. At a library in Lake
Wisconsin Jim Celano reads from the essay about the good oak.
“Now our saw bites into the 1920’s the Babbittian
decade when everything grew bigger and better in heedlessness and
arrogance – until 1929 when stock markets crumpled. If the oak heard them
wood gives no sign.”
Celano is a former commerical real estate developer who now heads
a land conservancy group. He says he’s trying to convey Leopold’s
ideas to other developers.
“That we’re not here to say no to development… but to ask
they be sensitive to what they’re developing. And when you step on
their parcel, after their development is done, that the first thing you
notice is what they’re preserved and protected.”
(sound of woodpecker and traffic)
But even Aldo Leopold’s famous land around the shack is not immune
from modern threats. As a woodpecker hammers overhead, the noise
from a nearby interstate highway intrudes into the scenery. The
Leopold foundation’s Buddy Huffaker says Aldo Leopold knew the future
would bring new threats to the natural world.
“But I think that’s Leopold’s challenge to us. He
understood progress was going to continue. He just wanted us to
contemplate what we wanted that progress to be. And how far it
And with sales of A Sand County Almanac bigger now than when it was
published in 1949, it ‘s a future Aldo Leopold might be helping to