On the eve of President Obama’s visit to New York focusing on economic development plans, conservation groups are thanking the president for his support for restoring the Great Lakes and for the important investments that have yielded significant returns for New York and the regional economy. Over the past four years, the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress have invested more than $1.37 billion in programs to restore Lake Erie and the other Lakes as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which supports efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, reduce runoff from cities and farms, and combat invasive species like the Asian carp.
“The health of our Great Lakes is critical to the economic revitalization of our state and country, and we thank President Obama for championing this important program,” said Erin Crotty, Executive Director of Audubon New York. “Thanks to the essential funding provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Lakes are on the road to recovery and we look forward to working with the President and Congress to ensure these investments continue to put people to work improving our Great Lakes.”
The State of New York has received more than $50 million to implement 108 restoration projects in the first three years of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (2010-2012). Restoration efforts in New York include helping clean up toxic pollutants from the Buffalo River, remove invasive species from Buffalo Creek, revive lake trout populations in the Niagara River, and prevent prescription medications from being dumped in local waterways. Many area universities, like Buffalo State College, have benefitted from these investments.
"It is a fact that the toxic clean -up and shoreline restoration of the Buffalo River, once one of the most polluted waterways in the country, would not be happening without the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” said Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper. "Because of this commitment by President Obama's administration and Congress, our community is now seeing multiple returns on this investment through the rapid waterfront redevelopment, improved public access, and hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment in our waterfront revitalization."
The Great Lakes are the backbone of the region’s economy and identity. More than 1.5 million jobs—157,547 in New York—are directly connected to the Great Lakes, generating more than $62 billion in wages. Every $1 investment in restoration projects generates more than $2 in economic benefit through increased tourism, property values, and tax base. More than 4 million New Yorkers depend on the Lakes for their drinking water.
“Investing in the protection and restoration of our Great Lakes is an investment in our local and regional economies,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Dollars spent on controlling stormwater pollution, restoring habitat, and curbing toxins create jobs, protect the environment, and revitalize the upstate economy. A continued commitment by President Obama for restoration, is a continued commitment to our regional economic development.”
President Obama’s visit comes as the fate of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative remains uncertain. Earlier this summer, a funding bill pushed by House leadership slashed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $285 million to $60 million, before an amendment boosted funding to $210 million. A draft funding bill released by the U.S. Senate funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million.
“The GLRI is providing great benefits for not only the birds, other wildlife and their habitats, but the quality of life of western New Yorkers who depend on the Great Lakes every day,” said Loren Smith, Executive Director of the Buffalo Audubon Society. “Thanks to this funding, we have embarked on a number of projects to restore Important Bird Areas, water quality and enhance ecotourism in the region, and we applaud President Obama for continuing to prioritize these investments.”
“The GLRI funding is an investment in restoring the largest supply of freshwater on the planet. Projects that have focused on restoring the tributary watershed, wetlands and their health, and even important species of plants such as the restoration of wild rice populations with the Lac vieu desert Chippewa band, all contribute to re-affirming the importance of the Great Lakes in our lives, now and in the future,” said Steven Apfelbaum and Jason Carlson, scientists with Applied Ecological Services, Inc in Wisconsin
Audubon New York’s, the 50,000 member State program of the National Audubon Society, mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy, engage millions of people of all ages in realizing our mission. Ny.audubon.org
Citizens Campaign for the Environment is an 80,000 member non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization that works to empower communities and advocate solutions that protect public health and the natural environment.
Audubon New York – Applied Ecological Services – Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper –
Buffalo Audubon Society – Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Sean Mahar -Audubon New York - 518-669-1768 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Eckel – CCE - 518-339-2853 / Seckel@citizenscampaign.org