Step In and Speak Out for the Great Lakes in 2019

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Sally Cole-Misch
April 09, 2019
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Across the Great Lakes region, residents overwhelmingly value the lakes and everything they provide – recreationally, economically and aesthetically. In binational polls taken by an IJC board, in person, and in letters and emails, citizens have expressed a deep caring for and desire to protect the Great Lakes. People also want the lakes restored to their full potential for themselves, for everything in the lakes and for future generations.

This year provides important opportunities for every Great Lakes resident to learn more about issues affecting the Great Lakes, express why they care about them and share what actions they are taking – large and small – to restore and protect the ecosystem.

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Great Lakes Public Forum

The opportunities start in late May, when Canada and the United States are to release their report summarizing progress under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement as well as a State of the Great Lakes report outlining the status of several benchmarks reflecting the health of Great Lakes waters. Copies will be available at binational.net.

On June 17-19 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, both governments will discuss these reports and receive public comments on their findings and binational priorities for science and action at a Great Lakes Public Forum. The meeting is free and registration is open until May 31.

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The governments’ 2019 Great Lakes Public Forum will be held at the Milwaukee City Center Hotel in Milwaukee. Credit: USEPA

IJC Afternoon Public Roundtable and Evening Public Meeting in Milwaukee

The IJC will participate in the Great Lakes Public Forum in three ways: by attending and listening to presentations and public comments; by participating in the Wednesday morning Great Lakes Summit portion of the forum’s agenda, along with presentations by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and Great Lakes Commission; and by hosting a Public Roundtable on Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Progress on Wednesday afternoon.

Everyone is invited to participate in the Roundtable (register here), when the IJC will lead a discussion about key issues facing the lakes and listen to participants’ views and statements about the governments’ progress to restore and protect the lakes. For example, do the governments’ reports accurately reflect the status of water quality in your Great Lakes community? Are things missing you thought would be discussed? Are there chemicals of mutual concern the governments need to identify and reduce? How successful are efforts to keep invasive species out of Great Lakes waters, and is there progress to reduce impacts for those that are in the lakes? Where do you think we stand on climate change impacts, and controlling excess nutrients to prevent harmful algae growth?

In addition, the IJC will host a public meeting on Tuesday, June 18, from 7- 9 p.m. at the Milwaukee City Center Hotel to hear from area residents about efforts to address issues in their part of the Great Lakes watershed. Everyone is welcome to attend by registering here

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IAGLR Conference

The IJC also will present a summary of the governments’ progress report at the annual conference of the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) to receive input on its findings from conference attendees. The afternoon Town Hall Sessions on Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Progress on Wednesday, June 12, will provide an opportunity for comments on several Great Lakes issues, including chemicals of mutual concern, aquatic invasive species, ballast water controls, effective phosphorus reductions to prevent harmful algal blooms, climate change impacts and Great Lakes science. The afternoon will end with a plenary session to hear participants’ perspectives on the Agreement’s goals, future priorities for the IJC’s Agreement boards and the issues most affecting the lakes.

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The 2019 IAGLR conference will be held at the State University of New York at Brockport. Credit: Matthew Yeoman

Public Roundtables and Public Meetings around the Great Lakes

But that’s just the month of June. From July through October, the IJC plans to visit several Great Lakes communities to hold roundtables and public meetings and listen to residents’ concerns, learn about actions that citizens are taking to restore and protect their part of the Great Lakes, and discover what’s most important to each person when it comes to the health and vitality of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

More information about locations and details for these meetings will be announced in future issues of Great Lakes Connection and publicized on the IJC website and social media.

The knowledge, sharing and sense of community developed from these meetings help to ensure that the IJC provides an effective evaluation of progress by Canada and the United States to restore our precious Great Lakes, as the two countries committed to more than 45 years ago, and recommendations for further progress. And they help participants to protect the lakes they love, from sharing their thoughts and concerns to taking actions large and small that contribute to solutions for issues facing the lakes.

We invite you to step in and speak out for the Great Lakes in 2019.

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Picture of Sally Cole-Misch
Sally Cole-Misch