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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CONSERVANCY SEEKS END TO BIOLOGICAL POLLUTION OF GREAT LAKES


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


 
CONTACT:    Dennis Fijalkowski                  OR                  Bill Taylor
                        Executive Director                                          President
                        Michigan Wildlife Conservancy                      Michigan Wildlife Conservancy
                        (517) 641-7677                                                (517) 857-4218


CONSERVANCY SEEKS END TO BIOLOGICAL POLLUTION OF GREAT LAKES


BATH, Mich. - The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy’s Board of Trustees recently adopted a resolution to protect the Great Lakes from invasive exotic species entering via the Mississippi River watershed (on the west) and the St. Lawrence Seaway (on the east).  The non-profit organization, based in Bath near Lansing, joins numerous other conservation groups and five states in asking the federal government for a physical separation of Lake Michigan from the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.  In addition, the Conservancy is calling for a ban of saltwater-going ships in the freshwater part of the St. Lawrence River.

“The Great Lakes have been impacted by more than 160 invasive exotic species that entered via the St. Lawrence Seaway, and today are threatened by Asian carp moving through the Chicago River to Lake Michigan,” said Conservancy President Bill Taylor, of Duck Lake.  “It makes no sense to continue harming this invaluable resource for relatively little economic gain.”

The Conservancy’s position is based on studies that have shown the annual costs of dealing with a myriad of exotic species ranging from lamprey eels to zebra and quagga mussels to round gobies far exceed income generated from shipping activities.  The Conservancy believes the annual cost to the regional economy of closing the Great Lakes to saltwater shipping would be just $55 million, a fraction of the cost of dealing with exotics.

“This is not a case of economy versus ecology,” said Taylor.  “This is about abusing one of the world’s unique resources and the misuse of public money,”

The Conservancy’s resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the Great Lakes constitute an unique and priceless natural resource for the citizens of the United States and of Canada; and,

WHEREAS, the values and functions of the Great Lakes have, and continue to be, impaired by invasive exotic species transported through the St. Lawrence Seaway from the Atlantic Ocean via ships; and,

WHEREAS, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal has been identified as a likely pathway for entry of invasive Asian carp into Lake Michigan; and,

WHEREAS, attempts to prevent or mitigate damages caused by invasive exotic species that have entered or are likely to enter the Great Lakes far exceed the value of shipping of materials via the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT THE MICHIGAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY SUPPORTS FEDERALLY-FUNDED PROJECTS TO PROVIDE PHYSICAL SEPARATION OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER FROM THE GREAT LAKES; AND,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THE MICHIGAN WILDLIFE CONSERVANCY SUPPORTS PROHIBITING SALT-WATER SHIPS FROM ENTERING THE FRESHWATER PORTION OF THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER ABOVE THE TIDAL ZONE.

“Some people consider biological pollution of the Great Lakes to be a case of the ‘horse already out of the barn’,” noted Taylor.  “But new exotic species are arriving each year, as saltwater shipping shifts to ports seldom visited by Great Lakes ships in the past.” 

In considering the resolution, the Conservancy concluded: 

·         In 1988 zebra mussels reached the Great Lakes in the ballast water of ocean-going ships. Many citizens began requesting a requirement that ocean ships purge their ballast water before entering the Great Lakes. However, no effective requirement has been implemented and serious new threats like quagga mussels and round gobies followed the zebra mussels here. In addition, we now know that many unwanted pests can hitchhike across the ocean on the hulls of ships as well as in their ballast water.  The shipping industry has too much influence over the current policy to ever reach effective solutions short of physical barriers or bans against ship movement. 

·         In 2000 Asian carp reached the Illinois River that connects the Mississippi River system with Lake Michigan through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The environmental community began requesting that a physical barrier be re-established between these watersheds, and in 2007 Congress directed the Corps of Engineers to study ways "to prevent" invasive species from passing between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. However, the Corps has still not identified a separation plan, and it has unilaterally reinterpreted the Congressional directive as a study on how "to prevent or reduce the risk" of such passages.

·         The St. Lawrence River recommendation would obviously have to be implemented by Canada with encouragement and assistance from the U.S.  American agencies should begin serious talks with their Canadian counterparts to prohibit movement of ocean-going ships into the Great Lakes.

For additional information about the Conservancy’s resolution, you may contact the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy 517-641-7677 or at wildlife@miwildlife.org.  The Conservancy published a related article by longtime Detroit Free Press outdoor writer, Eric Sharp, in its January-February 2012 issue of The Wildlife Volunteer newsletter and will make the article available.

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy is a non-profit citizens group established in 1982 to restore Michigan’s wildlife legacy.  The Conservancy has restored more than 8,100 acres of wetlands, 2,500 acres of prairies and grasslands, and hundreds of miles of trout streams, in addition to several rare species recoveries and the creation of many backyard habitats.  The Conservancy website highlights some of the completed habitat restoration work. 

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