Hunters and Anglers Blast House Rule on Public Lands

The National Wildlife Federation has joined other sportsmen/women’s, conservation and outdoors groups to oppose a Jan. 3 U.S. House of Representative rule change that will make it easier to sell or transfer national public lands by negating their value when considering legislation. The groups that signed the letter to Congress represent millions of Americans across the country who hunt, fish, camp and hike on public lands and greatly value the fish and wildlife sustained by the habitat on public lands.

Check out my comrade Aaron Kindle’s blog that shared his wicked thoughts on this.

The letter is below.

Public lands belong to all of us



Jan 24, 2017

115th Congress

United States Capitol

Washington, DC 20004

 Dear Members of Congress:

The undersigned hunting, fishing, conservation, and outdoor-industry organizations and businesses represent millions of American sportsmen and women who oppose the recently passed House rules package that profoundly undervalues our national public lands.

 This move to alter the process of scoring legislation meant to sell or transfer federally managed lands eases the path forward to dismantle our uniquely American system of public lands. By designating land-transfer legislation as budget-neutral, and eliminating existing safeguards against undervaluing public lands, our nation’s greatest asset has been stripped of its true value. We want to be perfectly clear: American sportsmen and women are strongly opposed to giving away our public lands birthright.

Our nation’s public lands—including our national forests, BLM lands, and national wildlife refuges—shape our national identity. They are critical to the future of hunting, fishing, and wildlife, and the sustained economic health of communities bordering these lands. More than 72 percent of Western hunters and 36 percent of all American hunters depend on public lands for their access. Millions of anglers use public lands and waters. Public lands are a necessity to the $646-billion outdoor-recreation economy, and 6.1 million American jobs depend on these lands.

If public lands were sold or transferred to state or private entities, our very way of life would be in jeopardy, and Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy would be at risk.

 We recognize that the management of public lands presents challenges. We also acknowledge that some specific parcels of public lands have been legitimately identified for disposal, just as some lands have been identified for acquisition. We encourage you to focus on constructive and inclusive solutions to these issues. To that end, our community is committed to working with the 115th Congress to foster collaboration and to improve the long-term management of America’s greatest asset—the lands that belong to all of us.


Ø American Fly Fishing Trade Association

Ø Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Ø Hispanic Access Foundation

Ø Izaak Walton League of America

Ø National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative

Ø National Deer Alliance

Ø National Marine Manufacturers Association

Ø National Wildlife Federation

Ø National Wildlife Refuge Association

Ø Outdoor Industry Association

Ø Pope and Young Club

Ø Pheasants Forever

Ø Public Lands Foundation

Ø Quail Forever

Ø Quality Deer Management Association

Ø Snook and Gamefish Foundation

Ø Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Ø Trout Unlimited

Ø Whitetails Unlimited

Ø Wildlife Management Institute


Posted in Public Land | Leave a comment

2016 in Review

As 2016 just came to a close (thank God), we might as well reflect back on the year’s milestone events that impacted the fish and wildlife of our Great Lakes. While the year held many successes, there are also many challenges that remain for us to tackle in the coming year. Here are just a few positive highlights of 2016.

I would like to acknowledge my colleague Jordan Lubetkin for his work in helping pull this list together…

Presidential Candidates Commit to Great Lakes Restoration


Author with the Candidates at the Healing Our Waters Conference in Sandusky, Ohio

The presidential campaign dominated the news cycle in 2016, and a substantial part of our work this last year involved drawing the attention of major party candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the importance of the Great Lakes. At the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition’s annual conference in September, both campaigns expressed support for continuing federal funding for Great Lakes restoration efforts, recognizing the importance of the successful and popular Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, candidate Trump again pledged his support to Great Lakes restoration efforts as well as upholding the Clean Water Act. These commitments are hugely important to the people of the Great Lakes region. Now, the trick is  working with President-elect Trump to ensure these campaign promises are followed through with in 2017 and beyond.

Congress Authorizes Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Signaling Long-term Commitment



The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has enjoyed success for the last seven years producing results across the region with funding levels consistently at or above $300 million per year. However, the program was never authorized, so funding levels were subject to the interest and support from members of Congress and the President. Thanks to the Water Infrastructure Investments for the Nation Act (formerly the Water Resources Development Act), which passed in late December, the popular Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been authorized for five years at $300 million annually. In the coming year, all of us will need to push the incoming administration and members of Congress to fully fund the initiative to keep making progress restoring the Great Lakes.

People of Flint, Mich., Confront Lead Poisoning

Many people in Flint, Mich., still need to use bottled water to drink and bathe with due to ongoing lead contamination in their tap water. The water crisis has been going on since April 2014 when the city’s water was switched away from the Detroit-run Great Lakes Water Authority to Flint River water. Corroding pipes made the city water supply toxic, and many homes remain without effective water filters today. Tens of thousands of water service lines must now be replaced. In December, the U.S. Congress authorized funding for the city to address the monumental cost of replacement, which is good news. In the coming year we will be on the ground in Flint, working to ensure that the funding is spent wisely and reflecting the needs of the community. There is also important work to be done advancing funding for water infrastructure investments in the Great Lakes region and around the country. Old and crumbling wastewater plants and drinking water pipes should be a thing of the past, but without investment now—the nation faces more than $655 billion in needed upgrades, repairs and replacement—they will remain a problem for our future.

Conservation Leaders Beat Back attempt to Weaken Protections against Invasive Species

Zebramussel beach

Dead zebra mussels liter Lake Erie beach

If you live here in the Great Lakes, you certainly know that aquatic invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels are huge problems. Nationally, such invaders cost people, communities, businesses and utilities billions of dollars in damages and control costs. One of the main pathways these invaders take to enter U.S. waters is through boats emptying their dirty ballast water. In November, in fact, the EPA announced the discovery of a small non-native crustacean in western Lake Erie. The discovery followed months of aggressive lobbying by some federal lawmakers to roll back Clean Water Act protections to keep such invaders out of U.S. waters. Thankfully, a consortium of conservation groups worked with public officials to stop attempts to scuttle the most effective tool we have at stopping further invasions. The U.S. EPA is expected to announce stronger ballast water protections in 2017.  Moving forward, conservation groups will need to work to uphold the Clean Water Act and its protections against non-native species.

Region Grapples with First Great Lakes Diversion Request


Threats of diversions are real. Thankfully, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers understood this and changed the Waukesha diversion request to meet the high standards of the law.

Ever since the historic 2008 passage of a regional Great Lakes water conservation pact in 2008, all eyes have been on Waukesha, Wis. The community outside Milwaukee desired Great Lakes water—and its application for a diversion was the first test of the Great Lakes Compact. The city’s initial flawed application—asking for more water than needed, failing to take into account current water sources or treatment options, and including communities that had not asked for Great Lakes water—raised alarm bells with Great Lakes advocates. Conservation groups worked with governors and premieres to revise the application to ensure it met the standards of the Compact and protect the Great Lakes.

States, Feds Hobble Along to Help Lake Erie

Collin Algal Blooms

NWF CEO Collin OMara with Lake Erie glass of ‘water’ – The Blade/Dave Zapotosky

Two years ago, a harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie poisoned drinking water for more than 400,000 people for three days. You would think that crisis would inspire a sense of urgency to solve the problem. Not quite. The good news is that in 2015, one year after the drinking water crisis, the states of Michigan and Ohio joined with the Canadian province of Ontario in signing a landmark agreement to cut harmful-algal-bloom producing phosphorus runoff from farms and other sources. Since that time, it’s been slow going. The state of Ohio’s failure to list the western Lake Erie as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act denies additional resources and expertise to help restore the lakes. Michigan has been mildly better. Both states are on the hook for action plans to reduce excessive nutrients into the lake. For its part, the U.S. EPA has refused to even act on Ohio’s and Michigan’s assessments of Lake Erie. State and federal agencies need to step up to the plate in 2017 to start making a dent in this problem.

Researchers Underscore Threat of Oil Spill in Great Lakes

mack bridge MPR

Mackinac Bridge and the Straits of Mackinac – credit Michigan Public Radio

In March 2016, the University of Michigan published a study detailing the risk of a potential oil spill in the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet. The study modeled what would happen under various spill scenarios, concluding that more than 700 miles of shoreline in Michigan were vulnerable to an oil spill from the twin pipelines known as Line 5. Later in the year, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with Canadian pipeline operator Enbridge Energy regarding the company’s 2010 oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, which was the largest inland oil disaster in U.S. history. 2017 will be an important year in the effort to protect the Great Lakes from a potential oil disaster: Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board will publish a risk and alternatives analysis showing the best options for how to diminish or remove the threat, and a federal judge may decide a case brought by the National Wildlife Federation arguing that the Department of Transportation failed to assess potential impacts to the environment and endangered species and therefore illegally approved the pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Obama Administration Rejects Risky Mining near Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness


In a major victory for people who care about wildlife, wild places, and opportunities to fish, hunt, canoe, swim, and hike, two federal agencies rejected risky mines near the iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Boundary Waters area contains more than a million acres of lakes and forests and is visited by more than 150,000 people every year. Although the mining leases were originally issued in 1966, no extraction has ever taken place, leaving the area largely pristine. Strong public concerns about acid mine drainage and other pollution that would threaten the area contributed to the government’s decision to deny the lease renewal.

Posted in Fish and Wildlife, Great Lakes | Leave a comment

No Mining in the Boundary Waters

My former boss and mentor, the late Congressman Bruce F. Vento is smiling down on us right now.

The reason is that we just heard today that federal land managers decided to reject a proposed mine in the heart of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness.

Throughout his career, Vento made protection of the Boundary Waters one of his main issues.  He successfully fought to keep this place wild by securing portions of the pristine inter-connected waterways free of motorized boats.  So – as a result of his efforts, you can experience only the sounds of crying loons, the scream of a fly reel with a tight line, Moose splashing in the shallows, and ripples from a paddle as you portage a canoe just like the ol fur traders and pioneers did way back in the day.

Now, with this rejection, these sounds will be amplified!

For those that don’t know, the Boundary Waters Wilderness is one of the most spectacular places in America and a key driver of Northeastern Minnesota’s economy. The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a wild landscape of lakes, streams, woods, and wildlife covering 1.1 million acres along the Canadian border. It is the most heavily visited Wilderness Area in the United States, attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year from all over the world. It helps drive more than $850 million in economic activity every year that supports nearly 17,000 jobs.

So yes, this is a big deal! There are simply some places just too wild to ruin from development.  Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Wilderness is one of them.  Thank you to all the groups who worked on this, especially Save the Boundary Waters, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters, National Wildlife Federation among others.

Below is a release by a coalition of groups…


Guided by science and public opinion, land managers say “no” to proposed sulfide-ore copper mines threatening Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Wilderness

Broad coalition of Minnesota business leaders, sportsmen, veterans and conservationists praise the decision & urge permanent protection


Next steps: Comprehensive environmental review will determine whether the watershed – which drives enormous economic activity as America’s most popular wilderness area – should be removed from the federal mining program altogether

 Ely, MN—Today, guided by science and public opinion, federal agencies charged with stewardship of taxpayer-owned public lands denied the renewal of two mineral leases adjacent to Minnesota’s iconic Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and upstream of Voyageurs National Park. The decision halts a proposed sulfide-ore copper mine project from destroying the pristine waters of America’s most popular wilderness area – a prime hunting, fishing and recreation destination that helps support 17,000 jobs and drive $850 million in economic activity annually. Sixty-seven percent of Minnesotans opposed the project.

In addition, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced it will begin a comprehensive environmental review to determine whether the watershed of the BWCA is the wrong place for sulfide-ore copper mining and should be removed from the federal mining program altogether. Numerous scientific studies show the dramatic risk such a mine would pose to the water-intensive, ecologically sensitive wilderness of the Boundary Waters. Nearly 8 in 10 Minnesotans support such a study.

This past summer, more than 74,000 people and 200 sportsmen’s organizations, businesses, and conservation groups sent letters expressing support for not renewing the expired Twin Metals leases and protecting the BWCA watershed. Rural communities in particular benefit from recreation in U.S. National Forests, which nationally drive $11 billion in consumer spending within 50 miles of forest boundaries.

“The Boundary Waters is a special place for Minnesotans who love hunting, fishing and recreation and who depend on thousands of jobs sustained by America’s most-popular wilderness,” said Becky Rom, National Chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “Science has clearly shown that copper mining would inflict devastating harm on this priceless wilderness. Today’s decision reflects strong support from a majority of Minnesotans who want to prioritize the wide-ranging value our communities gain from a healthy Boundary Waters, rather than open an industrial mining zone less than a mile from the wilderness edge.”

Rom added: “It’s a strong first step, but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure we can protect the BWCA for future generations. Our coalition keeps growing as sportsmen, veterans, businesses and other interests sign on to support our efforts.”

“The Forest Service and Interior Department have wisely recognized that the Boundary Waters is an American crown jewel too special to risk. Too special for anglers, too special for hunters, too special for canoeists and communities and wildlife. This decision recognizes that the long term values for the local economy and future generations far outweigh the speculative short term benefits of sulfide mining in such a cherished landscape.” said Collin O’Mara, President & CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.


Expired mineral leases held by Twin Metals were initially issued in 1966, before modern American environmental laws existed, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the law that requires environmental impacts to be considered before decisions are made regarding where mines can be sited. As a result, these leases never underwent environmental review.

The environmental review initiated by the Department of the Interior will be a comprehensive, watershed level analysis that will look at the value of the land and water, including their economic, social and cultural importance. The Boundary Waters Wilderness is a wild landscape of lakes, streams, woods, and wildlife covering 1.1 million acres along the Canadian border. It is the most heavily visited wilderness area in the United States, attracting more than 250,000 visitors each year from all over the world.

These decisions only affect proposed copper nickel mining in the Boundary Waters watershed and will not affect Minnesota’s taconite industry. Taconite and other iron deposits are in a different geography and in a different type of ore.

Sulfide-ore copper mining – one of the most toxic industries in America– has never been done before in Minnesota.  The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters is a broad national coalition of business people, sportsmen, veterans, outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and others that was founded by residents of Ely, Minnesota in 2013. The Campaign works to protect the interests of the people of the United States in a healthy Boundary Waters Wilderness. A strong majority of Minnesotans opposed the Twin Metals project, including 61 percent of residents in Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District (which includes the Iron Range and Duluth).




Posted in Fish and Wildlife, Outdoors, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Where the Bison Roam…

While directing public lands work for National Wildlife Federation many years ago, I had the pleasure of working on efforts to protect and restore western public landscapes.   One of the many places I worked on were the public lands up in central Montana.  The Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, and the Upper Missouri River Breaks country- or the “Breaks” as they are called.  These places have a vast openness and provide a sense of solitude.  And, the best part is that they belong to all of us.

Please read below a great blog by my friend Bruce Wallace, NWF’s Chairman of the Board, on his adventures here and retracing the steps of Lewis and Clark…

Exploring the Vast Montana Prairie

Area offers bison and outdoor enthusiasts room to roam

It isn’t easy to describe the immensity of the prairie in north-central Montana, where the National Wildlife Federation is working to restore America’s largest, wildest herd of bison.

I can’t say I fully grasped how vast the public lands are in and around Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge until a recent, blustery September day. We’d reached the area the night before, after a slow, bumpy bike ride across 20 miles of rutted dirt roads.

Rising at dawn to hike several miles through the surprisingly rugged Missouri River Breaks, my companions and I clambered into canoes for a brisk voyage retracing a stretch of Lewis and Clark’s route into the then-unmapped West, coming ashore at midday only to trade paddles for pedals. Some 20 miles to the east, our local guides told us, we would find our bedrolls and a meal.

And after that rather memorable day of plodding, paddling and pedaling? We’d crossed much less than 1 percent of the 3 million acres of public lands that make up the best and largest expanse of mostly intact prairie wildlife habitat in the lower 48 states.

Bruce Wallace and Susie Cannell biked through prairie dog towns and a black-footed ferret recovery area on their 50-mile trek to the American Prairie Reserve. Photo by Steve Woodruff

I had come to Montana to take part in the second annual “Transect” – a slow-motion exploration of the American Prairie Reserve, an ambitious project led by one of NWF’s conservation partners to secure, restore and promote for public enjoyment millions of acres of native prairie and wildlife. Joining me was my enthusiastic partner in all things, Susie Cannell, and we teamed up with a small cadre of conservationists led by American Prairie Reserve staff and officers.

The Transect is not so much a tour as an immersion in a wild expanse of timbered draws, rich river bottoms and seemingly endless sagebrush steppe grasslands. Moving at human-powered pace across a vast landscape gave us a tremendous perspective and sense of scale. Here we see conservation writ large – clearly one of the greatest conservation opportunities of our time.

Superb native habitat on public lands in north-central Montana are just waiting for wild bison to return. Photo by Steve Woodruff

This area was where explorers Lewis and Clark marveled at wildlife in abundance and variety beyond imagination. This was one of the last bastions for wild bison on the prairie before all but a few remnants were slaughtered over a century ago. NWF, APR and others are working to make it the first place wild bison return on a significant scale – envisioning a herd of perhaps 10,000 wild, wide-ranging bison.

With support and leadership from NWF’s state affiliate – the Montana Wildlife Federation – Montanans have already restored elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and mule deer to abundance. Even black-footed ferrets, believed extinct, are making their comeback here amid the many large prairie dog towns. Bison are next in line.

NWF is working with the APR and other partners to encourage Montana to designate public lands in and around the CMR as a bison-restoration area and accept some of the APR’s bison as seed stock. The APR has been working for years to restore prairie and wildlife in a way that combines capitalism with conservation. Raising money from donors, the APR acquires ranches on the periphery of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge on a willing-buyer/willing-seller basis. With acquisition of the ranches, the APR also obtains the grazing leases to adjacent public lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

NWF’s work includes negotiating agreements as part of their Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program to effectively retire cattle-grazing allotments within the refuge, further opening the niche for bison while reducing potential conflicts with cattle.

The American Prairie Reserve also is a great place for people to reconnect with nature. Photo by Steve Woodruff

The APR’s goal is to restore the lands it acquires to native condition, restore bison and other native wildlife to abundance, and use its property acquisitions to knit adjacent public lands into a prairie reserve half again the size of Yellowstone National Park. The APR now owns or leases some 350,000 acres of lands, all of which welcome public access and recreation. The APR also has established a herd of some 800 genetically pure bison managed as wildlife but, under Montana law, legally classified as livestock.

Restoring wild bison in and around the CMR is a tough grind, because many ranchers see bison as competition to cattle, and the issue is politically charged in Montana. But NWF is committed to resolving all concerns and conflicts through initiatives such as their Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program which works with ranchers to retire their public land grazing leases.

The days we spent traversing part of the CMR and APR by foot, canoe and bike included some tough uphill stretches. But it was worth all the hard work. We have more hard work ahead of us to restore wild bison. I have no doubt all that hard work will be worth the effort as well.

Help NowHelp give bison room to roam through NWF’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program


About the Author: Bruce Wallace is an Ann Arbor, Mich., attorney and Chair of the National Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors.

Posted in Fish and Wildlife, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Big Deal for Merica’s Fish and Wildlife

Yesterday evening, Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Michigan’s (and my Congresswoman) Debbie Dingell (D-MI) introduced a bill that would direct existing funding from oil and gas leases to increase funding for proactive wildlife conservation.  This is a big deal for the future of our Great Lakes and Merica’s fish and wildlife. 


Below is the joint release about the bill…

Young, Dingell Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Enhance Funding For Fish and Wildlife

“A once in a generation opportunity to save thousands of at-risk wildlife species” – Collin O’Mara

Washington, DC (July 7, 2016) – Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) have introduced the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 5650) calling for $1.3 billion in existing revenue from the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands and waters be dedicated to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program to conserve a full array of fish and wildlife.

“Hunters, anglers, recreational shooters and motorized boaters, through fees and licenses, have been the backbone of funding the conservation of America’s fish and wildlife.  Over the years these original conservationists have greatly enhanced the State’s ability to perform science-based management of fish and wildlife species throughout the country,” said Dave Chanda, President of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Director of New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.  “Today we find ourselves at a critical crossroad and impending fish and wildlife crisis that could alter our children and grandchildren’s opportunities to enjoy these resources.  If we want to secure the future of all of America’s fish and wildlife resources, a fundamental enhancement in how we finance conservation is essential.  We believe the right path is to begin investing now in a 21st century vision for fish and wildlife.”

The Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources, comprised of national business and conservation leaders, convened in 2015 to recommend a new mechanism to sustainably fund fish and wildlife conservation. In March 2016, the Panel recommended that a $1.3 billion trust fund be created using existing fees from energy and mineral development on federal lands and water to support implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans in every state, territory and the District of Columbia.

“As a strong supporter of conservation and sportsmen alike, I’m proud to take the lead on an important discussion regarding fish and wildlife conservation across the country,” said Congressman Don Young. “While we’ve seen many great successes in management and conservation projects in the past, this legislation takes a unique approach to allow states to make responsible management decisions at home. As someone who proudly supports the management of fish and game for all Americans – for sportsmen, subsistence purposes, and for future generations – I believe this legislation is a responsible first step in developing a path forward.”

“It has been proven over the decades that incredible gains in species conservation have been made with dedicated sources of funding,” Rep. Dingell said. “The Restoring America’s Wildlife Act builds off the successes of previous efforts including Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund by giving state fish and wildlife agencies additional resources they need to proactively manage at-risk wildlife species. I am proud to introduce this legislation with my Republican colleague from Alaska, Mr. Young. We both love the outdoors and know we must work hard to protect our natural resources. To some we may seem the odd couple but together we believe we can get something done that will help bring conservation into the 21st Century and complement the other successful programs that are currently in place.”

“America’s hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and boaters have been the primary funders of state-based conservation efforts to this day,” said Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation President Jeff Crane. “This recommendation simply uses funding for conservation from other sectors that use our natural resources.”

“We have a once in a generation opportunity to save thousands of at-risk wildlife species by investing in proactive, collaborative conservation. By modernizing how we fund conservation of the full diversity of wildlife, we will bolster our natural resources, strengthen our outdoor recreation economy, reduce regulatory uncertainty, improve public health, and bolster community resilience,” said Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation. “We thank Congressman Young and Congresswoman Dingell for their exceptional leadership on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.”

Media Contacts:

Sara Leonard, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation –

Lacey McCormick, National Wildlife Federation –

Patricia Allen, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies –


Additional Information:




Posted in Fish and Wildlife, Public Land | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Great Lakes Diversion Approved -Now We Bird Dog It

Yesterday in Chicago, the first Great Lakes diversion application under the Great Lakes Compact (Compact) was approved, with conditions.  This is a sound decision.

Say what?

Didn’t almost everyone oppose this? Including National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and virtually every environmental and conservation group across the Great Lakes?

Yes, NWF opposed this diversion…as submitted.  Check out our reason why we opposed this proposal as submitted here.

“As submitted” is an important nuance to highlight, because after it was submitted, the proposal was changed by the Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers.  These changes (or conditions added) brought the proposal closer in line with the Compact standards.

Others, including the Joyce Foundation, share this view.  Take a look here.

Compact Council vote 6 2016

Great Lakes states vote on final Great Lakes diversion proposal from the city of Waukesha

Here is my take on this historic moment:

First, its important to remember that the Great Lakes Compact was developed to prohibit diversions of Great Lakes water and promote the wise use of our water resources inside the Basin.  NWF and countless groups across the Basin helped negotiate and advocate for the adoption of this agreement.  The Compact manages Great Lakes water in a protective, yet fair and sustainable way.  Upon adoption in 2008, NWF and almost every conservation group in the Great Lakes Basin heralded this as a success.

While creating a ban on diversions, the Compact also allows very limited exceptions to this ban.  These exceptions are limited and narrow for communities and counties that straddle the Great Lakes Basin.  If a community meets this definition, then they can apply.  Furthermore, a community must meet a set of criteria called the ‘exception standard’ in order to be approved by all eight Great Lakes governors.  The exception standard requires a community to: demonstrate a need for water; conduct a reasonable water supply alternative analysis, and return the water (less consumptive use) among others.

Here is why I feel the Waukesha diversion approved with conditions is a sound decision for the Great Lakes.

First, the Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers agreed with us that as submitted, the Waukesha diversion application failed to meet the standards in the Compact. Because they agreed that it failed to meet the standards, they added conditions that narrowed it down and brought the proposal closer in line with the Compact standards.

Here are some of the important conditions included:

  • Removed all towns and areas from the application that did not need water.
  • Reduced the volume of water requested down from 16 mgpd (max capacity) to 8.2 mgpd.
  • Strengthened the enforcement capability of any governor, or the Compact Council, to take actions necessary to compel compliance if Waukesha or WI DNR fail to carry out the conditions placed on the proposal. This includes the ability of any governor to request an audit and inspection of how this diversion is being managed and enforced.

Moreover, Waukesha will return close to 100% of the water diverted.  This is a key requirement of the Compact in order to get approved.

Its fair to say that the Great Lakes conservation community can take some credit and was instrumental in getting these conditions placed on the diversion.  Up until the last moment, groups involved were trying to influence the final outcome. As a result, and I do not mean to beat my chest here, but I certainly believe that the conservation community effectively drove the debate by raising the concerns with the proposal in a campaign blitz that ended up driving this process towards a better outcome.  Lets acknowledge that and feel good about our ability to influence and change the final outcome.

I feel the Great Lakes governors and premiers heard our and the public’s concerns and tried to address them.  It’s worth noting that some states and provinces were the clear intellectual thought leaders during this process.  While all states and provinces contributed to the final outcome, I want to extend sincere appreciation to Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Ontario.  Their thoughtful and serious review show that the Compact worked.

What precedent is being set here?  Well, the way I see this is that this decision will set a very difficult path for the next diversion applicant.

Why?  Consider that Waukesha spent close to $7 million alone in technical consulting fees.  On top of that, they will spend approximately over $200 million to upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate the diversion. That’s right…$200 million.  We are talking wastewater treatment upgrades, water storage upgrades, infrastructure to hook up their supply, and infrastructure to return the treated wastewater back to the Great Lakes.  Oh, by the way, given the process the Compact created, Waukesha had to go through the ringer of a years long difficult state review process…and a regional review process that created a sense of uncertainly as other governors and premiers changed this proposal – leaving Waukesha to sit there and watch this unfold.  Talk about a tense and stressful process!  I don’t know about you, but this should create a barrier for any future community looking at a diversion.  Who would want to go through this?  Given this huge price tag, is it economically feasible to even begin to think about applying for a diversion? A community must have a very serious and desperate situation in order to choose to go through what Waukesha just went through.  Alas – the Compact created this difficult path to get a diversion approved.

While not perfect (what is?) approving this diversion with conditions is a sound decision that upholds the Compact’s intent and spirit.  Many groups and individuals may not be happy with this outcome, but the pragmatic side of me feels strong and confident that this decision will set a very difficult path for the next diversion applicant.

What now?  Well, we need to review the public participation process for the next diversion application (lets hope there isn’t one).  Remember that this was the first application for a diversion under the Compact.  The process wasn’t perfect and it was bumpy at times.  Given this, there is agreement from some states and provinces that changes are in order to refine and improve this process in the future.  We intend to work with the states and provinces to that end.

Lastly, questions remain over the ability of Waukesha and WIDNR to manage and enforce these conditions.  Given this, we will be watching.  And, we expect the governors to be watching.  We are going to bird dog this thing and we reserve the right to take actions necessary to ensure that Waukesha and WIDNR do what they are required to do.

Statement from NWF and the Alliance for the Great Lakes...

Alliance for the Great Lakes – National Wildlife Federation
June 21, 2016
Jennifer Caddick, Alliance for the Great Lakes, (315) 767-2802
Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation, (734) 255-5413
States Approve Request to Divert Great Lakes Water
(Chicago) This afternoon the eight Great Lakes states voted to approve Waukesha, Wisconsin’s diversion request. We believe that the conditions adopted by the Compact Council improved Waukesha’s proposal’s compliance with the Great Lakes Compact. We applaud the Great Lakes Governors for agreeing with us that the Waukesha diversion application as submitted failed to meet the standards of the Great Lakes Compact.
While we need to review the details of the final decision, we are encouraged by the additional conditions placed on Waukesha’s diversion application that improved the request. It is also important to note that the water diverted from Lake Michigan to Waukesha will be returned to the Great Lakes basin, resulting in no net loss of water to the lakes as required by the Compact.
We appreciate the seriousness with which members of the Great Lakes Regional Body and Compact Council undertook their responsibility to review Waukesha’s diversion application. While we have always believed that Waukesha has a reasonable water supply alternative, we understand that the Regional Body and Compact Council saw that issue differently.
Today’s vote is not the end of the story. Great Lakes advocates will need to be vigilant in making sure that the city of Waukesha and the State of Wisconsin honor the terms of the agreement. We will be strong watchdogs to ensure that the Great Lakes are protected. We expect that the Compact Council and its members will act promptly if Waukesha and Wisconsin do not meet every requirement imposed by the Council. And, if necessary, we will take action to compel compliance with the Compact Council’s requirements.
Moving forward, we strongly encourage the Regional Body and Compact Council to amend their processes to include improved opportunities for the public to participate in a meaningful and timely way throughout the regional review process no matter where they live.




Posted in Great Lakes, Water | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

U.S. House Passes Vital Great Lakes Bill

Good news today from Congress……

U.S. House Passes Vital Great Lakes Bill

Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition urges Senate to Act to ensure that the national maintains commitment to Great Lakes

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (April 26, 2016)—The U.S. House today passed by voice vote the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2016, a bill that is an integral piece of federal Great Lakes restoration efforts. The bill, H.R. 223, authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million annually over the next five years. The initiative supports efforts to restore fish as wildlife habitat to support outdoor recreation opportunities, clean up toxic pollution to protect human health, reduce farm and city runoff to protect drinking water and keep beaches open, and fight invasive species.

Authorizing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a top priority of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

Commenting on passage of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2016 bill, Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said:

“We thank the U.S. House for passing a bill that is vital to the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, jobs, and way of life. We especially appreciate the support from U.S. Rep. David Joyce, who has worked tirelessly to pass this important bill. Federal restoration efforts have enjoyed strong bi-partisan support from Day 1—a testament to the importance of the Great Lakes, which supply drinking water to more than 30 million people.

“Federal restoration efforts are producing results. Although we have made progress, the Lakes still face serious threats. So we urge the U.S. Senate to act swiftly so that the nation continues its commitment to the Great Lakes. We can’t afford to stop now. Restoration projects will only get harder and more expensive the longer we wait.”

Over the last seven years, the U.S. Congress has invested over $2.2 billion through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in more than 2,900 projects in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. These projects have restored more than 150,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat; opened up fish access to more than 3,800 miles of rivers; helped farmers—in combination with other programs—implement conservation programs on more than 1 million acres of rural working lands; and accelerated the cleanup of toxic hotspots by delisting three formerly contaminated sites. In the previous two decades before the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, only one site identified as a toxic hotspot had been delisted.

Co-sponsors of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2016 include: Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Sander Levin (D-MI), Mike Kelly (R-PA),            Brian Higgins (D-NY), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Dan Benishek (R-MI), Chris Collins (R-NY), Richard Nolan (D-MN), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Tom Reed (R-NY), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Tim Ryan (D-OH), James Renacci (R-OH), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Candice Miller (R-MI), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), Reid Ribble (R-WI), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Dold (R-IL), Daniel Kildee (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), John Katko (R-NY), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Timothy Walz (D-MN), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Richard Hanna (R-NY), Christopher Gibson (R-NY), Mike Bishop (R-MI), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Mark Amodei (R-NV), Bill Johnson (R-OH), David Trott (R-MI), Steve Israel (D-NY), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Michael Turner (R-OH), Fred Upton (R-MI), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL),  and Steve Stivers (R-OH).

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 130 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.



Posted in Great Lakes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Groups Urge MI Gov Snyder to Veto Great Lakes Diversion

March 1, 2016

Groups Urge Michigan Governor Snyder to Deny Great Lakes Water Diversion Request

PETOSKEY, MI – Over 25 environmental and conservation organizations and associations from throughout Michigan are urging Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to ensure the protection of our Great Lakes by denying a Great Lakes diversion request by the City of Waukesha, Wis. This diversion proposal fails to meet the legal standards of the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact (Compact).

The Compact bans water diversions outside of the Great Lakes Basin with limited exceptions. The Compact allows for “communities within straddling counties” not currently using Great Lakes water to apply for an exception to its ban on diversions, but only if the community meets stringent requirements. The city of Waukesha asserts that it needs water from the Great Lakes to address water quantity and quality concerns. The city has long relied on a deep aquifer groundwater supply that has high levels of radium, a naturally occurring radioactive carcinogen, which exceeds federal health standards.

Just because Waukesha is eligible to apply for a Great Lakes diversion, does not automatically guarantee that they get approved. They must demonstrate that they have met the exemption standards of the Compact. All eight Great Lakes governors must approve the application; otherwise, the application is denied. As currently written, Waukesha fails to meet the standards of the Compact. Thus, it should be vetoed.

The proposed Waukesha diversion application is the first since the Compact was adopted in 2008. This application is a critical proving ground for the Compact, establishing its effectiveness and serving as a precedent for subsequent diversion proposals.

Michigan groups believe that Waukesha’s current application falls well short of the Compact’s requirements and therefore, request that Gov. Snyder veto this application on the grounds that it does not meet the exception standard requirements of the Compact.

“Waukesha is only the first of a number of communities that may line up for Great Lakes water in the coming decades,” said Jennifer McKay, policy specialist at Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council. “Gov. Snyder has no choice but to reject the City of Waukesha’s Great Lakes diversion water application to ensure that the integrity of the Compact to protect our invaluable freshwater resource from unwise use and unnecessary diversions.”

Specifically, Michigan groups sent a letter asking Gov. Snyder to veto the Waukesha diversion request because:

• The City of Waukesha does not justify why it needs to much more water than its currently using. Waukesha’s per capita water use or demand is declining and has been declining for about three decades. Waukesha’s demand forecast for 2050 assumes a significant increase in per capita water use. If anything, per capita water use should decline due to implementation of required conservation measures.

• Waukesha proposed to divert Great Lakes water to communities who do not need it. The city’s application included other towns in Waukesha County that, to date, have not demonstrated that they need Great Lakes water. In fact, some officials in these areas have indicated that they do not need any water either now or in the foreseeable future. Including these communities in the application is not consistent with the Great Lakes Compact.

• Waukesha has not demonstrated that it is without a reasonable water supply alternative. A July 2015 report by two independent engineering firms found that Waukesha has a feasible water supply alternative. The report concluded that Waukesha can use its existing deep and shallow water wells to provide ample clean and safe water to its residents now and in the future if it invests in additional water treatment infrastructure to ensure the water supply meets state and federal standards. Over three dozen other communities in Wisconsin alone, not to mention scores of other communities around the country, have chosen to treat their water and provide safe potable drinking water to their residents.

“The heart and soul of the Great Lakes Compact is the ban on diversions. Waukesha fails to meet the standards of the Compact,” said Marc Smith, policy director, National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Regional Center. “As the first diversion proposal under the Compact, this is serving as a precedent. We have to get this right.”

Signatories to the letter include:
Burt Lake Preservation Association • Dwight Lydell Chapter, Izaak Walton League of America • Elk-Skegemog Lakes Association • For Love of Water • Friends of Clam Lake • Friends of the St. Joe River Association • Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities • Huron River Watershed Council • League of Women Voters of Michigan • Lone Tree Council • Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch • Michigan Clean Water Action • Michigan Environmental Council • Michigan League of Conservation Voters • Michigan United Conservation Clubs • Mullet Lake Area Preservation Society • National Wildlife Federation • Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council • Pickerel-Crooked Lakes Association • Sierra Club Michigan Chapter • Straits Area Concerned Citizens for Peace, Justice, and the Environment • Three Lakes Association • Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council • Torch Lake Protection Alliance • The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay • West Michigan Environmental Action Council • Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve

For more information, please visit:

Jennifer McKay, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, 231-347-1181,

Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation, 734-255-5413,

Posted in Great Lakes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Keep Great Lakes Water in the Great Lakes


The above video sends a message that you all should know about…

Did you know that right now, the Great Lakes governors and Canadian premiers of Ontario and Quebec are reviewing the first Great Lakes diversion proposal under a new law – called the Great Lakes Compact?

More info can be found here

For those that don’t know, the Compact bans diverting Great Lakes water outside of the Great Lakes basin, with limited exceptions. All 8 Great Lake governors must approve this. All it takes is one veto to stop the diversion. As currently written and submitted, this diversion does not meet the exception standards of the Compact. Thus should be denied.

Stand up for the Great Lakes and tell your Governor to deny this diversion proposal

Whether you hunt, fish, birdwatch, camp, canoe, or swim…the Great Lakes are a value to all of us.  They provide a cultural and economic identity.  They are part of our lives and help define who we are as a region — and thus must be protected.

The Great Lakes Compact was designed and adopted to do just that: Protect our Great Lakes.  The heart and soul of the Great Lakes Compact is the ban on diversions.  Only under the Compact’s exception standard can a community apply for a diversion.

The Compact says that a community (such as Waukesha) applying for a diversion must demonstrate a need for water and demonstrate that there is no reasonable alternative to obtain water.

In essence – in my opinion – diversions, under the Compact, are a last resort.

As this is the first diversion application since the Compact passed in 2008… today…we are writing history.  This process and application represent a critical proving ground for the Compact: establishing its effectiveness and serving as a precedent for subsequent diversion proposals.  So, we have to get this right.

This is not about saying NO to a town.  Rather, this is about following the Compact standards.

Lake Michigan beach, Petoskey, Michigan - Michigan Travel Bureau - EPA

We are concerned that this application fails to meet those standards.

Here is why:

1) The diversion proposal does not justify why Waukesha needs so much more water than it is currently using (they are currently using 6 mgpd on average – but are requesting a max capacity of 16 mgpd). That is quite a jump and is not consistent with demand forecasts and historic trends that show water usage in the region is on the decline.

2) The diversion proposal does not consider all reasonable alternatives to provide water to its residents. Ie: treating for radium. That seems the obvious alternative – if not reasonable. Obvious and reasonable because almost 40 other towns in SE WI (let alone many others across the country) have chosen this route as a way to provide water to their communities.

3) This proposal would divert Great Lakes water to communities that do not need it. Nor do those towns have plans to hook up now or in the future. This ‘extended service area’ goes well beyond the intent of the Great Lakes Compact.

Diverting Great Lakes water to towns that have not demonstrated a need??? This is clearly not consistent with the exception standard in the Compact.

4) The return flow plan would discharge treated wastewater to Racine (a community who does not want this – nor had any say in this decision).

These concerns raise many questions about this application meeting the exception standards in the Compact.

The Great Lakes states and provinces spent years – many long hours in windowless hotel conference rooms – debating these standards. Now is the time to ensure those standards are now met and applied to this diversion proposal.

Given these concerns, we feel this application falls well short of the Compact requirements.

Tell your Governor to deny this Great Lakes Diversion.


Posted in Great Lakes, Water | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

First Request To Divert Great Lakes Water Heads to Great Lakes Governors and Premiers



Alliance for the Great Lakes – National Wildlife Federation

Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation, 734-887-7116,
Molly Flanagan, Alliance for the Great Lakes, 312-445-974,

First Request to Divert Great Lakes Water Heads to Regional Governors and Premiers

Yesterday the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources forwarded the City of Waukesha’s application to divert Great Lakes water to the governors of the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian premiers for review. It’s the first time a request to divert Great Lakes water has been put to the region’s governors and premiers since passage of a historic pact to prevent water diversions of the iconic Lakes, while promoting wise water use in the region.

Marc Smith, policy director for the National Wildlife Federation, and Molly Flanagan, vice president of policy for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, both serve on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council Advisory Committee, said today:

“We look forward to reviewing the final application. We remain concerned, however, based on the city’s previous draft application that Waukesha has, to date, failed to demonstrate that it needs to divert Great Lakes water—and had no other alternative—to meet its needs. In fact, independent analyses have shown that Waukesha can meet its water needs – saving upwards of $150 million – by relying on existing water supplies, removing from the application towns that do not need water, and following its own water conservation plans. That’s why we do not think this request to divert Great Lakes water meets the strict and protective standards of the Great Lakes Compact.

“As the Great Lakes governors and premiers begin review of this diversion application, we encourage a robust public participation process that allows people across the Great Lakes to have their voices heard and that each state and province take their role seriously in evaluating whether or not this application meets the strict standards in the Compact in protecting the Great Lakes.”


Under the Compact’s ban on diversions, any diversion application must be approved by all eight Great Lakes states, with input from the two Canadian provinces. Any state may veto the diversion application. Starting January 12, the public will have 60 days to review the application and a public meeting will be held in Waukesha, Wis., on February 18, 2016.

Posted in Great Lakes, Uncategorized, Water | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment