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.

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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 – sara@sportsmenslink.org

Lacey McCormick, National Wildlife Federation –mccormick@nwf.org

Patricia Allen, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies – pallen@fishwildlife.org


Additional Information:




Categories: Fish and Wildlife, Public Land | Tags: , , , , | 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.




Categories: Great Lakes, Water | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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 www.healthylakes.org or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.



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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: http://www.protectourgreatlakes.org

Jennifer McKay, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, 231-347-1181, jenniferm@watershedcouncil.org

Marc Smith, National Wildlife Federation, 734-255-5413, msmith@nwf.org

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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.


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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, msmith@nwf.org
Molly Flanagan, Alliance for the Great Lakes, 312-445-974, mflanagan@greatlakes.org

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.

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Fish Farms in the Great Lakes?

Caged fish that are essentially CAFO’s directly IN our Great Lakes.

Just say no Michigan. 

Its that simple. 

credit NOAA

Pure Michigan? credit NOAA

12/7/2015 update:  NWF and our state affiliate Michigan United Conservation Clubs submitted comments to the MI DEQ about our concerns with the potential of net pen aquaculture in our Great Lakes.  Check them out here…

MUCC NWF Comments on Net Pen Aquaculture 12 2015

Fish farms don’t belong in the Great Lakes

Caged fish culture densely concentrates thousands of fish and fattens them up with food pellets and pharmaceuticals. Factory fish farms deposit thousands of pounds of algae-producing fish waste and chemicals in our public waterways, all for the creation of a handful of jobs.

Michigan officials have been approached with at least two proposals for fish farms, in Lake Michigan near Escanaba and off Rogers City in Lake Huron. State agencies have assembled a panel to look into these plans and explore the possibility of aquaculture in Michigan’s Great Lakes.

Sport fishing in Michigan  supports  38,000 jobs and is valued at more than $4 billion a year. Aquaculture proposals are a threat to that important industry, since farmed fish are known to escape their cages, spread disease and crowd out wild fish. Risking our sport fishery for commercial aquaculture is like throwing back a king salmon to keep a minnow. Caged fish culture in the waters of the Great Lakes just doesn’t make good business sense — and it’s even worse from an ecological standpoint.

Cage cultured fish also pose a serious health risk to their wild cousins because they have a track record of spreading diseases. Crowded fish cages are breeding grounds for disease and parasites. In 2007, a virus broke out in Chile’s salmon farms. Infected fish developed tumors and their kidneys and livers shut down. Within weeks, about 70% of the country’s farmed salmon were dead.  While Chile has no wild salmon population to speak of, what would such an outbreak mean for Michigan’s salmon fishery or the hundreds of Great Lakes charter boat companies and river fishing guides it supports?

Managing disease risks at fish farms often involves applying antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals that could persist in the environment and impact other fish, wildlife and, potentially, people.

It is another reality of industrial aquaculture that fish inevitably will escape. In 2009, about 40,000 adult fish escaped a British Columbia salmon farm when workers accidentally ripped a hole in the bottom of a cage while removing dead fish. A Scottish salmon farm lost an estimated 300,000 fish during a 2011 storm. These events are commonplace.

As has happened elsewhere, these escaped fish will compete with wild fish for food, disrupt their natural reproduction and interfere with their genetic diversity. These disruptions would erode our wild fish population’s ability to adapt and survive. The Great Lakes host some of the world’s best fishing for steelhead, a variety of rainbow trout. The proposals before the state call for cage-raising rainbow trout, and the inevitable escapes put our wild steelhead population in danger.

There is a right way to do aquaculture. Contained systems on land — systems that recycle their water and are totally separated from our rivers and lakes — can be a sustainable source of nutritious local food and economic development. Michigan has plenty of warehouses and other vacant spaces that are ideal for these closed-loop systems, and we hope to see this industry thrive.  We are eager to support policy ideas that make closed-loop aquaculture more economically viable.

But the Great Lakes are a different story.  They belong to all of us, and no private interest should transfer the risks of their business venture to the citizens of this state and the future generations who will inherit our natural resources.

Fortunately, Sen. Rick Jones and bipartisan co-sponsors have introduced Senate Bill 526, which would ban aquaculture in the Great Lakes and connected waters. Such a ban is the only way to guarantee our freshwater seas are safe from cage-raised fish. We urge the Legislature and the Snyder administration to support it.

Bryan Burroughs is executive director of Michigan Trout Unlimited, Dan Eichinger is executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Chris Kolb is president & CEO of the Michigan Environmental Council 

Categories: Great Lakes, Water | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shark Free Great Lakes?

Growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, I spent tons of time on the beach and swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.  Whether it was 53rd street with my best friend, the late Greg Wright, to 76th street where we played volleyball, surfed and buried full kegs of beer in the sand.  We all shared the ocean with porpoises, crabs, jelly fish and yes, sharks.

Although I never remember any encounter with sharks growing up, it seems that lately shark sightings/attacks are increasing along the Atlantic?  Why is that?  Is it the increased water temperature? Drought conditions that create saltier waters that sharks like?  I don’t know. Shark experts seem to think so.

What I do know is that some people will go to some humorous extremes to protect themselves from sharks…


Couple “Macgyver’s” a cage off the coast of the Outer Banks, NC this summer

Since moving up here to Michigan in 2004 from Northern Virginia, I can honestly say I strongly prefer the clean, fresh water of the Great Lakes to the Ocean.  As my 10 year old son Patrick says, “I like the Great Lakes because there are no sharks.” This is coming from a little dude who is obsessed with sharks – named his soccer team the ‘Sharks’ – and begged me to watch the movie Jaws with him. I gave in and we watched it together earlier this summer. (I must say that after 40 years, Jaws still holds up well).

As we get ready to head to Lake Michigan this weekend for a vacation with our family, we don’t have to worry about sharks.  We Great Lakers pride ourselves on the premise of No sharks in our waters. 

unsalted shark free GL

This sticker is found on cars, lap tops, t shirts, coffee mugs…you name it….all across the Great Lakes region

But should we be worried?  Is it possible that sharks could be swimming in the largest freshwater resource in the world?  Bull sharks in the Great Lakes?

After reading this, do “we need a bigger boat”? 

Categories: Great Lakes | Tags: , | Leave a comment

#ICAST2015 A Blast to Attend

I just got back from the 58th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known in layman terms as ICAST.

This trade show is also sponsored by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association’s trade show, the International Fly Tackle Dealer show, better known as IFTD.

This was my first time attending and must say I was very impressed.  Over 12,000 people representing the sportfishing industry came to see the latest in innovations, gear, tools, and network among the leaders in the key industries.  If you love fishing…this is a must see event.

Thanks to American Sportfishing Association and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association for running this fantastic event.

I am already booking my trip next year….

credit marc smith

credit marc smith

ICAST Email Header No Register

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For Immediate Release

Mary Jane Williamson, Communications Director
mjwilliamson@asafishing.org, 703-519-9691, x227

The World’s Largest Sportfishing Trade Show is Bigger Than Ever
ICAST 2015 hosted the global sportfishing industry July 14-17, in Orlando, Florida

Orange County Convention Center – July 17, 2015 – From exhibitors to buyers to outdoor media, almost 13,000 representatives of the global sportfishing community converged on the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., July 14-17, for the world’s largest sportfishing trade show. The 58th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades, better known as ICAST, produced by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), is the cornerstone of the sportfishing industry and is the showcase for the latest innovations in tackle, gear and accessories.

“This was, without a doubt, the biggest show that we have produced,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. “Between the exhibitors, buyers and media, the response has been the same – this is an outstanding show. ICAST is our industry’s show. Our commitment to our member exhibitors, media and all show attendees is to listen and improve this show in any and every way we can.”

Nussman further said, “The Jacksonville Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley, who was our State of the Industry Breakfast keynote speaker, had everyone fired up about the importance of teamwork and the importance of possessing a genuine appreciation for your work and always being and doing the best you can.”

Nussman also noted, “On Thursday afternoon, Florida Governor Rick Scott met with industry leaders in a round table discussion about being more effective in advocating for our sport and working to keep Florida the number one fishing and boating state in the U.S.”

Dave Bulthuis, ASA’s chairman of the Board and vice president of Sales for Costa, had this to say about the show. “By far, 2015 was the best show ever, and next year is going to be even better. I expect to see everyone in Orlando in 2016.”

Gregg Wollner, immediate past ASA board chairman and Rapala’s executive vice president echoed Bulthuis’ comments by saying that ICAST 2015 was the best show we’ve ever produced.

“I will echo what everyone else has said: this was a great show. The evolution of ICAST is one of the most exciting aspects of the show,” said Show Director Ken Andres. “We’ve gone from a three-day trade show to ICAST Week and Super Tuesday.”

Andres noted, “I can’t begin to tell you how gratified I am that the first Super Tuesday, with the ICAST On the Water product demonstrations, the ICAST Cup bass fishing tournament, the Bass & Birdies golf tournament and the world-class concert with Easton Corbin, really upped the excitement level for the show.”

“There is no doubt that the show will continue on this growth trajectory as it expands to appeal to everyone in the fishing industry and everyone who wants to do business in the fishing industry. And that means global as well as domestic,” concluded Andres.

“Social media exploded this year with more and more exhibitors, buyers and media using all the social media channels available to them to get the word out about their products and the show.” said ASA’s Communications Director Mary Jane Williamson. ”More than 7,000 people engaged with us on ICAST’s Facebook page this week, reaching more than 93,000 people and 107,000 people engaged with us on Twitter either through direct tweets or re-tweeting. The word got out there this week about this show!”

2015 ICAST Show Sponsors
ASA would like to thank its generous members who signed on as ICAST sponsors. Our ICAST 2015 sponsors are: GoldCrocodile Bay Resort; Costa; Discovery’s Destination America; Experience Kissimmee; Fishing Tackle Retailer; FLW, LLC; Florida Sportsman: Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation; Under Armour, Inc.; Visit Orlando; and World Fishing Network. SilverAmerican Tackle Company; In-Fisherman; Koppers Fishing & Tackle Corp; Marolina Outdoor Inc.; Pure Fishing, Inc.; and Wild Instinct Outdoors. BronzeBeyond Coastal; Buck Knives; Chums; Classic Fishing Products, Inc.; EvoCaps; Grander Custom Tackle, LLC; H2Outdoors; and Sunsect, Inc.

The New Product Showcase “Best of Show” Awards
Making up a special section of ICAST’s half a million gross square feet show floor, the New Product Showcase provides unique visibility for the latest innovations in sportfishing gear and accessories. The submitted products compete in the “Best of Show” competition where buyers and media members judge each new product.

This year, 270 companies submitted 889 products in the New Product Showcase, all vying for Best of Show honors in 24 categories and the overall “Best of Show” award.

First-time exhibitor, eddyline kayaks and their C-135 YakAttack Edition was voted by buyers and media as the most innovative product in the ICAST 2015 New Product Showcase in both the Boat category and the overall “Best of Show.”

This year’s New Product Showcase winner’s also included first-time ICAST exhibitors Under Armour, Lifeshirt, RinseKit and YOLOtek.

The ICAST 2015 “Best of Show” awards were presented on Wednesday, July 15, during the Chairman’s Industry Awards Reception, sponsored by Costa, at the Orange County Convention Center.

ICAST 2016 is being held July 12-15, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

2015 ICAST New Product Showcase Award Winners
For product details, images and other information please contact the individual award winners’ contacts listed below.


ICAST 2015 Overall Best of Show – eddyline kayaks
Product: eddyline C-135 YakAttack Edition
Media Contact: Tom Remsing

Best of Show – Freshwater Rod – G. Loomis, Inc.
Product: E6X Bass
Media Contact: John Mazurkiewicz

Best of Show – Saltwater Rod – St. Croix Rods
Product: Avid Inshore
Media Contact:
Rich Belanger richb@stcroixrods.com

Best of Show – Fly Fishing Rod – St. Croix Rods
Product: Mojo Bass Fly
Media Contact: Rich Belanger

Best of Show – Freshwater Reel – Shimano American Corporation
Product: STRADIC C3000HG-K
Media Contact: John Mazurkiewicz

Best of Show – Saltwater Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc.
Product: PENN Clash
Media Contact: Ron Giudice

Best of Show – Fly Reel – Pure Fishing, Inc.
Product: New Pflueger Medalist Fly Reel
Media Contact: Ron Giudice

Best of Show – Hard Lure – Savage Gear
Product: Hard Shrimp
Media Contact: Brandon Cotton

Best of Show – Soft Lure – Koppers Fishing
Product: LIVETARGET Hollow Body Sunfish
Media Contact: Tom Chopin

Best of Show – Lifestyle Apparel – Under Armour, Inc.
Product: UA Storm Covert Pant
Media Contact: Eddie Stevenson

Best of Show – Technical Apparel – Lifeshirt
Product: Aegis Lifeshirt
Media Contact: Jim Emmons

 Best of Show – Boating Accessories – YETI Coolers
Product: YETI Hopper 20
Media Contact:
Mike May mikemay@backbonemedia.com  

Best of Show – Boats – eddyline kayaks
Product: eddyline C-135 YakAttack Edition
Media Contact: Tom Remsing

Best of Show – Combo – Lew’s Fishing Tackle
Product: Mach 1 Combo
Media Contact:
Gary Dollahon gary@dollahonpr.com  

Best of Show – Electronics –Johnson Outdoors
Product: Humminbird HELIX 7 SI
Media Contact:
Jim Edlund jim@traditionsmedia.com  

Best of Show – Eyewear – Costa
Product: Rooster
Media Contact: Liza Jones

Best of Show – Fishing Accessory – RinseKit
Product: RinseKit
Media Contact: Whitney Coombs

Best of Show – FishSmart – Release Ruler
Product: Freshwater Release Rulers
Media Contact: Neilson Paty

Best of Show – Fly Fishing Accessory – Simms Fishing Products
Product: G3 Guide Stockingfoot
Media Contact: Rich Hohne

Best of Show – Footwear – Simms Fishing Products
Product: Current Shoes
Media Contact: Rich Hohne

Best of Show – Giftware – YOLOtek Product:PowerStick
Media Contact: Christian Corley

Best of Show – Kids’ Tackle – Steinhauser, LLC
Product: Tangle-FREE Combo
Media Contact: Ralph Duda

Best of Show – Line – PowerPro
Product: Maxcuatro
Media Contact: John Mazurkiewicz

Best of Show – Tackle Management – Eposeidon Outdoor Adventures, Inc.
Product: KastKing Rack ‘em Up Rod Racks
Media Contact: Tom Gahan

Best of Show – Terminal Tackle – Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle
Product: Lazer Sharp Fillet Knife
Media Contact: Nickie Kiefer

ICAST 2016 will be held at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla., July 12 – 15, 2016. For complete ICAST information, visit ICASTfishing.org.


The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.

Categories: Fishing, Water | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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