The future of the Great Lakes depends on teamwork.
Lawmakers and residents collectively need to educate others of the lakes’ importance to Michigan and the larger region, said U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, keynote speaker Friday at Central Michigan University’s sixth annual Great Lakes Science in Action Symposium.
That education concerns ecology and economy, he said, noting that the lakes alone sustain 800,000 jobs and close to $50 billion in economic activity from fishing, shipping and recreation.
A Republican, Huizenga said he and Democratic lawmakers — in particular U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio — put politics aside on the lakes.
Those efforts have not only kept $300 million in the budget for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, but there are plans in the House and Senate to increase it to $475M for future fiscal years.
“At the end of the day, we need to be in this together, and I think we are,” he said.
Daniel Echinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, also spoke at the symposium, emphasizing restoration, recovery and creating more opportunities for people to connect with nature.