Proposed Great Lakes Protection Act Wins Praise from Environmental Groups: Environmental groups ready to work with all parties to protect the lakes

Joint Media Release

Jun 06 2012

For Immediate Release

An alliance of Great Lakes environmental groups applauds the Ontario government’s draft Great Lakes Strategy, released today in Toronto. The groups also welcome the government's proposal for a Great Lakes Protection Act. The Act and strategy aim to address some of the biggest problems facing the Great Lakes. Among the strategy’s focuses are: water quality; beaches, coastal wetlands and biodiversity; and sustaining economic activity.

The groups say that immediate action is required for the Great Lakes’ health to improve. Although there are success stories, like improved sewage treatment, and the drop in toxic chemicals like PCB’s, the Great Lakes are described as being “at a tipping point”.

“We feel that our collective advice to the government has been heard. We are looking forward to seeing all party support for an important Act to restore the Great Lakes, a huge economic engine, and the drinking water of 37 million people,” said Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence.

“The government’s proposed bottom-up approach to identifying problems and solutions based on local input and involvement is efficient and inclusive. I am also pleased to see that this Act follows the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s advice to bring multiple Ministries together to address cross-cutting issues,” said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel to Canadian Environmental Law Association.

A number of factors, including population growth, loss of green space, invasive species, and an increasingly complex chemical soup, made worse by climate change, are combining to put stress on the Great Lakes.

“Americans will be pleased that Ontario now has a plan to work together with all stakeholders to restore degraded areas and protect what good habitat we have left in the Great Lakes,” said Sierra Club’s Mary Muter.

“Strong policies to conserve wetlands across the Great Lakes basin, particularly in heavily settled regions, are essential to stop and reverse wetland loss thereby ensuring that our Great Lakes remain healthy and resilient to current and future pressures,” says Mark Gloutney, Director of Regional Operations, Eastern Region, Ducks Unlimited Canada.

“Ontario’s planned actions are a major step forward in putting us into a leadership role, which will strengthen Ontario’s ability to encourage actions in other states and provinces through our own example. This is critical to address the major problems now threatening the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem,” said John Jackson, Program Director for Great Lakes United.

The groups are pleased that the government intends to create action plans for particular priority areas, or lakes, based on the issues affecting that area.

Over the summer the organizations will encourage people to learn about the government’s strategy and participate in the discussion about the future of the Great Lakes.

About the groups:
The Canadian Environmental Law Association works to protect human health and our environment by seeking justice for those harmed by pollution and by working to change policies to prevent such problems in the first place. www.cela.ca

Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, other non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment. Learn more at www.ducks.ca

Ecojustice is the country’s leading charitable organization dedicated to using the law to defend Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. www.ecojustice.ca

Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all. www.environmentaldefence.ca

Great Lakes United is a thirty-year-old coalition of groups in Canada and the U.S. working to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River ecosystem. www.greatlakesunited.org

The Sierra Club is a grassroots, volunteer-driven organization working to protect and restore the health of the natural environment, including human communities by empowering Sierra Club members and the citizenry through education, advocacy, action and outdoor adventures. The Great Lakes Section is addressing the multiple stressors on the Great Lakes ecosystem using bi-national coordination of activities with the 9 Great Lakes Sierra Club Chapters. http://ontario.sierraclub.ca/en/great-lakes-section

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Stephanie Kohls, Environmental Defence
416-323-9521 ext. 232; 647-280-9521 (cell)
skohls@environmentaldefence.ca

Theresa A. McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association
416-960-2284 x 219
theresa@cela.ca

Julie Cayley, Head, Industry and Government Relations, Ontario, Ducks Unlimited Canada 705-627-7218
j_cayley@ducks.ca

Dr. Anastasia M. Lintner, Staff Lawyer & Economist, Ecojustice
416-368-7533 x 530
alintner@ecojustice.ca

John Jackson, Program Director, Great Lakes United
519-591-7503
jjackson@glu.org

Mary Muter, Sierra Club Ontario
905-833-2020
marym@sierraclub.ca

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