Most of my strongest memories of the Great Lakes involve the people that I enjoyed them with. I remember going on a tour of the Great Lakes in Sault Ste Marie with my parents, camping on Lake Michigan with my girlfriend, who later became my wife, and family vacations with my kids up near Cape Croker on Georgian Bay. It’s all about family and friends.
I don’t have a favourite Great Lake, they’re all unique and special in their own ways. I love the power and raw energy of Lake Superior; I love the beauty, the sand, the warmth and summer memories on Lake Michigan; Lake Huron has fabulous fishing; and I used to live near the Thousand Islands on the east end of Lake Ontario and I have special memories there. I really think they’re all special, unique, and valuable.
I happened to work for a conservation organization on the MIchigan United Conservation Clubs, and one of the projects my mentor and boss undertook at the time was to form a coalition with groups throughout the Great Lakes, which later became Great Lakes United. I was around when the idea for a Great Lakes Coalition initiated and launched, and I participated in the formative meetings that later became Great Lakes United.
The International Joint Commission (IJC) is a binational organization. The Great Lakes Commission was formed under US domestic law; it represents the states (in the first order) and the provinces (in the second order). The distinction exists because the Great Lakes Commission was created under US law, but we recognize that we can’t manage or protect, or even think about the Great Lakes without thinking about what’s going with Canada. Therefore, we brought the provinces in as associate members in the 1990’s.
We (the Great Lakes Commission) interact on behalf of the Great Lake States, while the IJC interacts independently, commenting to and advising the US and Canadian governments. Whereas the GLC represents the states, the IJC is more of an independent auditor of US and Canadian progress.
I think one of the things we’ve done is be able to raise awareness with the public and the Great Lakes communities, together with other organizations, about contemporary problems such as nutrient pollution in Lake Erie and problems with invasive species that threatens the Great Lakes. We’ve been able to communicate the concerns and the solutions from the state governments to the federal government, and that’s resulted in a great investment in the form of the Great Lake Restoration Initiative. I think it’s been our success, coupled with partnering with cities and citizens, that conveyed the Great Lakes are ready for this investment and support.
We’re willing to take on the role as partners with the federal government to really make a difference in the health of the lakes.
My Watermark is all the Great Lakes.