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The Michigan Daily: Dingell calls for renewed conservation legislation at Ann Arbor press conference

Michigan Daily

Washington, DC, August 10, 2016 | Kevin Linder

Local leaders gathered at the Washtenaw Food Hub in Ann Arbor Charter Township for a press conference to discuss the need to reauthorize the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act Tuesday morning.

Last month, Congresswomen Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.), Candice Miller (R–Mich.) and Darin LaHood (R–Ill.) introduced the bill for reauthorization. The act, which was first introduced in 1998 to provide assistance to local groups and designed to encourage conservation and restoration projects, has not been reauthorized since 2006.

The bill was submitted by a partnership of organizations including the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, The Great Lakes Fishery Commission and nonprofit group Ducks Unlimited.

All three of the aforementioned groups had representatives attend the event and speak on the importance of the legislation to work that they do.

The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 2016 authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide financial support to states and organizations to develop and execute proposals to conserve, restore and manage fish and wildlife populations and their habitats.

Since 1998, the GLFWRA has provided more than $24.4 million dollars in federal funding to 157 research and restoration projects.

According to a press release from Dingell’s office, the bill would authorize $6 million annually through 2021 to implement restoration projects and FWS activities related to the Great Lakes region, and would require a 25 percent local match of total project cost.

The legislation has been introduced as a bipartisan bill, with two Republicans as two of the three state representatives pushing for its re-authorization. Dingell told the Daily that common interests should help the bill pass.

“I introduced it with two Republicans and we all live in a Great Lakes area,” she said. “We have to get the bill reported out of the Natural Resources Committee, which I think we will, and I think it’s just a matter of time to get some of these kinds of bill through. Hopefully it won’t be controversial.”

During the press conference, she spoke on other common benefits should the bill pass through the NRC and eventually through Congress.

“This one’s basic 101,” she said. “It’s good for the economy, it’s good for the environment, it’s good for conservation and we’ve got to get it done.”

Experts at the press conference discussed why this bill is especially helpful for efforts being made towards conservation. Gildo Tori, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited and biologist, said that GLFWRA is different from many other federal programs which focus on supporting research.

“The unique thing about the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act is that it focuses on putting projects about land and conservation on the ground,” she said. “It is one of the key implementation programs for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

Dingell noted the bill could bring as much as $36 million in benefits to Great Lakes preservation.

Ducks Unlimited is one organization whose work has been funded by this legislation, and representatives of the body were present at the conference.

Jason Hill, manager for conservation programs at Ducks Unlimited, spoke on the work the organization does and noted the intended use of the approximately $560,000 grant.

“The overall goals of this grant are to restore 285 acres of wetlands and 125 acres of native grassland prairie, which ultimately help reduce nutrient and sediment input into Lake Erie,” he said.

Following the meeting, everyone in attendance gathered into cars and drove a short distance down the road from the Food Hub to visit a local plot that has undergone restoration work supported by GLFWRA funding.

The group visited a 30-acre plot, according to a map distributed at the meeting, that was previously used for conventional farming of corn and soybeans. It has been restored to its natural prairie state, populated by native tallgrass species that are native to Michigan.

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