— Leaders of the Great Lakes states have successfully partnered in the past to achieve shared goals, as evidenced by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Great Lakes Compact.
With this $500,000 grant to the Great Lakes Commission, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is helping leaders come together again to prevent a common foe — the Asian carp — from threatening the Great Lakes ecosystem and jeopardizing the region’s $7 billion annual sports fishing industry.
A team led by the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, two binational coalitions of state and local officials who represent more than 33 million people, will investigate the best economic and environmental solutions for preventing non-native creatures from swimming into the Great Lakes via Chicago’s canals and further disrupting the delicate ecosystem balance.
“Our problem is bigger than Asian carp alone,” said Tim Eder, Great Lakes Commission executive director. “It’s time for us to prevent future invasive species movement in a way that protects the array of benefits that Chicago’s waterway system provides.”
This project will bring together all key interests — shippers, citizen groups, businesses, agencies, boaters, tribes, and others — to help evaluate options for re-separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems, as the natural barriers between these two watersheds were removed during the last century.
“Chicago’s canals currently act as an open door? for invasive species to travel between two of America’s most important freshwater systems,” said William S. White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation.
“For several decades, Mott has made grants to restore and protect the Great Lakes because we see firsthand what a treasure they are,” he said. “In response to this current threat, we are providing funds to bring interested and affected groups together to develop a plan that is both economically and environmentally beneficial for the entire region.”
While addressing the Chicago waterway problem is critically important, White said, so is addressing other entry points for invasive species across the basin.
This work is being advanced by a number of Great Lakes organizations — including several Mott environment grantees such as Alliance for the Great Lakes, Great Lakes United, and the National Wildlife Federation.
“Mott’s financial support, when coupled with previously announced funding from the Joyce Foundation and the Great Lakes Protection Fund, is evidence that interested groups throughout the region understand the importance of working together to find options that protect both basins,” said David Ullrich, executive director of the binational Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.
“This 18-month comprehensive study will lead to options for improving transportation, water quality, and flood management in the waterways, as well as stopping invasive species,” he said.
The Mott Foundation, established in 1926 by an automotive pioneer, is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society.
It supports nonprofit programs throughout the U.S. and, on a limited geographic basis, internationally.
Grantmaking is focused in four programs: Civil Society, Environment, Flint Area and Pathways Out of Poverty. Besides Flint, offices are located in metropolitan Detroit, Johannesburg (South Africa) and London.
The Foundation, with 2009 yearend assets of approximately $2.1 billion, made 469 grants totaling $109.3 million.
For more information, visit Mott.org.
— Gary Gould