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Alternatives Journal, Environment, Ontario Politics

Next Steps in Protecting the Great Lakes

Lake Huron/Photo by Jimmy Brown

Lake Huron shoreline/Photo by Jimmy Brown

In the face of decades of environmental, pollution and development stresses on the shorelines, wetlands, river basins, flora and fauna of the Great Lakes, the government of Ontario realized making a difference in the health of these critical water bodies would require all hands on deck.

Provincial dollars would be needed to help improve the vitality and strengthen protections of lakes Huron, Erie, Ontario and Superior (in addition to the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers and any water basins that drain into the province’s four Great Lakes).

But how to allocate the money?

The province controls the purse strings and keeps an eye on basin-wide areas of concern, but the variety and number of problems facing the Great Lakes are so voluminous that the government cannot tackle them alone.

Nor should they. Realizing they lack a grassroots knowledge of projects big and small that hundreds of local municipalities, conservation agencies, not-for-profits, academic institutions and First Nations groups have about local issues in their neck of the woods, the government opted to reach out.

Perhaps, taken together, everyone’s cumulative knowledge of their part of the province would be stronger than solutions from the top down. That could have a tremendous impact on improving water quality and species habitat, in addition to untold recreational and economic uses people depend on the Great Lakes for.

A marriage of provincial dollars and local know-how seemed entirely appropriate to begin tackling such an important and large-scale issue.

On June 6, 2012, Environment Minister Jim Bradley was at a newly redesigned boardwalk on Queen’s Quay in Toronto to announce the introduction of legislation designed to create the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund, a pool of money to be allocated in $25,000 or less increments over several rounds to community groups proposing specific projects to improve the Great Lakes in some small but ultimately significant way.

“Ontario relies on the Great Lakes for our strength and success,” Bradley said at the time. “The [government of former premier Dalton McGuinty] is acting today to protect our lakes and restore them to environmental health.”

The first round of funding under the newly created Guardian Community Fund greenlighted 80 projects to the tune of $1,741,270 in total.

The full article can be found at Alternatives Journal.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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