NEMWI Hosts Annual Great Lakes Environmental Summit

The Northeast-Midwest Institute held its 2024 Great Lakes Environmental Summit last Wednesday, February 7th. The Summit, which has been held annually for over a quarter-century, serves as a premier gathering of Great Lakes stakeholder organizations to discuss the upcoming federal legislative agenda. The Nature Conservancy served as the Summit’s primary sponsor, and the Great Lakes Commission and GEI Consultants co-sponsored the event. Over 80 people were in attendance.

Michael Reuter, Midwest Division Director for The Nature Conservancy, opened the Summit with remarks. He highlighted the cooperative nature of Great Lakes work, that collaboration among the network of Great Lakes organizations has been critical to policy successes. He also balanced the celebration of these successes with the acknowledgment of the challenges yet to come, challenges that will need to be overcome together.

Members of Congress also addressed the Summit. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) spoke about his work as a Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force (GLTF), especially the recent introduction of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act of 2024 (see news article below). He also stressed the need to work bi-nationally with Canada, and talked about the recent progress their government has made. GLTF Co-Chair Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) discussed the Mapping the Great Lakes Act, which she recently introduced alongside Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI). She also discussed her work on the House Natural Resources and Energy and Commerce Committees, and what those Committees are working on to begin this year. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), GLTF Co-Chair, and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) both addressed their Healthy Farms, Healthy Watersheds bill that would direct the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to focus their Harmful Algal Bloom mitigation strategies on priority watersheds in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay regions. Rep. Kaptur also spoke on other issues of interest for the Great Lakes, including lakebed mapping, contaminants, and the Soo Locks.

Discussion at the Summit also revolved around FY2024 and FY2025 Appropriations, the upcoming Farm Bill, HABHRCA reauthorization, and WRDA. Congressional Committee staff updated attendees on what Congress is doing on these and other pieces of legislation, and the challenges and opportunities for policy in the upcoming year. NRCS provided an overview of their conservation programs and the work they are doing to achieve better environmental outcomes and limit phosphorus loads. The Great Lakes National Program Office of the EPA (GLNPO) also gave an update on the GLRI, including progress on Areas of Concern and the state of the upcoming Action Plan IV.

NEMWI is grateful to the Summit sponsor, The Nature Conservancy, and our co-sponsors, the Great Lakes Commission and GEI Consultants, for making this event possible. For over 65 years, The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 100 sites throughout the Great Lakes, including forests, wetlands, and rivers throughout the region. The Great Lakes Commission, a binational government agency established in 1955, continues to promote policies that protect the Great Lakes and the economies and ecosystems they support. GEI Consultants is a leading consulting engineering and environmental firm that delivers value by providing professional services to improve our world’s built environments.