The Great Lakes Basin is defined by its rich water resources and aquatic habitats: sweetwater seas that contain 20% of the earth's freshwater, expanses of coastal marsh teaming with fish and wildlife, blue-ribbon trout streams, inland lakes that sparkle like jewels, and small isolated bogs. These and other aquatic habitats in the Great Lakes Basin protect water quality, provide important fish and wildlife habitat, serve as reservoirs of biological diversity and improve the quality of life of the Great Lakes Basin's residents and visitors.
Individuals and their communities benefit in significant ways when lakes, rivers, wetlands, and other aquatic habitats are protected. Water and wetland-based recreation and a healthy tourist economy depend upon clean rivers and streams and associated wetlands. To ensure that aquatic resources are protected and managed soundly for the benefit of current and future generations, we must recognize the critical role and responsibility that citizens play in the continued success of these efforts.
The Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Program contains two primary components: the Network and the Fund. The Network component of the creation of a basin-wide network and nine state-province-wide networks of citizens and organizations working to protect wetlands, shorelines, rivers, lakes, and other aquatic habitats. The project will provide funding to establish the Network "coordinators" in each state/province. Participants in the Network will receive technical assistance from Watershed Council staff and network coordinators in each participating state/province via periodic meetings, telephone conversations, and electronic communications. In addition, the program involves publication of a bimonthly newsletter titled The Citizens' Wetland Report and Habitat News.
The Fund component of the program involves the development of a mini-grants program under which grants of approximately $2,500 will be awarded to community organizations active in aquatic habitat protection. Funded projects could include locally-based habitat protection roundtables, public education campaigns, biological assessments and inventories, citizen-based land use planning initiatives, and skills development for citizen leaders. Representatives from each Great Lakes state and the province of Ontario will be involved in the management and operation of the overall program. These individuals will coordinate Network activities in the respective state or province and establish Basin-wide funding criteria and priorities for the Fund. In the first year of the program, Network coordinators will be established in Ontario, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Next year, the Network coordinators in the other Great Lakes states will be established.
"Through technical and financial support, the development of effective networks, and cooperative agenda setting, this project will invest necessary funds and energy into the organizations and communities working to improve the quality of life and environmental resources in the Basin," said Mott Foundation Program Officer, Lois DeBacker.
Wetlands and aquatic habitats enhance our quality of life. Without them we would not be able to experience the chorus of spring peepers; benefit from flood protection; listen to the haunting call of the loon; enjoy clear water; or sense the mystery of a dark swamp. Aquatic habitats benefit us all, and only through citizen involvement will these areas by protected into the next century.
Grant applications for the mini-grants component of the project will become available in July, 1996. Those interested in applying for funding under this initiative should write to Wil Cwikiel, Director, Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund, P.O. Box 300, Conway, MI 49722.
Wil Cwikiel is a water resource program director for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council located in Conway, Michigan. He is the director of the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund, a program of the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.
Return to the Index of Synapse 35, Spring Equinox 1996