REMARKS [AS PREPARED]: GREAT LAKES FISH & WILDLIFE RESTORATION ACT OF 2006
Contact: Andrew Langworthy
I appreciate today's hearing and the opportunity to comment on this legislation. The legislation that I introduced in the Senate and that Representative Kildee introduced in the House is the product of months of discussions with states, tribal management authorities, non-governmental organizations, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Because all of the parties have spent so much time carefully drafting the legislation, it is a non-controversial, bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in July.
The Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act was first enacted in 1990 and was reauthorized in 1998 to coordinate the management, protection, and restoration of fish and wildlife resources within the Great Lakes Basin. Many groups support this program because it is a good management tool and facilitates better communication between agencies.
The Great Lakes harbor a wide variety of fish and wildlife. Over 140 fish species and over 500 species of migratory bird can be found in the Basin. Over 100 fish and wildlife species in the Basin are globally rare or found only in the Great Lakes Basin.
As in many coastal areas, there is a heavy concentration of people and industry bordering the Great Lakes. You cannot see the resulting environmental threats to the Lakes simply by looking at them. One study found that since 1990, Lake Michigan's yellow perch population has decreased by about 80%! Further, the Great Lakes are threatened by the continuing introduction of invasive species that negatively impact the native food chain and habitat. For example, zebra mussels - an aquatic invasive species - cause $500 million per year in damages to the Great Lakes.
The fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes are facing grave dangers, and the Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Restoration Act of 2006 would provide needed resources and authority to alleviate some of these concerns. For instance, the bill would reauthorize the grant program to states and tribes. Past grants have been used to identify and rehabilitate near-shore habitats for walleye and yellow perch in eastern Lake Erie; to conduct a Great Lakes-wide cormorant fishery predation study to better understand the relationship between double-crested cormorants and fish populations; and to improve habitat in the Little Silver Creek, a tributary to Lake Superior, in order to create to a sustainable coaster brook trout population in the watershed. The need for this type of work exceeds the current amount of funding authorized for grants.
The bill also includes a new authority for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to undertake projects that have a regional benefit to fish and wildlife. Under this new authority, the Service would undertake projects based on the recommendations of states and tribes.
Additionally, the bill would require the Fish & Wildlife Service to improve communications by reporting on the fish and wildlife grants that have been awarded, the results of those grants, and actions taken in support of Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, which was created by Executive Order in 2004.
This bill reflects the collaboration of many groups and agencies with expertise in fish and wildlife management. All of these groups have the goal of protecting and restoring Great Lakes fish and wildlife, and this bill will continue in the right direction.