Great Lakes’ Budget Valentine

President Barack Obama released his budget on Valentines Day–and while the love is still there, this year’s box of chocolates is not as full as in years past.

The president’s 2012 budget, released Monday, contained $350 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — a reduction of $125 million from the 2010 budget of $475 million and an increase of $50 million from the amount the president requested for the 2011 budget.

The president’s 2012 budget comes as the U.S. House of Representatives debates a continuing resolution to complete the current 2011 budget. The continuing resolution provides $225 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — a reduction of $250 million from 2010 levels.

Congress needs to complete a 2011 budget by March 4, at which time the current continuing resolution expires.

Bottom line: Now is not the time for the president to reduce funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The situation is even more distressing in Congress, where funding for the GLRI could be slashed by more than half this year.

This despite the fact that the GLRI has been widely hailed as kick-starting the nation’s effort to restore the Great Lakes, which continue to suffer from toxic pollutants, invasive species and the loss of fish and wildlife habitat. The lakes also face the growing threat of an Asian carp invasion.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has consistently advocated for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to be funded at $475 million since it was introduced in 2009 and will continue to do so. National Wildlife Federation co-chairs the coalition.

Protecting the Great Lakes is a national priority: The lakes are the foundation of the world’s third largest regional economy, support a $7 billion fishery and provide drinking water for more than 30 million people.

The president and Congress should treat the Great Lakes like a national jewel when considering funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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