Launching America’s Great Waters Coalition

The National Wildlife Federation joined more than 30 other organizations and nine — count ’em, nine — members of Congress from across the country yesterday to launch America’s Great Waters Coalition, representing 9 large U.S. water ecosystems–the Gulf of Maine, Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, Everglades, Coastal Louisiana, Mississippi River, San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, and the Great Lakes.

These habitats and others face sewage contamination, invasive species, habitat destruction, climate change effects and critical ignorance. Luckily, we still have a shot at restoring them and, in doing so, restoring ecosystems that sustain people, wildlife and the economy.

Guest lawmakers included Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Representatives Norm Dicks (WA), Elijah Cummings (MD), Tim Bishop (NY), Jay Inslee (WA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Mike Quigley (IL), John Sarbanes (MD), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL)). They made it clear that, economic and ecological benefits aside, the fight to restore these ecosystems is deeply personal.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN) spoke out on behalf of native Minnesotans and visitors who boat, swim, and fish on the Great Lakes (Some $50 million a year spent on bait and tackle!)

Rep. Jay Inslee (WA)son of Jimi Hendrix’s biology teacher, apparently –came across as Experienced —not to mention ‘Bold as Love’—in his appeal for water resource protection. It was as if he said, ‘
Hey Joe
You Got Me Floating‘. My One Rainy Wish is that we not Wait Until Tomorrow to preserve America’s great water ecosystems. Crosstown Traffic.
(Seriously, though, Inslee talked about Puget Sound, its threatened ecosystem, and his love of the Northwest’s waters.)

Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) decried the lax environmental standards that have led to dirty drinking water and mutated aquatic wildlife in the Chesapeake and elsewhere, while Rep. John Sarbanes (MD) recalled crabbing with his grandparents in the same waters, before neglect severely damaged the largest estuary in the U.S.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) invoked Marjory Stoneman Douglas, an Everglades conservation pioneer, and the need to carry on her fight wherever water habitats are imperiled.

By the end of the event, it was clear that America’s waterways touch us–restore us–at least as much as we touch them. From Washington to New York, everyone had a story about the Great Waters, and nobody left the launch unaware of the stakes.

Me? Throughout early childhood, all I wanted to do was visit the Everglades. When I finally got the chance, at about age 10 or 12, I thrilled to the bugs and muck and left with approximately 4,000 blurry photos–There! It’s a snake! I think! Maybe a vine…?–and a passion for protecting our nation’s wild, wet things. It was great to see leaders and decision-makers sharing our concern.

America’s Great Waters Coalition includes the following organizations: Alliance for the Great Lakes, American Rivers, Audubon New York, Biodiversity Project, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, Committee on Middle Fork Vermilion River, Corsica River Conservancy, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Everglades Law Center, Florida Wildlife Federation, Freshwater Future, Friends of the Chemung River Watershed, Gulf of Maine Restoration and Conservation Initiative, Gulf Restoration Network, Illinois Council of Trout Unlimited, Indiana Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, Lake Erie Region Conservancy, League of Conservation Voters, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, National Audubon Society, National Parks Conservation Association, National Wildlife Federation, People for Puget Sound, Planning and Conservation League, Restore America’s Estuaries, Save The Bay – San Francisco, Save the Dunes Conservation Fund, Sierra Club, The Watershed Center – Grand Traverse Bay, The Wetlands Initiative, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Trout Unlimited, Washington Wildlife Federation, Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association.