If Michiganders have a saving grace, perhaps its that we, more than any other people, understand the importance of the Great Lakes. While we have the same partisan divides that exist across the country, preserving the quality of the Great Lakes is a priority that often united lawmakers across party lines. It’s long been that way — Great Lakes champion Patty Birkholz, for instance, is a former Michigan state senator who went on to serve as the director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes and then as director of the League of Conservation Voters’ West Michigan office.
So even while the Democratic Party is the one most identified with conservation and environmental issues, Michigan Republicans will often break ranks when the Great Lakes are at stake.
That’s exactly what’s happening now with Trump’s announced intent of slashing Great Lakes funding, which will put the world’s largest fresh water reservoir at risk of pollution and infiltration of invasive species.
Two weeks ago, state Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) offered a substitute resolution that added Trump’s name to a list of federal agencies the state Legislature is calling on to stop the spread of invasive species. Sabo’s substitute was adopted with widespread bipartisan report.
At the federal level, too, Michigan Republicans are insisting that others in their party understand the vital importance of the Great Lakes.
“Just look at my record,” (U.S. Rep. Tim) Walberg (R-MI7) said on Saturday when asked specifically if he’d fight Great Lakes funding cuts, saying he “absolutely” would.
“And we will fight in a bipartisan fashion as we have. One of the strongest caucuses that joins together is the Great Lakes Caucus,” he said.
“I truly hope that the president’s number that he put in his draft budget for Great Lakes was just a placeholder, because we’re not going to accept that.”
In response to another question, Walberg also said he believes in climate change and that humans are the cause of some of it.
Congressman Mike Bishop also criticized Trump for the massive funding cuts and asked Trump to protect the Great Lakes.
“The Great Lakes play an invaluable role in our daily life here in Michigan and neighboring states. Our environment, tourism, fishing and regional economy depend on the health and well-being of these precious waterways – and all are in serious jeopardy if we do not take action against the Asian Carp and fellow invasive species,” said Congressman Bishop. “I urge the President to direct the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately begin working with the states and local organizations on implementing a long-term strategy to protect and preserve the Great Lakes before potential damage is done.”