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In an unprecedented display of intergovernmental and multi-state collaboration, dozens of government officials and tribal representatives signed a Great Lakes Declaration and a framework document for the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration to restore and protect the Great Lakes ecosystem. Officials in attendance included members of President Bushs cabinet and senior staff, U.S. senators and congressmen, Great Lakes governors, Tribes, mayors, state senators and representatives.
"This is the largest formal collaboration of its kind focused on the
environmental and economic health of the Great Lakes Basin," commented Mike Leavitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Today, we are committing our collective organizations to protecting and improving this national treasure."
The signers of the Great Lakes Declaration pledged to collaboratively work together toward a common goal of protecting, restoring and improving the Great Lakes ecosystem in order to address the new and continuing challenges and ensure a healthy ecosystem for future generations.
The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Framework establishes strategy teams, made up of government, quasi-government and other regional stakeholders, as the working bodies responsible for drafting action plans that will be used for the draft Great Lakes strategy. The teams will use the nine priorities identified in October 2003 by the Great Lakes Governors and since adopted by the Great Lakes Mayors and ratified by the Great Lakes Commission as their organizational foundation. This strategy will be presented to the members of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration for resolution of final issues and adoption at Summit I, scheduled for the summer of 2005.
In May 2004, President Bush signed Executive Order 13340 creating a Cabinet-level Task Force to accelerate the coordination for protection and restoration of the Great Lakes system. The Executive Order directed the Task Force to help convene and establish "a regional collaboration of national significance for the Great Lakes" among the U.S. federal government, the Great Lakes states, local communities, Tribes and other interests in the Great Lakes region.
The Great Lakes constitute the largest freshwater system on earth, containing roughly 20 percent of the worlds fresh water supply. In addition to their natural beauty, the Great Lakes serve as a source of drinking water for more than 30 million people, support the culture and life ways of native communities, form the backbone for billions of dollars in shipping, trade, and fishing and provide food and recreational opportunities for millions of American and Canadian citizens.