Category Archives: Events

Events and or activities that do not fit into one of our traditional campaigns.

Connecting for Clean Water: First statewide Water Sentinels gathering a huge success!

Group Photo at Blackhawk Park.jpg

Last weekend, Sierra Club volunteers from around the state came together for our first Illinois Water Sentinels gathering, hosted by the Eagle View Group in the Quad Cities. The weekend included presentations from water experts, outings to explore the area and witness the impacts of flooding, plus opportunities to connect with one another over shared meals and social activities.

Centennial Bridge.jpeg

Speakers from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Augustana College, American Rivers, Living Lands and Waters, the Rock Island County Waste Management Agency and the Illinois Chapter of Sierra Club shared fascinating information about local, regional and statewide efforts to protect clean water, restore the health and resilience of our waterways, aquatic life and riverfront communities, and ensure safe drinking water for all. Presentation topics included:

  • Freshwater mussel relocation in the Mississippi River;
  • The story of Living Lands and Waters (a one-of-a-kind “industrial strength” river cleanup operation);
  • Floodplain restoration and flood risk management;
  • Addressing Illinois’ nutrient pollution problem through local and state action;
  • Monitoring and communicating about water quality;
  • Building student and community partnerships for clean water and public health;
  • Better recycling (and reconsidering) to protect our waterways; and 
  • Organizing for water equity and justice and building a clean water campaign plan.

77637F99-DC0A-4E79-B323-97F3E4195DDB.jpeg

We also heard beautiful drumming and singing by Regina Tsosie who leads the Native American Coalition of the Quad-Cities and learned some of the history of Native Americans who first occupied the area. Historian Beth Carvey, who directed the Hauberg Indian Museum in Rock Island for 36 years, shared about the history of the Sauk and Meskwaki tribes during our evening at the Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island, which occupies much of the historic site of the village of Saukenuk, the home of a band of Native Americans of the Sauk nation. 

The goals of the gathering were to provide opportunities for Sierra Club volunteers from around the state to come together and connect with each other, feel a sense of belonging to a broader statewide team of water protectors and be inspired and equipped to expand their local efforts to protect clean water.

Blackhawk Historic Site.jpg

Our water teams throughout the state do a variety of activities that bring communities together around local action for clean water. Activities include monitoring local rivers and streams, hosting beach and river clean-ups, advocating for federal funding for Great Lakes restoration and state funding for investments in clean water infrastructure, lobbying for legislation to protect water quality and ensure safe drinking water, and tabling at community events to share these initiatives with the public. Learn more about our water teams and how you can get involved here.

We appreciate every person who spent their weekend with us, and especially the Eagle View Group for hosting!

Group Photo at Allens Friday Night (1).JPG

 

Advertisements

Reflections on HOW Great Lakes Conference in Detroit

Earlier in May, I attended the Healing our Waters (HOW) Coalition’s annual Great Lakes Conference. It was the coalition’s 14th (and my 4th) iteration of this conference, and this year showed a palpable shift in how things are done, who is invited to the podium and what content is highlighted. The conference booklet describes a shift in their priorities:

“Increasingly, the Healing Our Water–Great Lakes Coalition has been working to ensure that ecological restoration of the Great Lakes means that all of the region’s people can have access to affordable, clean, safe drinking water; to eat fish that are safe and not toxic; to live healthy lives that are not undermined by toxic pollutants and legacy contaminants. We know that healthy lakes and healthy lives go hand-in-hand.”

To put action behind this commitment, the coalition formed its Equity Advisory and Action Committee in 2017. The efforts of the committee and the support behind it were visible as Great Lakes advocates gathered for two days of connection, inspiration and collaboration.

A meaningful demonstration of the coalition’s commitment to equity was shown when HOW leaders decided to postpone the conference from its original dates in October due to an active strike by the workers at the hotel where the conference was to be held. In an act of solidarity with the protesting workers, HOW announced it would not be asking conference attendees to cross the picket line and would be postponing the conference to the spring. A representative from the hotel workers union came to the podium during the conference to speak about the impact of this decision and express their appreciation for this support of their efforts for better treatment and higher wages for hotel workers. While I can in no way take credit for deciding to postpone the conference, I felt proud to be part of a coalition that chose to put aside the cost and inconvenience of changing the dates in order to put action behind their stated values.

The conference took place in Detroit, Michigan and I welcomed the opportunity to return to my home state and the city that has experienced so much struggle, injustice, heartbreak, rebirth, and renewal, and has shown the world its strength and resilience. 

Detroit Statue.jpgI had the privilege of participating in a biking tour that showcased parts of the city that I hadn’t seen since my high school senior trip to Detroit, and other parts that I had never seen before – parts that have experienced dramatic changes over time and are now reawakening with vibrancy thanks to the tireless efforts and inspired vision of local leaders and organized residents. Groups like the Eastern Market Corporation are creating a future where Detroit thrives as a regional food hub with urban farms, food processing centers and markets all within one neighborhood. Community members are working together to create a city that is a desirable place to live and work with affordable housing and active transit, thriving local businesses and economic growth that benefits residents and attracts visitors.

Many of the city’s features serve to highlight the beauty of the natural and human environment, such as the riverwalk that provides access to the city’s waterfront and the murals that express the creativity of local artists and power of the community.

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 1.58.30 PM.png

TheyTriedtoBuryUs.jpg

When I wasn’t pedaling through city blocks or along the two-mile greenway converted from rail to trail, I was connecting with other Great Lakes advocates from around the region like a young man from Cleveland who’s building robots to solve environmental problems and a woman from Flint who’s working to protect Michigan residents against harmful PFAs in their water. I was soaking in the wisdom of speakers like Mustafa Santiago Ali, Monica Lewis Patrick and Carla Walker who spoke on issues of water affordability, organizing for water liberation and environmental justice, and told stories about what happens when community members take action into their own hands when the government fails them. I was basking in the beauty of Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty’s poetry and songs by Detroit’s own Aretha Franklin. This infusion of art and creativity brought a new energy to the experience that I now firmly believe should be welcomed into every stuffy conference room or sterile hotel ballroom.

The conference’s breakout sessions — while always hard to choose between — provided a deeper dive on some of the issues, systems and projects affecting the Great Lakes region. I expanded my toolbox of actionable strategies for proactive, inclusive community engagement with the Delta Institute, learned how non-profit organizations can thrive by mimicking nature’s structures, and was inspired by stories of Detroit residents creating their own solar-powered light when the streetlights were removed from their neighborhood.

IMG_1790.jpg

Gloria Rivera of Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit speaks about biomimicry for social innovation.

IMG_1791.jpg

 

ModelTinDetroit.jpg

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the HOW’s annual Great Lakes Conference, it’s that the reception is not to be missed. This year was no different, with a trip to the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant where original Model T’s from the 1900s are preserved to showcase Detroit’s automotive heritage and spirit of innovation. While we browsed the antique vehicles, we were entertained by live music from members of the Gathering Orchestra, a program of the Carr Center, and snacked on delicious hor d’oeuvres from local caterers. I tried to soak in this experience and push away the “What the heck did I do to deserve this A-list treatment?” thought lurking in the back of my mind. I remembered the words on biomimicry from Gloria Rivera and thought, “does nature deny the beauty of its flowers or refuse the abundance of its harvests because it’s ‘not deserving’?”…and then grabbed another tiny cup of chocolate mousse and enjoyed the music.

The last session I attended on the second day of the conference featured Kimathi Boothe, Environmental and Climate Justice Co-Chair for the Northern Oakland County Branch of the NAACP. He spoke about various water injustices experienced by residents of Oakland County and the ongoing efforts to mobilize, equip and build capacity, resiliency and resistance in frontline communities to create water warriors and achieve water liberation. As environmentalists, clean water advocates and justice warriors we are up against big challenges, but there is overwhelming power revealed when passionate people come together around a common vision. I left Detroit feeling reaffirmed that a future of clean water, healthy families and empowered communities is already being realized through our efforts. I’m so grateful to be part of this movement, working alongside great hearts and minds for the future of our Great Lakes.

FlintFundraiser

You can help rebuild community and empower Flint residents by supporting the Flint Community Water Lab

IMG_1792.jpg

Celebrate Illinois Pollinator Week with Sierra Club!

Teams of Sierrans throughout Illinois have been as busy as bees working to improve habitat for all pollinator- bees, birds and butterflies. DuPage Monarch Project, led by the River Prairie Group of the Sierra Club, asked Governor Rauner to name June 18-24 as Illinois Pollinator Week and he followed through! As we celebrate pollinators this week, take time to learn how you can help and how you can engage with other Sierra Club members in this important conservation work.

IllinoisPollinatorWeekPosterEnglish

Download English, Spanish and Polish versions of this poster at the end of this post.

Monarch butterflies and other important pollinators are in decline. The causes range from habitat loss, to pesticides, to climate change. Monarch butterfly populations have declined by as much as 90 percent over the last two decades.

Because Illinois is a critical migration flyway for monarch butterflies it has been designated as a high priority area for monarch conservation in strategies developed both by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. And, the monarch butterfly, Illinois’ state insect, was identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the most recent Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.

The Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign formed The Monarch Team–volunteers who works at the Group level to make the Prairie State better for monarchs, which in turn helps all of our valuable pollinators. The Team:

  • Advocates for critical Monarch habitat with new public lands like the Hackmatack and Kankakee National Wildlife Refuges, and continuing restoration at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and other sites.
  • Works with partner organizations to develop policies to reduce, regulate and/or eliminate the use of toxic pesticides that are lethal to pollinators and the plants they depend on.
  • Collaborates on statewide policy to increase pollinator habitat on public and private land from farmland to urban areas to roadside rights of way.
  • Hosts and/or participates at educational events and festivals that promote planting native species, especially milkweeds, in yards, farms, rights of way, and other places available to support monarchs.

You can keep track of Illinois Sierra Club pollinator activities by checking out our calendar and by becoming a member of our Monarch Team’s Facebook group. Please feel free to add pollinator info and events to the group page. Mark your calendars for these Upcoming Events:

Help out Illinois Monarchs by Purchasing a License Plate Decal

Illinois residents can help out monarchs by signing up to purchase a license plate with a new monarch butterfly decal! All of the funds received will go to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to support roadside monarch habitat throughout our state and help to save this magnificent species. Instructions can be found in this earlier post. We need 2000 Illinoisans to sign up by September for the Secretary of State to create the decal.

History of Illinois Chapter Sierra Club’s Pollinator Campaign

  • Legislative initiatives
    • HB2568 — passed bill designating milkweed as Illinois State Wildflower
    • HB685 — passed bill to eliminate milkweed from being listed on municipal and county noxious weed lists.
  • Team activities:
    • All across the state Monarch Team volunteers have helped establish pollinator plantings, wayside gardens, and demonstration plots at county forest preserves, city parks and open spaces, national wildlife refuges, and a Studio Gang rooftop.
    • Worked with several park districts and a cities to sign resolutions to create and protect pollinator habitat.
    • Worked to get Mayor’s Monarch Pledges signed.
    • Volunteers have staffed tables at numerous Earth Day events and other festivals where they talked to the public and handed out information about monarchs and pollinators, handed out seed packets that they had assembled and labeled, setup coloring activity stations for kids, etc.
    • Groups have held educational presentations, while individual members have attended various pollinator workshops and webinars.

Pollinator Protection work underway throughout Illinois

River Prairie Group Spearheaded by the River Prairie Group, the DuPage Monarch Project (DMP) was formed in 2015 as a collaboration of four local environmental organizations for the purpose of advocating for monarch friendly communities.  Monarch friendly communities encourage landscaping for habitat, limiting the usage of insecticides and educating their residents about the challenges facing monarchs and pollinators. DMP’s outreach has primarily been through educational programs, tabling, and urging municipal entities to sign monarch resolutions. In 2018-

  • DMP hosted its third annual program titled Beyond Monarchs: Preserving Endangered Butterflies, Bees and Dragonflies.
  • DMP organized a pollinator themed art exhibit, The Art of Pollinators that ran for the month of May at Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook.  The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s annual native plant sale was held at the same location on May 11 and 12, offering plant sale browsers the opportunity to experience many of the pollinators that rely on native species.  The call for art was well received with nearly a 100 entries. It was a multi-media event with photographs, watercolors and several three-dimensional entries including an altered book, mixed media pieces and artful furniture. Sound artist John Nichols III contributed an insect soundscape of cricket chirps, buzzing bees, beetle clicks and whirring hummingbirds created from recordings collected over the past ten years.
  • DMP is offering a half-day symposium on October 17th on creating attractive, pollinator-friendly landscapes in a variety of settings, parks, municipal lands, homeowners association’s common grounds, corporate campuses and golf courses.

Chicago Group The group’s second annual pollinator seed packet distribution is underway.  We packaged 1,000 packets with native purple coneflower & black eyed susan seeds, and we will be handing them out at various farmers markets and Sierra Club sponsored events.  Packets are available at the Sierra Club’s Chicago office for people to pick up.

Shawnee Group The group’s pollinator project in Carbondale was put on hold after learning that the Splash Park where our project was located is heavily sprayed by Jackson County Mosquito Abatement. Because of the potential lethal consequences to all insects caused by mosquito abatement spraying the group voted not to continue attracting pollinators with more native plants until we could find a solution. The group is communicating with the Carbondale Sustainability Council in hopes they can influence  policies and change to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) recommended by the Xerces organization or find other pollinator insect friendly management techniques.

monarch-card-kbelletire

Kathy Belletire, leader of the Shawnee Group’s Monarch Team, created this monarch-themed card that the group sold at their spring native plant sale.

The group participated in the “People and Pollinators” event sponsored by the Field Museum and held on the SIU campus on June 5th to learn to use mapping protocols to identify pollinator habitat potential in urban areas. Carbondale, Lincoln and Peoria are three cities in Illinois chosen as pilot project locations.  Volunteers will help the Giant City State Park Visitor Center’s pollinator garden by labeling their plants and enlarging their garden. They don’t spray there or at the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge’s pollinator garden and prairie restoration project where the group also volunteers weekly.

Woods & Wetlands Group The group’s Monarch Campaign, co-chaired by Dale Duda and Cindy Blue, focuses on advocating for local community actions to preserve, protect and restore monarch habitat. The group continues to advocate for mayors to sign the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge and commit to a minimum three actions to help monarchs. Several mayors in the group’s territory have signed. See all the Illinois and national signatories online.

Woods & Wetlands is also working with libraries to adopt an education program, developed by the group, to reinforce knowledge about the monarch butterfly and the importance of milkweed to its life cycle.

Blackhawk Group Sierrans are part of the Hackmatack Monarch Coalition that is active in McHenry County. This coalition of over 20 member organizations is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on improving pollinator habitat and educating citizens on what they can do to help out pollinators. The coalition will host its 4th annual Monarch Family Fun Fair on August 12. The group has also planted pollinator plants supplied by the USFWS into existing roadside prairies and established new gardens at sites throughout the county, including at the McHenry County fairgrounds. In the fall, a second planting will be the first phase of establishment of a buffer along Silver Creek which runs through fairgrounds.

Download Illinois Pollinator Week posters: English Polish Spanish

A night of adventure will help Chicago youth connect with the outdoors

Facebook header 851 x 315.jpg

Get your tickets for the Adventure Film Festival!

This Sunday, Chicagoans will gather at the Music Box Theatre for an evening full of some of the year’s best independent outdoor films, delicious food and drinks and the warm feeling of supporting a good cause. At the end of the night, raffle winners will go home with new outdoor gear, gift certificates from great local businesses and memberships to Chicago favorites like Divvy, Corepower Yoga, the Chicago Botanic Gardens and First Ascent rock climbing gym.

See Award-Winning Films

Theatre.jpgFrom serious outdoor exploration to environmental heroism, the Adventure Film Festival showcases gripping tales from the edge of the believable. Witness gritty, profound, shocking, visceral, and inspiring films that manifest the spirit of adventure. These journeys and stories are where dreams are born and legends are made.

The Adventure Film Festival will feature 2017 award winners on a World Tour traveling from Boulder to Chicago, New York, Santiago, and several major cities in between.

The series of films being featured in Chicago include stories about at risk teens facing their fears to climb mountains in Brazil, incredible yet controversial Grey Wolf recovery efforts in Colorado, big-hearted strangers carrying the boots of a lost adventurer along the Appalachian Trail, and more!

VIP Experience at a Great Value 

Gift BagsArrive early and pay only $25 more for the full VIP experience. A private reception in the theatre’s lounge from 4pm to 5pm will include complimentary food and drinks, gift bags full of great gifts from our sponsors and a chance to mingle with other film enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. VIP ticket holders will also get priority seating in the theatre for the best view of the big screen.

Inspire a Love of the Outdoors for Chicago Youth

All proceeds go to the Sierra Club’s Chicago Inspiring Connections Outdoors (ICO). Chicago ICO is a volunteer-run community outreach program that provides opportunities for Chicago youth to explore and protect the natural world, while developing their leadership skills and honing a love of the outdoors. Proceeds from the film festival will help us expand our reach to engage more youth and increase the number and ambition of outings.

ICOTreePlanting

ReedCamp08-1.jpeg     Camping Hackmatack 18.jpeg

A Pattern of Success

In 2015, our first Adventure Film Festival sold out at the Logan Theatre. In 2016, we moved to the Music Box Theatre for a larger venue and had another successful event. This year, we’re excited to bring more people together around a love of the outdoors, adventure, great films and a passion for getting more kids outdoors to connect with nature.

Special thanks to our local sponsors, Arc’Teryx and Moosejaw, for supporting Chicago ICO, and to Patagonia and Intrepid Travel for sponsoring the Adventure Film Festival!

2017sponsors (1).jpg

Join us!

Don’t wait – get your tickets now to secure your seat one of Chicago’s best events for outdoors enthusiasts, film fanatics and activists alike. Click here to purchase tickets and click here to share with your friends on Facebook.  See you there!

MusicBox calendar ad-2 (1)

Illinois Governor Candidates Commit to Bold Actions At Sierra Club Forum

Sierra Club held its first ever Illinois Gubernatorial Candidate Forum Saturday, October 14th at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a crowd of over 500 witnessed a spirited exchange between candidates who are rivals for the Democratic nomination, but in broad agreement that Illinois should do much more to lead on the environment.

“It is crystal clear, given the rollbacks, the cuts, the denial of science, and attempts to divide our communities that are coming at all of us from the Trump administration, that Illinois must step up to lead,” said Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin. “Illinois must lead if we are to make progress against threats like climate change and toxins in our drinking water, and even to protect the tremendous progress we have made together as a society.”

Trump’s moves against climate action, and steps by Governor Rauner’s Illinois EPA to weaken clean air standards for coal plants drew strong rebukes and commitments to move Illinois in an entirely different direction – to a 100% clean energy future.

State Senator Daniel Biss said “I strongly support a firm commitment to move Illinois to 100% clean energy mix, and was the first candidate to do so.” Tio Hardiman agreed, saying “I plan to be a champion for renewable energy, and as a community organizer will build a movement for this goal.” Chris Kennedy pledged to begin with state properties, saying “we can make the State of Illinois commit to using 100% renewable energy for its buildings, and put the entire state on that same trajectory as well.”  J.B. Pritzker said “we need to move this state to 100% renewables, and we must invest in clean energy and battery technology, as I have as an individual, in order to get to that goal,” before apologizing for leaving the event early to attend an event downstate, and introducing State Senator Heather Steans as his surrogate for the remainder of the forum.

The health of Illinois’ water supply was top of mind, with candidates sharing plans for protecting drinking water and Illinois’ rivers and lakes. Kennedy pledged to involve the public in the fight for clean water by informing residents about their water quality to inspire them to action.

Biss said that truly universal access to clean water would come at a cost, but that is clearly worth it to stop poisoning our children and put people to work on water projects in communities that need it most. Steans said Pritzker plans to replace 100% of lead service lines in Illinois, expand existing nutrient control programs, and develop a state water use plan to ensure sustainability of community supplies.

Biss and Kennedy each expressed opposition to the proposed Route 53 extension in Lake County. Kennedy also described the proposed Illiana expressway as “like one of those zombies in one of those movies – it’s time to put a stake in the heart of that thing and move on.” Biss said “investing in mass transit and sustainable transportation is an important part of acting on climate change and reducing carbon emissions. We have to have a holistic view of what transit means across the state – trains, buses, and access to economic opportunity.” Steans did not take a position on specific projects, but said that Pritzker would understand that we cannot look at road projects based on political considerations, but on technical merit. Hardiman also declined to take a position on specific projects, while noting his support for mass transit.

Each of the candidates lamented the long decline in staffing and budget at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and shared their personal connections to Illinois’ outdoors.

Steans pointed out that Illinois ranks 48th out of 50 states when it comes to protected open space per capita, and stressed Pritzker’s commitment to rebuilding the DNR and recognizing the economic benefits of state parks and natural areas. Biss said that the “hollowing out” of IDNR was “unthinkable”, and a result of the Governor “throwing the environment under the bus” when it comes time for budgeting decisions. “People protect what they love, and I love places like our lakefront, the savannahs along the Des Plaines River, the Mississippi bluffs, and the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge,” said Kennedy.

Each candidate acknowledged the importance of planning for the transition to a clean energy future, and the importance of including workers and communities historically dependent on fossil fuels in the benefits it will bring. Biss said  “We need a clear, focused plan to match specific opportunities with impacted workers in the communities where they live, not someplace else.”

Kennedy said his approach to utilities operating in Illinois communities would be “when you stop, you need to clean up the mess you made, and return your site to the community in the condition you found it, and you need to make sure your employees’ pensions are safe. Hardiman agreed, and added that we need to expedite renewable energy in these areas.  Steans said Pritzker “knows this transition is coming, and that his economic plan includes support for infrastructure, clean energy, and agriculture investment to help” and said he is  “100% against fracking – we’ve seen the impacts for water and seismic activity.” All pledged their support for rules requiring cleanup of

All candidates pledged a focus on environmental justice, and focused on the connection between environmental threats and racism and income inequality.

Pritzker began his remarks by quoting the Old Testament: “Justice, justice, shall you pursue”, and then continued “Bruce Rauner and his Koch Brothers, right-wing network, has sold out this state, and put profits over people. We’ve got to stand up to them, to say ‘no’ when they say it’s OK if we pollute the air and make it harder to breathe to help the profits of the fossil fuel industry.  We need a Governor who stands up for environmental justice in particular.” Biss said “It is the responsibility of our movement to protect communities of color and those who have been left behind.  This is about the white privilege that exists in every corner of our policymaking system, our economy, and our country, and we have to do something about that. Hardiman stressed his background in community organizing and peacemaking, and the fact that he would be Illinois’ first African-American Governor. Kennedy talked about diesel pollution in Chicago neighborhoods, the vulnerability of poor communities to storms, and “terrible environmental hazards in poor communities” as violations of Catholic social justice doctrine.

Governor Rauner was invited to participate but did not respond.

Hurricane Recovery Fundraiser!

hurricane recovery fundraiser

On Oct. 10, the Solidarity Team of Sierra Club’s Chicago Group joined a national Hurricane Relief Day of Action by hosting a fundraiser for Puerto Rico at the Chicago Office.

All funds from this event will be donated to community organizations in Puerto Rico working to address relief and recovery needs in the wake of Hurricanes Maria + Irma and the subsequent government neglect.

The event was attended by two dozen individuals, including State Senator Omar Aquino and US Representative Luis Gutierrez. Sen. Aquino and Rep. Gutierrez spoke about the impact that the storm has had on communities, and of their relatives back in Puerto Rico. Huge portions of the island remain without power and running water, and the individuals impacted the most are the most vulnerable: infants, the elderly, and those in hospitals.

“Imagine an 80 year-old trying to live their life in a disaster zone with limited electricity and running water,” Rep Gutierrez told us. Rep. Gutierrez shared more about the impact that US policy and the financial industry has had on Puerto Rico. Predatory lending has left the island in paralyzing debt, and the island’s finances are now largely controlled by an appointed (unelected) board of seven individuals.

In addition, an old and outdated power grid has exacerbated the impact of the storms. Rep Gutierrez sees renewable energy (siting the reliable sun and wind on the island) and Puerto Rican Sovereignty as key to Puerto Rico’s future. The situation in Puerto Rico right now is a tragic example of economic, bureaucratic, and environmental racism in the United States. The solidarity team was grateful for the opportunity to make a small, positive impact in what is otherwise a devastating situation. Our fundraiser raised $1400! It’s also not too late to contribute. You can donate to community recovery efforts in Puerto Rico here.

A perfect ride to visit GLRI success stories in Muskegon, MI

Muskegon, a town in Michigan at the southernmost tip of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, is home to celebrated museums, pristine recreational beaches, a top-notch performing arts camp, an amusement park — and two Great Lakes Restoration Initiative success stories.

 
Our ride into Muskegon was relatively flat and absolutely perfect weather – mid-70s and sunny. We stopped for an afternoon snack and stretch break on the shores of Lake Muskegon. A recreational and ecological staple of the area, the lake forms a harbor along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and drains out of the Muskegon River.

 

Decades of industrial discharge into its waters and wetland destruction along its shores brought Lake Muskegon to a critical point, and in 1985 it was listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Great Lakes “Area of Concern.”

 
An “AOC” is a geographic location in the Great Lakes watershed where environmental degradation has occurred as the result of human activities. In the past two decades many projects have been implemented to delist Lake Muskegon as an AOC, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has played a critical part in making Muskegon’s waterways healthier places for wildlife to live and visitors to enjoy.

 
Half a mile upstream from the lake, a GLRI project is aiming to do just that by restoring ecologically rich wetlands along the banks of the Lower Muskegon River. For years these areas were unnaturally separated from the river by dikes and pumps so the resulting land fragments could be used for celery farming. These harmful alterations broke up aquatic and terrestrial habitats, contributed to the degradation of the Lake, and hurt fishing possibilities along the river.

IMG_0627

I happen to walk past this GLRI sign while eating a heaping cone of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream

 
Engineers and conservationists are hard at work, clearing away human-made fill and reconnecting the Muskegon river with its floodplain and Muskegon Lake. The removal of these man-made structures, which are filled with concrete, soil, tree stumps, and sediment, is one of the last steps in the process to delist Muskegon Lake as an AOC.

 
This isn’t the first time the GLRI has helped clean up Lake Muskegon. In 2012 the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Muskegon city and county partners completed a $12 million effort to remove 43,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the bottom of the Lake. Decades of industry discharge through a storm sewer pumped mercury and petroleum products into the Lake, contaminating fish (which affected how much people were allowed to catch and eat) and causing a host of other environmental problems.

 
The removal project created jobs for barge and dredge operators, truck drivers, biologists, chemists, and toxicologists. It helped bolster the fishing industry on Muskegon Lake and decreased serious public health concerns relating to contaminated fish and water. Investing in the GLRI, in our waterways, and in the Great Lakes as a whole, works.

 
Without the GLRI, 53 acres of Muskegon wetland will remain disconnected and thousands of fish and wildlife will be isolated from vital habitat networks. Moreover, failure to fund and complete the current cleanup project would continue to hurt the vibrant Muskegon recreation industry, which contributes $1.3 million to the local economy every year.

 
The GLRI has a proven track record of success in Muskegon, and in shoreside communities all around the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, President Trump has proposed to completely eliminate this program. This is an issue that transcends politics and partisanship — folks from all sides of the aisle enjoy and deserve clean water and beautiful natural spaces. We call on our Great Lakes members of Congress from both parties to join us in standing up for the GLRI this budget season.

 
We care about our health, our economy, our environment. We care about our Great Lakes. And we aren’t backing down.

 
You can show your support by contributing to our campaign to #SaveTheGreatLakes at http://www.teamsierra.org/illinois/kady, and signing the pledge at http://www.addup.org/campaigns/save-the-great-lakes-from-the-trump-administration

 

IMG_0629