Category Archives: Trump Administration

Our Ride Ended, But The Campaign To #SaveTheGreatLakes Continues

My husband and I set out this summer to ride our bikes around Lake Michigan in an effort to help #SaveTheGreatLakes. On our ride we met people from all different places and of all different backgrounds, who were visiting Lake Michigan for all different reasons. Some were bike tourers like us, while others were just there for the day to enjoy the beach with their families. What brought us all together were the Lakes.

Protecting the Great Lakes have never been a partisan issue – the lakes provide us with drinking water, help power industry, and are a source of rejuvenation, recreation, and beauty for so many. They’re what make our region great, and programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) are necessary to ensure they are just as great for future generations.

IMG_1020

We saw the impact of the GLRI firsthand. From Muskegon, to Sleeping Bear Dunes, to the Upper Peninsula and back down through Wisconsin, folks depend on the Federal funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to help restore ecological integrity and enhance natural beauty. We saw decades of industrial and agricultural discharge cleared away to reconnect the Lake to rivers and tributaries in Muskegon, Michigan. We saw gulls and loons, healthy and free to fly due to increased efforts to fight avian botulism and the zebra and quagga mussels that spread it. We saw fragile native plants flourishing in the Sleeping Bear Dunes, thanks to GLRI efforts to crack down on invasive and competitive baby’s breath. GLRI projects are as diverse and variable as the ecosystem itself, and indeed the GLRI touches nearly every part of life around the Lakes.

While I was riding, a new federal budget was proposed that fully restored funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Trump’s original budget completely eliminated this program.  While this is a win for the Great Lakes and all of us who care about them, the budget still severely reduces overall critical funding to the Environmental Protection Agency. This new proposal is like funding fire trucks without funding the firefighters – a moot point and a hollow promise from a federal government determined to attack and dismantle the necessary work the EPA does. It is so important that we do all we can to keep fighting, to support and defend the EPA. It’s a winnable fight, if we keep at it together.

We were unable to finish our trip due to a death in the family. But saving the Great Lakes is so much bigger than a bike ride. It’s a long road and an uphill climb, and we will only be able to do it if we work together as one. We still need to make sure that the final budget keeps in the GLRI funding, and fully funds EPA. But I believe in our power. I believe in the Great Lakes, in this movement, and in our vision of a healthier and more just planet.

We can save the Great Lakes. We can save the Great Lakes together. I hope you’ll join us.

 

I’m almost to my (new!) goal of raising $2500 to help #SaveTheGreatLakes. Will you help get me there?

IMG_1010.JPG

I took a long ride along Lake Michigan in Chicago before going back to work.

If you haven’t already signed the pledge, do so here.

Advertisements

Saving the Great Lakes has never been a partisan issue

For our honeymoon, my husband and I biked from Vancouver, BC to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon – 1,200 miles in 5 weeks through some of the most beautiful parts of this country. On that trip, it was common to see other folks on bikes loaded up with their tent, gear and sleeping bags also touring the area. 

We were excited when one morning on our way to Sleeping Bear Dunes we saw a bicyclist with a packed bike stopped on the side of the road – our first fellow bike tourer sighting this trip. We slowed down to say hello and ask where he was headed. “North,” he replied, and we all laughed. “Us too,” we said and invited TJ to ride along with us. He joined us all day for our ride and meal breaks, and we chatted almost the entire ride.

TJ had started biking from his home in Rochester, Indiana two days before. He rode a beastly 280 miles in his first two days – a feat which just thinking about makes my whole body ache. His family was planning to meet him in Northport, Michigan where they would vacation together. Back in Rochester, TJ is a firefighter and has two young sons. We heard lots of great stories about his boys and adventures as a firefighter along the ride.

 

FullSizeRender 10.jpg

A quick selfie with TJ before he left us to continue biking for the day

We were eager to be headed for the Sleeping Bear Dunes – a jewel in Lake Michigan’s crown. Sandy beaches, forested islands, 450-foot dunes, and manifold species of animals and plants are protected here by the National Park Service and are enjoyed by millions of visitors during all four seasons.  

But during the summer of 2006, an unwelcome guest showed up on Sleeping Bear’s shores. Thousands of birds were dropping dead on the region’s pristine beaches after losing the ability to hold their heads up and fly. Scientists determined the culprit was a disease called type E avian botulism, which first came to Lake Michigan in the 1960s but hadn’t made a resurgence since 1983.

Avian botulism is caused by toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. These toxins often concentrate in aquatic invertebrates like invasive zebra or quagga mussels, which are commonly ingested by bottom-feeding fish that then get gobbled up by birds like gulls and loons, for which the toxin is paralytic and lethal.

In 2010 the National Park Service and a coalition of conservation research partners received funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to study these avian botulism outbreaks. Researchers measured changes to coastal habitats that are affected by the increase in botulism, and mapped and documented past lake changes in order to understand and predict botulism outbreaks in the future. 

Future steps in the project include a continuation of monitoring and managing outbreaks, and increasing nonprofit and volunteer involvement in data collection and beach cleanups. Funding from the GLRI is necessary for the fight to decrease avian botulism and keep the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem intact.

Up on the dunes, the GLRI is helping stop a terrestrial invasive species from further hurting Sleeping Bear’s ecosystem. Known scientifically as Gypsophilia paniculata, baby’s breath is a pretty white flower native to Eastern Europe and commonly found in gardens across the United States. But careless planting in the Great Lakes region has turned baby’s breath into an aggressive invasive species.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has funded a project to manage the invasive plant along 100 acres of the Lakeshore and to study its effects on the ecosystem. The project aims to measure and catalog the location and spread of baby’s breath, remove the plants physically and with herbicide, and observe changes that occur from season to season.

Eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be devastating to these efforts at Sleeping Bear Dunes, and many others like it dedicated to keeping our Lakes healthy and clean.

IMG_1013.JPG

 

 

Throughout our day, I told TJ about the work that I do and our campaign to #SaveTheGreatLakes. He told me that growing up in Rochester, he takes his two boys up to Benton Harbor or the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore every summer. When I asked, he told me he “leaned right” politically, but didn’t quite seem to see how that was relevant to us talking about keeping our Great Lakes healthy.

Protecting the Great Lakes, our drinking water, and the economy they drive has long been a bipartisan issue. We can’t let hyper-partisanship in politics get in the way of protecting the Great Lakes. The GLRI protects our drinking water, creates jobs, protects public health, keeps beaches open and upholds a way of life for millions of people. Donald Trump’s Great Lakes cuts should be dead on arrival for all members of Congress from our region. And we must stand up together to #SaveTheGreatLakes.

Right before TJ left us to continue on his way, he told us, “I’ve been out East to the ocean once or twice. But I don’t know what it is, I just prefer the Great Lakes.”

I can’t put my finger on it either. But these Lakes are pretty special.

Contribute to our campaign to #SaveTheGreatLakes here.

And be sure to sign our #SaveTheGreatLakes petition here

 

IMG_0960.JPG

Illinois House Passes Resolution Urging Governor Rauner to sign Illinois onto U.S. Climate Alliance

Springfield, June 26 – This morning the Illinois House passed HR490, urging Governor Rauner to have Illinois join 12 states, Puerto Rico, and over 300 cities in supporting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and signing onto the U.S. Climate Alliance. The resolution also urges the state to develop a plan of how Illinois can achieve 100% clean, renewable energy by 2045, a goal that dozens of cities and the state of California are working towards. The Resolution passed 54-29.

 

In response, Jack Darin, Director of Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, released the following statement:

“Governor Rauner, it is time for Illinois to join the US Climate Alliance, and chart our own course to a clean energy future. President Trump is stepping back from the global move to clean energy, but Illinois does not have to follow him.  It’s time to commit to fighting the climate change that threatens Illinois, and plan for the bold long term goal of a 100% clean energy future.

“Illinois is already on track to meet the Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets, as the clean energy boom on the way under the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) is projected to reduce carbon emissions at least equal to those agreed to in the Paris accord. A transition to 100% clean energy will not happen overnight, but the transition has already begun, and setting that as a long term goal for Illinois will guide job training, economic development, grid infrastructure, and other components of a clean energy future.”

Asian Carp Advance On Lake Michigan; Trump Halts Project to Stop Them, Threatens To Cut Off All Great Lakes Funds

Yesterday an invasive adult silver carp was caught within nine miles of Lake Michigan in the Calumet River. The 8-pound fish was captured in a gill net by a commercial fisherman working for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee (ACRCC) as part of their seasonal intensive monitoring program looking for this invasive species within Chicago’s waterways. This critical work is funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which President Trump has proposed to eliminate all funding for beginning October 1. More information about current carp control efforts is available here.

The Trump Administration has also halted efforts to upgrade the Brandon Road Lock and Dam, downstream of the electric barriers, to prevent the movement of Asian carp upstream. The Army Corps of Engineers was set to release the study for public review in late February when the White House blocked its release.

Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Clean Water Program Director Cindy Skrukrud released this statement:

“The capture of a silver carp past the electric barrier and just 9 miles from Lake Michigan is a potent reminder of how the Trump Administration is failing to address the huge problem that aquatic invasive species pose to the Great Lakes. While alien invaders are headed towards Lake Michigan, Trump and his team are halting projects to keep them out and dismantling Great Lakes protection programs. It is urgent that Governor Rauner and our entire Congressional delegation call on President Trump to release the Brandon Road Lock and Dam study that his administration is holding hostage, and demand that he commit to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. If Trump is allowed by Congress to cut off all Great Lakes funding October 1, Illinois DNR will not be able to continue the critical work underway right now to catch and control these dangerous invaders.”

###

Want to take action? Here’s how you can help:

Sign the Great Lakes Protection Pledge and tell your Member of Congress to do the same

Tell your Members of Congress to support legislation to stop Asian carp

silvercarp06232017
Silver carp captured in the Illinois Waterway on June 22, 2017 below T.J. O’Brien Lock and Dam.
Image courtesy of Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
carp-map-PRN-2017

The Brandon Road Lock and Dam upgrade would increase protection for Lake Michigan

 

We Refuse To Follow Trump Backwards – Are You With Us?

It’s official – our President has abandoned the community of world leaders, and indeed, all of humanity by withdrawing from the historic Paris climate agreement.

Here in Illinois, we refuse to follow Trump’s great leap backward on climate, and we need your help.

Today we redouble our efforts to move Illinois beyond fossil fuels with an unprecedented wave of new solar, wind, and energy saving projects.  And we won’t stop until Illinois is powered by 100% clean energy.

chicago PCM

3000+ braved the rain and cold in Chicago last month to rally and march to Trump Tower. Illinois will move forward as Trump tries to take us back.

We’re in this for the long haul, and we need your help to build strength for this crucial work. Please protest Trump’s shameful decision by becoming a monthly supporter of our climate and clean energy work here in Illinois.

It is crystal clear that action on climate change must come from states like Illinois, and that is our mission.  We must persist, and we must be strong.  Thank you for your support.

Statement on Trump EPA Budget Proposal

 

President Trump released his proposed FY 2018 federal budget today.  Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin released this statement about the proposed budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

“President Trump’s proposed budget for the EPA is a plan only polluters could love.  Trump wants to slash funding for enforcing clean air and water laws, shut down the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Office of Environmental Justice, and penalize states that improve environmental safeguards.
We need to kill this plan before it starts to kill us. The scientists, engineers, and other career professionals are calling this budget a “death sentence.” The Great Lakes region must unite to defend ourselves against this broad attack on our health, our resources, and our communities.  We call on members of Congress, Governors, and local leaders in both parties to pledge their support for our Great Lakes environment, and their opposition to Trump’s attacks on the EPA and our environmental safeguards.  As the Trump Administration steps back from their responsibility to protect our communities, states will need to step up efforts to enforce environmental laws and upgrade standards to ensure we make progress against pollution, not the great leaps backward threatened by Trump’s proposal.”

Pruitt Strikes Out on Chicago Trip

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s trip to Chicago today failed to ease grave concerns about the potential impact of unprecedented budget cuts and the Agency’s direction under his leadership.

Apparently Pruitt had time to take in a ball game this afternoon at Wrigley Field, but no time or interest in meeting with employees at the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago. He also ignored requests to meet with community groups concerned about lead contamination in the East Chicago housing project he drove past.
With rumors swirling that the EPA may completely close the regional office here, proposed devastating cuts, and Pruitt’s history of attacking the agency he now leads, it would have been a very good time to meet with employees and assure them that their jobs, and the mission of the EPA, are safe.  A group of EPA workers invited Pruitt to lunch, but received no response. They gathered at the regional headquarters in case he showed up, but were met with an empty chair.
IMG_1295

Region 5 EPA workers had hoped to meet with Administrator Pruitt during his Chicago visit

If Pruitt had taken the time to meet the women and men of EPA’s regional office here, he would have found dedicated professionals who have made it their life’s work to protect us all, but who now are worried about whether they will be able to do their jobs.  Pruitt could learn a lot about the great work EPA has done in our region to clean up the Great Lakes, improve our air quality, encourage clean energy, and created good jobs in clean technologies, and how President Trump’s policies and budget proposal threaten to decimate the EPA and the communities here who depend on it. Instead, he took the afternoon off and headed to Wrigley.
You can’t beat a day at the ballpark, but Scott Pruitt is striking out when it comes to his job of keeping Americans safe from pollution.
For more on Pruitt’s adventures in our area today, see this summary.