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Success to date but much natural resources work remains

Jack bergman

The Great Lakes basin is home to more than 30 million people, containing approximately 90 percent of the United States’ supply of fresh surface water, and providing drinking water for more than 48 million people. Those of us who call the First District home know the importance of our water and the need to protect, preserve and restore this treasured natural resource.

Reps. John Moolenaar, Bill Huizenga and I had the distinct opportunity to ride with President Trump in Grand Rapids recently and have a discussion with him about several key policy issues that affect Michigan. A 20-minute car ride with the president was the perfect opportunity to bend his ear about what the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative means to the First District of Michigan, and the entire region.

From conservation and restoration projects, to the battle against Asian carp and other invasive species, the benefits of the GLRI are substantial. We let the president know just how much this means to our state.

What we didn’t know at the time was that President Trump, within a matter of minutes, would make public his commitment to fully fund the GLRI. While the dissenters will dissent, and the sceptics will remain skeptical, this truly is great news. It appears some would like the president to oppose this project indefinitely, so they could indefinitely complain about him opposing it. However, garnering the president’s support is part of the long-term solution to ensure this funding is continued, and for those of us in Congress who care more about finding solutions than pointing fingers, this was a great day.

Shortly after the president’s announcement, EPA Administrator Wheeler voiced his support for the GLRI and praised the president’s decision. While past presidential budget requests have included cuts to GLRI for five years, covering two administrations, this new commitment is a proposal we can applaud and support, regardless of where someone finds themselves on the political spectrum.

But this isn’t the only great news for the Great Lakes area natural resources. Last month Congress passed, and President Trump signed into law, the Natural Resources Management Act. This is one of the largest natural resources lands packages passed in decades. Among many other accomplishments of this bill, it permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Established in 1964, the LWCF provides grants to state and local governments for public land preservation projects. For over 50 years it has helped protect critical areas in the First District like the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Hiawatha National Forest and the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Having seen firsthand the positive results achieved through the LWCF, this was an easy vote and a great win for our rich outdoor heritage.

One of the most sweeping changes this bill will make is directing the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to open all land for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreational activity unless specifically closed. This change in policy will affect thousands of acres of land throughout the country and ensure that public lands are open for public use.

Many times we have experienced bureaucrats shutting down access to public land without reason or intent. Now all USFS- or BLM-managed land will be open for public use, unless there is a specific reason for a closure.

This is tremendous news for First District sportsmen, and just the start of the work we have in front of us.

Editor’s note: U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, represents the First Congressional District, which encompasses the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula.