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The Great Lakes are a unique and extraordinary natural resource — a national treasure for both the United States and Canada. Together, the lakes make up one-fifth of the fresh water on the earth’s surface. They provide drinking water, food, recreation and transportation to more than 35 million Americans. But the Great Lakes have faced many serious environmental challenges. Since 1970, much has been done in attempts to restore and protect the lakes. EPA and nine other federal agencies administer some 140 programs that fund and implement environmental programs in the Great Lakes basin. Although there has been significant progress, the work of cleaning up the lakes and preventing further problems has not always been coordinated. That prompted President Bush, in May 2004, to create a cabinet-level interagency task force and to call for a “regional collaboration of national significance.” After extensive discussions, the federal Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Great Lakes tribes (represented by the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission) and the Great Lakes Congressional Task Force moved to convene a group now known as the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC).

The operation of the GLRC is overseen by an Executive Committee and its Subcommittee (PDF, 47Kb), made up of representatives of the Collaboration members.

The Collaboration created a Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes which was released on December 12, 2005. Public involvement was fostered throughout the process.

Highlights of the GLRC Process:

May 18, 2004
President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13340 (PDF, 39Kb) directing his cabinet to establish the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force and promote a “Regional Collaboration of National Significance” for the Great Lakes.

December 4, 2004
 The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration was officially launched with the first Conveners Meeting on Dec. 3, 2004, in Chicago. On this day, members of the President’s cabinet, the Great Lakes governors, the Great Lakes congressional delegations, mayors, and tribal leaders met and forged an intergovernmental partnership and officially voiced their support for a coordinated strategy to further protect and restore the Great Lakes. About 400 regional leaders and stakeholders attended the Conveners Meeting. Commitment to the Collaboration was expressed in the Great Lakes Declaration(PDF, 10Kb) while the Framework(PDF, 39Kb) for the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration defined the process for developing a Great Lakes restoration and protection strategy. Collaboration partners rallied around a shared vision of a restored, sustainable Great Lakes ecosystem. This generated optimism and a spirit of cooperation. While the Collaboration is a U.S. effort, its members do everything possible to synchronize it’s efforts with those of our Canadian partners.

Following the Conveners Meeting, the Issue Area Strategy Teams began their work of drafting a comprehensive strategy for Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts.

July 7, 2005
On July 7, 2005, the Great Lakes Regional Collaborations released its Draft Strategy document for public view and comment at GLRC Summit I in Duluth, Minnesota. The Draft Strategy consisted of the recommendations put forward by the eight Issue Area Strategy Teams for consideration by the GLRC.

December 12, 2005
The final Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes was released at GLRC Summit II in Chicago on December 12, 2005.