If there was ever a right time to build a national coalition comprised of America’s great water restoration efforts, it is now. Not only are our ecosystems in great peril, but also the political zeitgeist appears to be with us.
“I believe a national ecosystem coalition is an idea that’s time has come,” explained the former CEQ’s Associate Director for Natural Resources Bill Leary. Leary worked for the White House’s CEQ during the Clinton Administration and the first GW Bush Administration as well. It could be argued he has some insider knowledge and that is why it was so significant when he told the participants at the Great Waters Restoration Summit that by forming a coalition, he thinks, they could help the new White House help their restoration efforts.
“It is my impression that this Administration would welcome a coalition being formed by all of you. Indeed, I believe it is an imperative to helping this Administration develop an initiative that could help all of you,” he said.
It was just a couple years ago when then-Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel told the HOW coalition that his response to off-shore drilling in the Great Lakes would be a $300 billion water restoration bill (to be paid for by oil proceeds) that included every bit of water in the nation and included every lawmakers district (making it a shoe in). Now, Emanuel is sitting in the Chief-of-Staff position in the White House with another Great Lakes water guy – the US President himself. It isn’t that big a leap to see that they would appreciate a restoration coalition and an America’s Great Water’s Restoration Act to fulfill the enormouse needs of our nation’s troubled waters.
“The sum of you is greater than your parts,” said Leary, “you represent nine of the largest ecosystem restoration efforts in this country- 21 of the 50 states- your ecosystems are home to over 125 million people and that is 40 percent of the population. That is a lot of people and a lot of voters.” It also means that together we would represent a very large voting block on Capitol Hill. Just imagine a Great Waters Congressional Caucus -focused on restoration – it is hard to believe it doesn’t already exist.
Leary described restoration as the third wave of conservation efforts in America’s history. First there was the Teddy Roosevelt conservation movement that created our nation’s wonderful parks system and the second was a pollution prevention movement encompassing clean air and clean water. And now the third movement is the restoration movement that brings everything from the past together with a vision for the future.
“Rise to the top of our ecosystem silo, seize the moment, this is the time, this is the place – create the coalition,” Leary implored.