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by Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change
Whether you love to fish, swim, boat, or walk along a shoreline trail, the Great Lakes encompass vast and unique ecosystems that make Ontario a remarkable place to live.
Most Ontarians — almost 99 per cent — live within the watersheds of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River system. They’re an unparalleled treasure — holding one-fifth of all the fresh surface water on Earth. Their resources provide us with drinking water and energy, food and recreational opportunities. They are a boon for business, too, forming the third-largest economy in the world.
These vast bodies of water are crucial to the lives of all Ontarians. Together, with our partners, we have addressed many legacy issues to improve their health. However, new scientific research underscores the vulnerability of our Great Lakes and the need to address pressing issues such as climate change, harmful algal blooms, invasive species and the demands of a growing population.
Ontario is a leader in working with other governments and hundreds of community partners across the province to restore, protect and conserve the Great Lakes. We’ve done this proactively since we signed our first agreement on Great Lakes protection with Canada in 1971. We have invested tens of millions of dollars in projects to restore historically contaminated areas of concern; to protect the lakes from harmful pollutants; to conserve and rebuild fish and wildlife habitat; and to prevent aquatic invasive species from entering the lakes.
…we have invested tens of millions of dollars in projects…
Climate change is not a distant threat and Ontario is demonstrating leadership and commitment to fighting climate change through a series of bold actions, including the protection of surface and ground water with watershed-based source protection plans, and better stormwater management to help communities adapt to climate change impacts. We’re also working to reduce sewage overflows and bypasses, and enhance the protection of Ontario’s streams, lakes and aquatic life.
We’ve also created our own roadmap for protection with Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy and the first progress report. We’ve established new protection tools under the Great Lakes Protection Act. We’re making sure more voices are heard through the Great Lakes Guardians Council, working with partners to increase scientific understanding and traditional ecological knowledge of the Great Lakes, and helping thousands of volunteers protect their corner of the Great Lakes with grants from the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund.
This October marked the fifth year of funding provided through the Great Lakes Guardian Community Fund. Since it was created in 2012, the fund has awarded $6 million to 305 projects in the Great Lakes watershed areas.
To learn more about your Great Lakes watershed, what you can do to protect them and how to get involved, visit Ontario.ca and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Great Lakes depend on Ontarians. Each of us has a role to play in keeping our Great Lakes and their watersheds healthy. Healthy Great Lakes are essential to the success of our province. We need to work with all our partners to increase our efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Only by working together can we ensure that our children will inherit a legacy of a healthy and resilient Great Lakes ecosystem.