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NOAA News Releases 2004
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NOAA Administrator Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.) today pledged NOAA’s resources to support the largest environmental and economic collaboration of its kind in the Great Lakes region.

“The Great Lakes are integral to the vitality of the environment and the economy in the region and the entire country,” said Lautenbacher. “From sustaining commercial fishing and providing recreation to ensuring healthy ecosystems as well as providing clean water to sustain life, there is hardly a person who isn’t touched by this great resource in some way. NOAA is excited to be a part of this historic collaboration and we look forward to working with all our partners in this important endeavor.”

Federal, state, local and tribal officials today signed a Great Lakes Declaration and a framework document for the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. The collaboration seeks to coordinate the resources of the many entities that operate in the Great Lakes region to tackle some of the areas greatest challenges. The framework outlines the process for developing a Great Lakes restoration and protection strategy.

NOAA has a large presence in the region with on-going interagency research, monitoring and restoration projects in each of the Great Lakes. Current NOAA efforts include research into eradicating invasive species, cleaning the water and developing a Great Lakes Observing System to allow scientists and policy makers to track changes to the lakes in real time.

The Great Lakes constitute the largest freshwater system on earth, containing roughly 20 percent of the world’s fresh water supply. In addition to their natural beauty, the Great Lakes serve as a source of drinking water for more than 30 million people. They also support a $1 billion commercial fishing industry, a $4 billion dollar recreational fishing industry and move 200 million tons of commercial shipping each year, making the region vital to the U.S. economy.

In May 2004, President Bush signed Executive Order 13340 creating a cabinet-level task force to accelerate the coordination for protection and restoration of the Great Lakes system. The executive order directed the task force to help convene and establish “a regional collaboration of national significance for the Great Lakes” among the U.S. Federal Government, the Great Lakes States, local communities, Tribes and other interests in the Great Lakes region.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through research to better understand atmospheric and climate variability and to manage wisely our nation's coastal and marine resources.