June 2012: The Politics of Asian Carp
Election years offer opportunities to engage candidates for office on a host of issues. In 2012, the Healing Our Waters coalition is spearheading a challenge to the presidential candidates to sign a pledge pertaining to Asian Carp and their potential invasion of our majestic Great Lakes.
This month, WEMU Morning Host David Fair and I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Andy Buchsbaum, Regional Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s regional Great Lakes office. Andy has testified on a wide range of Great Lakes issues before state, regional and national government bodies, including the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, the International Joint Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Michigan legislature. Andy has also co-authored numerous articles and blogs on pressing environmental issues, and for the past 10 years has taught environmental law courses at the University of Michigan law school.
Andy joins us on Friday, June 1 to return to an issue that is one of the most pressing environmental threats to the Great Lakes: The spread of the highly invasive --and detrimental--species of Asian Carp.
The National Wildlife Federation has been working on this issue for years. The Healing Our Waters coalition has been instrumental in pushing for Great Lakes funding and for studies related to keeping the carp out of the Lakes. Now, they have issued a pledge to both presidential candidates, asking that they commit to maintaining Great Lakes protection funding AND the construction of a permanent barrier between Chicago and Lake Michigan. How will President Obama and Governor Romney respond? What kinds of incentives do they have to respond to this request?
The Mississippi and Illinois Rivers have been decimated by Asian carp. Areas that once held a diversity of aquatic species now harbor only Asian carp, which have few natural predators and gobble up primary food sources so voraciously that little is left further up the food chain. This is what makes them such a threat to the Great Lakes: once in Lake Michigan, they could deplete the food chain of like they did in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers and wreck the ecosystem and $7 billion sport-fishery of the Great Lakes.
We also discuss a recent Great Lakes Commission study which proposes options for permanently separating the Mississippi and Great Lakes watersheds to prevent the transfer of species like Asian carp between them. Cost estimates range from $3 to $9 billion, which is a drop in the bucket compared to that $7 billion annual fishery. The Army Corps of Engineers has also recently announced that it will speed up its own watershed separation study to be completed in 2013, two years before its original estimate.
The political aspect of Asian carp looms large during this election season, as well. President Obama has shown environmental leadership through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, but Great Lakes protection is not a partisan issue: Michigan Congressman Dave Camp (R) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) have both introduced legislation to address Asian carp.
Listen to the full interview podcast here on 89.1 WEMU