(Content of letter from the IAGLR President to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada.)

September 20, 1995

The Honorable William J. Clinton
President of the United States

The Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien,
Prime Minister of Canada

Dear President Clinton and Prime Minister Chrétien:

As you know, North America's Great Lakes represent a tremendous resource to both our nations in terms of our health, our livelihood, and our overall well-being. We wish to bring to your attention a serious threat to this resource: the proposed funding cuts in Great Lakes research. At a time when the Great Lakes are still at risk from human induced problems, we can ill afford to reduce research funding which provides the foundation for comprehensive solutions. We hope you will consider our arguments and work to reverse the alarming direction toward which leaders from both our countries appear to be headed.

Established in 1967, the International Association for Great Lakes Research (IAGLR) is a unique focal point for compiling and disseminating multidisciplinary knowledge on North America's Great Lakes and other large lakes of the world. IAGLR's 1000 members are a diverse array of U.S. and Canadian scientists, engineers, resource managers and graduate students. As a professional, non- profit scientific organization, IAGLR has served as a unique, unbiased forum for the scholarly review and debate of ideas on science and policy issues pertaining to the intelligent and cost- effective management of the Great Lakes ecosystem. IAGLR's role as a scholarly forum is supported by the peer-reviewed Journal of Great Lakes Research and sponsorship of an annual conference on Great Lakes research. The Association also believes strongly in supporting the education of next-generation Great Lakes scientists and resource managers. Accordingly, IAGLR has provided student fellowships, scholarships and other awards to foster the development of future scientists and policy makers.

While IAGLR values and protects its unique status as an impartial intellectual forum, we feel we must voice serious concern about recent U.S. and Canadian efforts to reduce funding for Great Lakes research. While we recognize the need for both nations to reduce deficits and streamline government programs, we believe that the proposed budget cuts in Great Lakes research are short- sighted and threaten to reverse remarkable advances in freshwater science and management that are unparalleled elsewhere in the world. Moreover, we fear that proposed cuts will:

  1. force a retreat from large-scale multidisciplinary, ecosystem-wide studies of the Great Lakes that are critical for managing and protecting these highly valuable resources;
  2. interrupt the development of integrative, long-term data sets that are essential for understanding and assessing impacts of longer term phenomena on the Great Lakes;
  3. result in the decline in research capabilities below a "critical mass" needed to sustain a viable, basin wide research effort. Once this momentum is lost, start-up will require several years and will be extremely expensive; and
  4. erode an already declining supply of next-generation Great Lakes scientists and resource managers. Without adequate funding opportunities to train and educate future scientists and managers will be severely diminished.

The need for continuing, well-supported research on the Great Lakes is never more apparent then when a crisis looms. The current invasion of exotic species into the lakes, most notably the zebra mussel, will cost our countries billions of dollars before it is stemmed. Yet much of the research that is targeted for reduction or elimination is aimed at understanding the biology of these invaders so that ultimately a solution can be found. The spectacular recovery of Lake Erie from its plight in the 1960's is an example of how research can guide the way to systematic management of resources for the betterment of all.

Instead of proceeding with what we view as highly arbitrary, harmful budget reductions, IAGLR proposes that the two nations seriously explore cost-saving strategies that we believe will prove to be equally economical while improving effectiveness of science and management efforts in both countries. We propose that federal, state/provincial agencies, universities and private sector explore:

  1. new ways to exchange and share information and computing resources;
  2. new approaches to encourage full coordination of sampling and monitoring activities to avoid wasteful duplication of effort;
  3. new ways of sharing research expertise, instruments, equipment and other technology, including research vessels and other platforms; and
  4. new alternatives to traditional "in-house" research approaches in favor of multi- organizational collaborative, integrative partnerships.

Finally, we recommend that both nations conduct a thorough economic valuation aimed at attributing a dollar-value to all benefits derived from the Great Lakes ecosystem (i.e. fishing, recreation, tourism). Once this is accomplished, and benefits can be compared with modest costs supporting Great Lakes research efforts, we believe that the cost-benefit comparison will reinforce our conviction that Great Lakes science and management efforts are small investments that produce tremendous returns. IAGLR stands ready to assist both nations in moving toward improved, proactive, and more cost-effective understanding and management of these vital resources.

Very Truly Yours,

Mark R. Servos, President

As approved by the Board of Directors, International Association for Great Lakes Research, at their Fall Meeting, September 13, 1995

Revised: 24 October 1995
Maintained by Kevin McGunagle,