U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher has come out in opposition to a budget measure that eliminates federal funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

The GLRI is a conservation and restoration program aimed at addressing toxic substances; invasive species; nearshore health and non-point source pollution; habitat and wildlife protection and restoration; and accountability, monitoring, evaluation, and education.

Administered primarily through the Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the program has had a budget over $300 million in annual funding.

The Office of Management and Budget’s budget blueprint document for Fiscal Year 2018 describes the GLRI and Chesapeake Bay Program as “specific regional efforts” and therefore targets for elimination.

“The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities,” the OMB document says.

Gallagher released a statement that the health of the Great Lakes, as the largest surface freshwater system on Earth, cannot be ignored.

“While I agree with the President’s general efforts to rein in out-of-control spending and reduce the massive national debt and deficit, his specific proposal to cut funding for the Great Lakes is both short sided and ill-advised,” Gallagher said. “The economic impact of the Great Lakes is significant; the Great Lakes contribute over $1.4 billion to Wisconsin’s economy alone and support more than 8,000 jobs. This is to say nothing of the Great Lakes’ vast, immeasurable natural beauty. Lake Michigan is one of Northeast Wisconsin’s most treasured assets and I believe we must protect it and all of the great lakes in the region …

“We have a moral obligation to pass on clean water to future generations so that they too can come to know and appreciate these natural treasures,” Gallagher said.

The first-term representative has hosted a roundtable meeting with more than 50 stakeholders in Northeast Wisconsin to find ways to improve the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, and he recently signed a bipartisan letter urging the Appropriations Committee to continue providing the $300 million necessary to sustain the GLRI’s efforts.