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DU public policy staff leads Great Lakes conservation talks in Washington

  • Michigan restoration partner Ernie Kafcas (left) and DU Director of Public Policy Gildo Tori (right) meet with Rep. Bill Huizenga at Great Lakes Days in Washington, D.C.
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Ducks Unlimited's Great Lakes/Atlantic Region participated in Great Lakes Days in Washington, D.C., last week, which included a Great Lakes Commission (GLC) meeting, White House briefings and visits with members of Congress.

Gildo Tori, DU director of public policy, presented economic information to GLC, touting the benefits of hunting and fishing in strengthening and stimulating local economies. "Jobs created and supported by hunters and anglers are jobs that can't be exported overseas," Tori said.  "Habitat conservation—DU's mission—provides habitat for wildlife and access to recreational lands that support these jobs, and fuels the environmental and economic engines in the Great Lakes states."

Tori also attended the Healing Our Waters (HOW) Coalition meeting and lobby day, presenting information on the Farm Bill and leading a group of conservation and environmental groups to discuss accomplishments and priorities with legislators. HOW, GLC and other key groups had three major priorities: encourage Congress to maintain Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding, support ecological separation to prevent Asian carp and other invasive species from traveling between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River and support conservation funding in the new Farm Bill.

HOW and Tori also brought restoration partners from Michigan to assist in congressional visits. Ernie Kafcas, with Wetlands and Wildlife Solutions of Traverse City, and Chris Sullivan, land protection specialist from the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, participated in meetings with multiple members of the Michigan delegation. Kafcas recently retired from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and began a private partnership company to assist in delivering GLRI projects in Michigan. The company has been hiring local workers and contractors, proving that restoration funding creates and sustains jobs. Chris Sullivan highlighted the innovative partnerships spawned by GLRI, including conservation easements that protect vital habitats while keeping the land under private ownership.

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