Representatives from both sides of the border met Monday to discuss ways to improve the environmental conditions of the Detroit River-western Lake Erie corridor.
The State of the Strait Conference was held Monday at the University of Windsor and its theme was setting ecological endpoints and restoration targets. Government managers, researchers, students, environmental organizations and others from Canada and the U.S. attended.
U of W biology professor Jan Ciborowski said it’s important to make an event about the waterways in this area open to people from both countries.
“The birds and the fish don’t stop at the border. We’re studying an ecological unit and therefore it’s important to have observations on both sides of the river,” said Ciborowski, who is the co-chair for the event. “We have to be sure that we’re doing the same thing on both sides and we share the resources, share the costs and share the monitoring.”
Bill Parkus, an environmental planner for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, said Ontario and Michigan need to work together on some of the problems in the region.
“Many of the issues create situations where what’s going on on the American side is impacting the Canadian ecosystem and vice versa, so it needs to be a holistic effort to restore the ecosystem,” said Parkus, who is responsible for water quality planning around Lake St. Clair.
One of the issues with the Detroit River, according to Parkus, is a loss of a high-value habitat for fish and wildlife caused by fragmentation and land-use encroachment.
“Natural areas are being restored for ecotourism opportunities which can bring jobs and can bring businesses ... to the area,” Parkus said. “There’s such a thing as the blue economy where the water and the natural areas are being integrated into the economic fabric of our regions.”
State of the Strait is held every two years and features different speakers and their reports on the Detroit River and connecting bodies of water. Ciborowski said each speaker will prepare a three to four page report that will be put in a special publication of the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research.
“Every two years, another one of these reports comes out and they are really important documents because we’ve learned a lot of new stuff,” Ciborowski said. “All of this information is really novel and cutting edge and now it’s in a report that’s written in a way so people who are not scientists can appreciate it.”
Following the conference, meetings with the Lake Erie Millennium Network will be held from Tuesday to Thursday to report on the major issues learned by people researching the region over the last two years.
“The managers are listening and they can go back and they can put in place research grant competitions that we and many other people can apply for and those research questions are high priority and it’s a way that we can identify the needs to synthesize things together and make things work,” said Ciborowski.
“Both of these meetings are informal. People need permissions from their bosses to come, but there’s no policy. People can get up and say exactly what they want and because there are no constraints, people can really speak their minds.”