Great Lakes Partnership
Many environmental groups have been active in raising awareness about the Great Lakes, but most are not anchored in Great Lakes communities to the same degree as are local zoos, aquariums, and other cultural institutions. The Chicago Zoological Society’s plan for a program for Great Lakes restoration capitalizes on the existing grassroots support these kinds of institutions already enjoy and directs supporters’ attention to ways they can help shape public opinion and influence policymakers.
In January 2007, a group of representatives of zoos, aquariums, and conservation organizations from around the region met to establish this ambitious conservation association: the Zoo and Aquarium Partnership for the Great Lakes. The Society was instrumental in spearheading the formation of this powerful collaboration of 40 zoos and aquariums, the first step in building a comprehensive Great Lakes resotoration program. The Partnership has a collective membership of over 30 million visitors annually. If the Partnership were to mobilize just 5% of those visitors, the resulting support could have an enormous impact on the fate of the lakes.
It is the purpose of the Zoo and Aquarium Partnership for the Great Lakes to leverage the strengths of its collective members, inspiring audiences to care and act for the restoration and conservation of the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The Partnership works to positively impact efforts of restoration and conservation in five different strategic areas: public policy, science, communications, funding, and outreach.
The Benefits of Greater Awareness
While the goal of this program is to rally support for Great Lakes restoration, it offers other benefits as well. While only a minority of visitors may take steps to influence environmental policy, many more will have their awareness of local and regional environmental issues raised.
So far, the program has proven that a small amount of institutional effort can produce a powerful pool of resources. We hope you will join us in this effort as we work to add additional voices, both institutional and individual, to the fight for Great Lakes restoration.
The resulting document from the planning meeting, available for download, is a collection of workplans that identify actions, working teams, leaders, and sometimes specific targets or deliverables.
We also want to thank the Joyce Foundation for providing financial support and for inspiring us at the meeting.