What’s so great about the Great Lakes? - Cheri Dobbs and Jennifer Gabrys
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The Great Lakes also have much to offer visitors to the region. Beginning in the far north, visitors may be interested in the beauty, solitude, and wilderness of Isle Royale National Park, the third largest island in the contiguous United States. While visiting Lake Superior, visitors may also be interested in stopping by Pictured Rocks, the first officially designated National Lakeshore, to take in the beauty of the shoreline, diving, kayaking, and shipwreck tours. Traveling southwest, visitors will be awed by two additional national lakeshores, Sleeping Bear Dunes or Indiana Dunes. Major cities along the coast include Chicago and Milwaukee. Traveling southeast to Lake Huron, visitors can visit the world’s largest island in a freshwater lake, Manitoulin Island, or the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary to learn about the many shipwrecks of the lake. Lake Erie boasts many islands and resort areas along with the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Nestled between Lakes Erie and Ontario, and spanning the international border between Canada and the United States, are the impressive Niagara Falls. This natural wonder is known not only for their beauty but for their source of hydroelectric power.
While the Great Lakes are a critical natural resource, the system is not without its share of problems. One of the biggest plaguing the Great Lakes are the number of invasive species that have inadvertently made their way into the lakes. Lake Erie, with its high population density and the extensive farming in the region, has been plagued by pollution from urbanization and fertilization. New concerns have arisen with the increase in wind power in the Great Lakes region. Many are concerned about its effect on migratory birds that share the area. In addition, potential global warming also threatens the health of the lakes. There are 27 current Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes that the Environmental Protection Agency is working to address. These are areas that have been identified as being impaired by human activity.
Partnerships with organizations are in place to protect and manage the lands and waters including the Nature Conservancy, the Great Lakes Protection Fund, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In addition, the Center for Great Lakes Literacy has developed a community between scientists, educators, volunteers, and students to promote the stewardship of the Great Lakes, including the Great Lakes Literacy Principles.
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