The Great Lakes are socially, economically, and environmentally significant to the region, the nation and the planet.
- The Great Lakes are a source of inspiration, recreation, rejuvenation and discovery. They are also an important element in the heritage of many cultures.
- The waters of the Great Lakes have been significant to historical settlement and development. The lakes’ names and the names of many cities, counties and landmarks along their shores have Native American or immigrant origins. This fresh water resource will continue to play a role in future habitation of the area.
- The Great Lakes’ moderating effects on climate influence the human culture, activities, agriculture and health of adjacent coastal areas.
- Waterborne commerce moves millions of tons of cargo annually through the Great Lakes. Shipping is an economically efficient method of transporting raw materials, finished goods and agricultural products. However, shipping is also a vector for non-native species, several of which may be detrimental to the Great Lakes ecosystem.
- The economy is diverse in the Great Lakes, with major sectors in industry, recreation and tourism, agriculture, commercial and sport fisheries, forestry, and mining.
- The Great Lakes were dramatically degraded and challenged by human endeavors in recent times. Basic ecosystem processes have been restored through individual and collective efforts. Proper foresight and informed decision making will continue to make the Great Lakes a model of environmental protection, restoration and innovation.