The Michigan League of Conservation Voters claims on its Web site that the Great Lakes and our way of life are "threatened" daily by water diversion, pollution and loss of wetlands.[1] It’s a common refrain that’s unsupported by the facts.

More water is diverted into the Great Lakes than is siphoned out, and groundwater supplies are regularly replenished and remain abundant. (See Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Office of the Great Lakes, "Great Lakes Trends: Into the New Millennium," May 2000.)

Water quality has improved dramatically during the past three decades. Michigan’s 2006 report "Water Quality and Pollution Control" asserts "The open waters of the Great Lakes have good to excellent water quality."

There is no current, comprehensive inventory of wetlands in the Great Lakes basin. According to the Great Lakes Commission,[2] "Current estimates of wetland area lack precision." Estimates of wetland losses following American settlement have ranged from 30 percent to 50 percent. In recent years, however, the rate of wetland loss has slowed dramatically, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In fact, there was a net gain in freshwater wetland area of 220,200 acres between 1998 and 2004, according to the agency’s report "Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 1998 to 2004."

[1] The Michigan League of Conservation Voters, "Know the Issues: Protecting Water Resources of the Great Lakes Basin." Available on World Wide Web at:

[2] The Great Lakes Commission coordinates water conservation efforts among eight states. More information about the commission is available on the World Wide Web at:


What do you know about Michigan’s landscape?

1. What percentage of Michigan’s land area is forest?*

A. 20 percent
B. 60 percent
C. 10 percent
D. 37 percent

2. What percentage of Michigan’s land area is wetlands?

A. 18 percent
B. 5 percent
C. 36 percent
D. 10 percent

3. What percentage of Michigan’s land area is agricultural?

A. 12 percent
B. 29 percent
C. 20 percent
D. 45 percent

4. What percentage of Michigan’s land area is urbanized?

A. 6 percent
B. 15 percent
C. 25 percent
D. 40 percent

5. How much did non-federal forests in Michigan increase between 1982 and 1997?

A. 238,000 acres
B. 750,000 acres
C. 538,000 acres
D. 112,000 acres

6. What was the increase in the volume of Michigan forest timber during the past 50 years?

A. Double
B. Triple
C. Quadruple
D. None of the above

Source: "State of Michigan’s Environment 2005:  Third Biennial Report" *MDNR 1978 survey.


Answers: 1. D (37 percent) 2. A (18 percent) 3. B (29 percent) 4. A (6 percent) 5. C (538,000 acres) 6. B (Triple)