For over 50 years, the State of Michigan and Japan’s Shiga Prefecture have enjoyed a sister-state relationship. That connection was strengthened recently when EGLE Director Liesl Clark and Shiga's Department of Lake Biwa signed an agreement to share knowledge and expertise to protect some of the world's largest bodies of fresh water and advocate for lake conservation efforts around the world.
"Thousands of miles may physically separate us, but our interests are closely intertwined: preserving water and environmental resources, development opportunities tied to lake economies, and even invasive species," noted Director Clark at the signing ceremony.
"Water is an important identity for the citizens of Shiga and Michigan, and they are what make us unique. We're excited to continue to work together to show the world the value of freshwater resources and act as a unified example that other states, provinces, or countries can emulate," she added.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding, both parties will:
At the ceremony, Director General Ishikawa Yasuhisa cited the wisdom of joining forces to tell the world how important lakes and reservoirs are and help advance their conservation. Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan.
The formal Michigan-Shiga relationship was established in 1968 to promote friendship and goodwill through economic and cultural exchanges and the conservation and preservation of both state’s distinctive lake environments. Over the past 50 years, the program has expanded and deepened to include teacher and student exchange programs and various cultural exchange programs.
In 1984, the partnership led to the initiation of the Management of World Lake Environments Conference in Shiga. The second conference was held in 1986 on Mackinac Island. The conference takes place every two to three years.
Emily Finnell of EGLE's Office of the Great Lakes notes that the Michigan-Shiga partnership is an important institution for the global conversation about freshwater and lake environments. "We have an opportunity to leverage this relationship to demonstrate global leadership on one of the most pressing issues of the 21st Century."
The visit by Japanese officials marks the latest international visit to EGLE. Other recent visits include: