Great Lakes News

Great Lakes News

Voters Elect to Give Lake Erie the Same Rights as Humans


Late last month, the city of Toledo, Ohio, voted to give Lake Erie the same rights as citizens. This means that abuse caused by people and corporations — including pollution, dumping of waste and harmful substances — will now be illegal, according to the official Lake Erie Bill of Rights Charter Amendment. This is the first law of its kind in the country’s history. The bill says humans have the right to a healthy environment, meaning citizens can sue for harming the lake.

More than 60 percent of voters voted "yes" to the measure aimed at protecting the lake and its surrounding watersheds and shorelines. This bill came about in 2014 after the city suffered a water crisis due to lake pollution.

"Fifty years after the media infamously declared 'Lake Erie is dead,' Toledo voters recognize that Lake Erie and its entire ecosystem is very much alive," the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund said in a press release, "and as such, Lake Erie has the right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.

“We the people of the City of Toledo find that laws ostensibly enacted to protect us, and to foster our health, prosperity, and fundamental rights…are threatened,” the Lake Erie Bill of Rights reads. “Thus it has become necessary that we reclaim, reaffirm, and assert our inherent and inalienable rights, and to extend legal rights to our natural environment.”

“We’ve been using the same laws for decades to try and protect Lake Erie. They’re clearly not working,” says Toledoans for Safe Water activist Markie Miller. “...With this historic vote, the people of Toledo and our allies are ushering in a new era of environmental rights by securing the rights of the Great Lake Erie.”

To read the official document, visit and scroll to page four. 

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