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GARY | Calumet-area stakeholders gathered Tuesday for the first of a two-day summit aimed at making connections on environmental issues across the Illinois/Indiana state line.

"Connection is one thing, but moving it to the next step is another," Dr. Mark Bouman, Chicago Region program director at The Field Museum and co-chairman of the Calumet Stewardship Initiative, said. "We want to make this conversation count."

The theme of this year's Calumet Summit at the Marquette Park Pavilion is Connecting for Action. Leaders from nonprofit groups, industry and local, state and federal governments are among the more than 100 people participating in the event coordinated by the Calumet Stewardship Initiative.

During the summit, 16 presenters have seven minutes to share information on subjects such as natural resources planning, land and water conservation, green infrastructure, climate change, education and transportation. Participants then discuss the presentations in small groups, submit their views on the information and vote on the opinions provided using transponders.

Data collected from the votes will be used to guide recommendations for planning at the end of the summit.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said partnerships forged at the summit provide the key to future success.

"We can all work together to preserve the environment that serves us all well," Freeman-Wilson said. "The way that we do it is through these meetings."

Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago, said the Great Lakes region has the fourth largest economic productivity in the world, making the connections between quality of life, industry, economy and the environment key.

Brammeier spoke about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program that invested more than $1 billion in the Great Lakes in the last three years, $11 million of which was spent in the Calumet region on nutrient runoff, invasive species, contaminated sediments and habitat restoration.

"There has been a coalition built up beyond any one community that is making it work," Brammeier said.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, said talking about the issues will not be enough.

"I would encourage you between now and the next summit, go out and do something or everyone will have wasted their time over the two days," Visclosky said.

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