Environmental issues important to the Great Lakes are getting little respect and few commitments from presidential candidates.

The Free Press sent questions to eight top candidates asking their views on tackling invasive species, fixing global warming, diverting Great Lakes water to parched states and supporting $20 billion in funding to restore the lakes, from rebuilding sewers to repairing wetlands.

Only Republican Mitt Romney, a Michigan native, responded.

Former presidential candidate Bill Richardson set off a firestorm in the Great Lakes region last fall when he told bone-dry Nevadans that Midwestern states were awash in water they ought to share.

Democrat Richardson has left the race. The only other candidate who has said anything specific about diverting water from the lakes — Republican John McCain — made it clear he would keep his hands off.

“We have so little water in Arizona that the trees chase the dogs,” he said Wednesday in Oakland County. “But we’re not going to take Michigan’s water, I promise you.”

Michigan Rep. Vern Ehlers and three other members of Congress challenged all the candidates last fall to support the Great Lakes restoration funding and make it a top priority. A package of bills has stalled in Congress and needs presidential help to push it forward, they said.

As of Thursday, only Democrat Barack Obama signed the pledge. Even Romney, the candidate Ehlers backs, hasn’t signed. But Ehlers said he was not aware of that Thursday.

“I’ll have to bring it to his attention,” Ehlers said. “He understands the importance of it.”

“We need to be sure that the water is safe for drinking, beaches are safe for swimming and that fish are safe for eating,” Romney said in response to questions about the Great Lakes. He also said the United States should protect its land, air and water without inhibiting economic growth.

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