In February 2019, a bill was introduced in the New York state legislature to create a Lake Erie Bill of Rights. This legislation was inspired by the similar initiative of the residents of Toledo, Ohio, and the language was drafted with the assistance of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). This legislation recognizes that the Lake Erie ecosystem “possess the right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.” This includes all natural water features, communities of organisms, soil as well as terrestrial and aquatic sub ecosystems that are part of Lake Erie and its watershed.
The NY Lake Erie Bill of Rights did not make it past the committee stage, and therefore subsequently failed. Recognizing that the health of the Great Lakes adjacent to New York state are inextricably linked to the entire Great Lakes ecosystem, the bill was amended to encompass Lake Erie and Lake Ontario within the jurisdiction of New York State. The new legislation – the Great Lakes Bill of Rights – was introduced in the 2021-2022 legislative session, and reintroduced in 2023.