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From Pollution to Partnerships:

Cleaning Up Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes



On the left, a Service biologist collects water and sediment samples near the mouth of

Swan Creek. To the right, the nesting common tern is an example of a species potentially

impacted by high pollution levels. A variety of fish and wildlife may be impacted in

Areas of Concern.

Photos by USFWS



Great Lakes Areas of Concern are locations along the Great Lakes suffering from degraded environmental conditions caused by historic and ongoing pollution. These areas were designated under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between the U.S. and Canada based on the presence of one or more beneficial use impairments. A beneficial use impairment is when a body of water is so polluted it is no longer suitable for specific uses, such as loss of fish and wildlife habitat or restrictions on fish consumption. Of the 43 Areas of Concern identified in the U.S. and Canada, to date, only two Canadian and one U.S. Area of Concern have been delisted.


The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is making funds available to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to clean up and restore these highly degraded areas. The Service is contributing its expertise to the Great Lakes-wide effort through its project, Accelerating Remediation and Restoration of Contaminated Sediment at Areas of Concern.


Read more »


Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Home



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Dec. 12, 2014: The Devil’s Horn and the Baptism Pool


Baptism Pool at Big Barren Creek Natural Area


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Dec. 5, 2013: Practical Applications of Ecological Risk Assessment for Endangered Species


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Feature Story

Mussel and Sediment Survey Underway

in the Big River, Missouri


Service Biologists sampling freshwater mussels at a sampling site on the Big River.

Service biologists sampling freshwater mussels on the Big River. A square frame is placed on the stream bottom at 150 random locations per site. Divers remove substrate by hand from inside the frame to a depth of 10 cm, place in attached bag, bring to the surface, and sort on a floating sieve to find mussels. They identify and measure the mussels, then return them to the stream. This sampling method estimates the density of mussels living on the stream bottom.

Photo by USFWS; Andy Roberts

December 3, 2013


Missouri Ecological Services and Fish and Wildlife Conservation offices are working together to study native freshwater mussel populations and how they might be affected by stream sediments contaminated with heavy metals from lead mining on the Big River in southeastern Missouri. In preparation for this task, we researched published literature and conducted interviews with preeminent mussel biologists to develop and implement the most statistically and scientifically defensible survey methodologies.


In the summer of 2013 we completed the first phase of the study, which is locating and delineating survey sites. To accomplish this task, we traveled over 68 miles of the river channel searching for suitable habitat and mussel beds. This represents the first time the river has been thoroughly explored to determine the full extent and distribution of suitable mussel habitat. In all, 76 sites were identified and evaluated as potential survey sites. Suitable habitat was found in 20 of these sites, and these areas were delineated for later sampling.  Continue Reading the Field Notes Report »


Endangered Freshwater Mussel Home


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November 2013: Service Responds to Mississippi River Spill


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Contaminants Biologist Mike Coffey and the U.S. Coast Guard’s Lt. Colin Fogarty rescue a duck from the diesel fuel. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard)


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Nov. 8, 2013: Critical Habitat Excluded for Grotto Sculpin due to Strength of Community Conservation Plan


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October 23, 2013: Environmental Contaminant Specialists Help Increase Spill Preparedness


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Rock Island Field Office Hosts Topeka

Shiner Field Day in IowaField Day attendees get a first hand look at juvenile Topeka shiners after biologists


Field Day attendees get a first hand look at juvenile Topeka shiners after biologists

seined a restored oxbow.

Photo by USFWS; Aleshia Kenney


September 27, 2013


On September 5 and 6, 2013 staff from the Rock Island Field Office hosted a Topeka shiner field day for Regional Office staff and our local conservation partners. For the past 11 years, the Field Office has been performing oxbow restorations for the Topeka shiner in northwest Iowa. To date, 55 oxbows have been restored along tributaries to the North Raccoon River. Continue Reading »


Topeka Shiner Home

Topeka Shiner Slideshow: Post-2012 Drought Recolonization Survey


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Sept. 23, 2013: A New Kind of Playground


TogetherGreen Youth student intern Nicole Haas standing in the "hideaway" area atop the large hill where the perennials have filled in nicely. Nicole designed and built the natural playscape with help from many volunteers.


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Sept. 20, 2013: Restoring the Missouri Ozarks One Piece at at Time


Bluffs on the banks of the Big River, Missouri.


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Sept. 9, 2013: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Eden Place Bring Nature to the City in Chicago


Eden Place volunteers (left) join Founder and Executive Director Michael Howard (second from right) and Luis Zaragoza (USFWS Chicago Office) in a pose next to one of the first of 26 oak trees planted at Eden Place Nature Center in early September 2013. - Photo Credit: Louise Clemency/USFWS



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Sept. 5, 2013: Environmental Contaminants Specialists and Endangered Species Program Team Up to Assess Threats to Endangered Freshwater Mussels in Michigan


Steve Choy (Green Bay Field Office), Elissa Buttermore (Twin Cities Field Office) and Jamie Bettaso (East Lansing Field Office) collect pore water, Belle River, Michigan.


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August 30, 2013: Wetland Conservation on a Landscape Scale


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August 14, 2013: Hope After the Storm (A Beetle Story)


Rick Hansen and Paul McKenzie of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service place American burying beetles into constructed burrows the day before the big storm. - Photo Credit: Scott Hamilton (FWS)


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August 12, 2013: Implementing Ohio's New Mussel Protocol - Great Miami Mussel Survey


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August 6, 2013: Columbia, Missouri Ecological Services Performs Environmental Research at Argonne National Laboratory


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August 2, 2013: Columbus Ohio Field Office Partners with the Metro Parks, Serving Summit County to Monitor and Protect Rare Cliff and Rock Habitat for Federally Listed Species


Gated cave to protect bats in Ohio.


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August 1, 2013: Rock Island Field Office Instructs Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service Staff on Identifying Indiana Bat Habitat


FWS training NRCS staff.


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August 1, 2013: Enbridge Energy Line 6B Construction in Indiana


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August 1, 2013: Kirk Yard Expansion and Rare Ntural Habitat Preservation


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July 19, 2013: Missouri Mussel Meetings Held


Neosho mucket


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July 18, 2013: Incidental Take Permit for Buckeye Wind Project Issued


The Buckeye Wind project includes up to 100 wind turbines in Champaign County, Ohio. - Photo Credit: Melanie Cota, USFWS


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July 16, 2013: Partnership Between the Ohio Ecological Services Office and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Private Lands Program restores habitat for the Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid


Eastern prairie fringed orchid growing in a soybean field. - Photo Credit: Melissa Moser, Ohio Department of Natural Resources


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Nation’s Symbol Sheds Light on

Great Lakes Region’s Environmental Health

Bald Eagles in Michigan Get a Check Up


Eaglet in nest.

Biologist Jeremy N. Moore of the East Lansing Field Office gets an eagle's view after

climbing to a nest to retrieve an eaglet.

Photo by USFWS; Jeremy Moore


July 3, 2013


High up in the trees above Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in east central Michigan, biologists gently remove a 52-day-old bald eagle chick from its nest.  The eaglet is carefully banded, weighed and measured, and samples taken of its blood and feathers, before it is returned to its nest to be tended by its parents.


Six years after the bald eagle was declared recovered and removed from the list of threatened and endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners continue to monitor the species’ status.  In Michigan, this work not only focuses on the numbers – how many pairs of eagles, the number of nesting attempts, how many eaglets hatch – but the health of the birds as well.  Biologists here are closely watching for signs of the contaminants that originally forced eagles to the brink of extinction and threatened the health of their environment. As a top predator, the bald eagle accumulates contaminants from the prey it consumes.  Because bald eagles are susceptible to problems caused by some types of contaminants, biologists use them as a sentinel species.  The observations and data acquired through continued monitoring allow resource managers a glimpse into bald eagle and ecosystem health. 


Continue Reading the News Release »


Bald Eagle Home


Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge


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June 28, 2013: White-Nose Syndrome: Planning and Preparation Continue inthe Midwest


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June 19, 2013: Contaminants of Emerging Concern Sampling in the Cuyahoga River


Fish and Wildlife Biologists Jo Ann Banda and Sarah Bowman from Ohio's Ecological Services Office process caged fish while sampling in the Cuyahoga River for the CEC Early Warning program. - Photo Credit: Keith Lott USFWS


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June 11, 2013: Endangered Carrion Beetles Carrying On


From front to back, Ohio field office biologists Donnie Knight, Jenny Finfera and Angie Boyer along with Ohio State University biologist George Keeney assist at the American burying beetle release a the Wilds near Zanesville, Ohio. Beetles were released on June 11, 2013. - Photo Credit: Sarah Bowman


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June 5, 2013: Early Warning Sounds-off at International Great Lakes Research Conference


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Chicago Partnership Leads to Progress


Prescribed fire with firefighter in foreground.

Prescribed fire helps restore native vegetation in fire-adpated communities like those found at Waterfall Glen.

Photo by Forest Preserve District of DuPage County; Tom Velat


March 2013

To conserve and restore portions of Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chicago Illinois Field Office is pooling resources with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and Illinois State Tollway.


This unique area has a long history of natural and cultural preservation beginning with the Civilian Conservation Corps. In 1973, the National Park Service transferred over 2,200 acres of surplus government land to the county for no cost through its Federal Lands to Parks program.


Today the preserve, only 20 miles outside of Chicago, provides thousands of people with great opportunities to enjoy nature in one of the area’s most scenic places. The preserve also has a range of natural communities with a high diversity of native plant and wildlife species.


Waterfall Glen’s prairies, savannas, and oak-maple woodlands contain 740 native plant species, over 300 species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles and another 300 of invertebrates. The portion of the preserve that will be restored is also one of only seven areas in Illinois that provides breeding habitat for the federally endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana).


Read more »


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March 1, 2013: Columbia Montessori School Gets New Mussel Work


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Oil Spill Response and Restoration on the North Raccoon River, Iowa

Oil spill personnel discuss cleanup alternatives for an oiled gravelly beach along the North Raccoon River. - Photo Credit: USFWS; Mike Coffey

Oil spill personnel discuss cleanup alternatives for an oiled gravelly

beach along the North Raccoon River.

Photo Credit by USFWS; Mike Coffey



January 18, 2013


The largest oil spill in Iowa occurred on September 13th, 2012, into the North Raccoon River. Several thousands of gallons of used motor oil discharged from a valve for a greenhouse heating system tank located in Jefferson, Iowa. The used motor oil flowed down a ravine and into the North Raccoon River. Several miles of sand bar beaches and side channels were oiled. The cleanup lasted a couple of weeks. Contaminants biologists from the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted in the oil spill cleanup by providing technical expertise to the emergency response personnel.


The North Raccoon River is part of the Raccoon River watershed in central Iowa. It is a wild flowing river with many riffles, runs, pools, sand and gravel bars, and small side channels. The side channels are federally listed as Critical Habitat for the federally and State listed endangered Topeka shiner. The Topeka shiner is a headwater stream minnow that also uses floodplain wetlands in a number of tributaries to the North Raccoon River. The North Raccoon River serves as a corridor for dispersal and connectivity between the Topeka shiner populations in the tributaries. The river also provides foraging habitat for migrating shorebirds and other aquatic dependent migratory birds.

Read More »


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January 10, 2013: Working with Michigan Natural Features Inventory on Oil Spill Preparedness


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Jan. 3, 2013: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Corps of Engineers Come Together with a Bang! Explosive removal of rock pinnacles in Mississippi River


MDC setting nets downstream of blasting barge. Note the deployed buoy.  Photo by USFWS; Matt Mangan



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Last updated: November 9, 2015