About the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)

Comprised of more than 10,000 miles of coastline and 30,000 islands, the Great Lakes provide drinking water, transportation, power and recreational opportunities to the 30 million citizens who call the Great Lakes basin home. As the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, the Great Lakes hold 95 percent of the surface fresh water in the United States. An important economic resource, the Great Lakes are the heart of industries responsible for more than 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages to American citizens. Among these industries fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching in the Great Lakes generates almost $18 billion in annual revenue.

Years of environmental degradation have left the Great Lakes in need of immediate on-the-ground action to save this precious resource for generations to come. Initiated in 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a driver for environmental action and represents a collaborative effort on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and 15 other federal agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to address the most significant environmental concerns in the Great Lakes. Throughout the last decade, we have worked alongside partners to protect, restore and maintain the Great Lakes ecosystem. Building upon strategic recommendations for how to improve the Great Lakes ecosystem, we facilitate the implementation of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan priority programs, projects and activities to protect, restore, and maintain the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan identifies five major focus areas to serve as a guide for collaborative restoration work. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a proud federal partner in the implementation of the GLRI, and manages projects in the following focus areas:

Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern

Years after pollution stops, persistent pollutants can remain in the environment, often trapped in sediments below the surface of the water. The areas of the Great Lakes Basin most severely impacted by these pollutants are known as Areas of Concern. We are working alongside partners to restore and protect these aquatic ecosystems from the threat of persistent pollutants. We have initiated projects that also address the looming threat of emerging contaminants like hand sanitizers, pharmaceuticals and other personal care products.

Invasive Species

More than 180 non-native species are considered established in the Great Lakes. The most invasive of these reproduce and spread so quickly that they out-compete native species, degrading habitat where they live and disrupting food webs. We work to control and eradicate harmful non-native species in the Great Lakes. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has been allocated to us for work specifically concerning invasive carp control and management, with additional funding allocated for state projects.

Nonpoint Source Pollution Impacts on Nearshore Health

This work includes funding provided to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support projects aimed at reducing environmental impacts from contaminated stormwater runoff in urban areas.

Habitats and Species

From climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change
to increasing development activities along the shores of the Great Lakes, a multitude of threats are affecting the health of the Great Lakes habitats and native wildlife. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding helps to identify, restore and protect important habitat for native fish and wildlife. Projects include bringing wetlands and other habitat back to life, and the first-ever comprehensive assessment of the entire 530,000 acres of Great Lakes coastal wetlands for the purpose of strategically targeting restoration and protection efforts in a science-based manner.

Foundations for Future Restoration Actions

We foster climate resiliency through initiative-funded projects, educate the next generation about the importance of the Great Lakes to fish, wildlife, plants and people, and continue to apply our science-based adaptive management approach for new and ongoing projects. This work includes identifying and addressing Great Lakes ecosystem health priorities using a landscape conservation design approach.

More information about The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative