The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and 15 other federal agencies, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to address the most significant environmental concerns of the region.

Regional significance

30 million people: The Great Lakes provide drinking water, transportation, power and recreational opportunities to 30 million people who call the Great Lakes basin “home.”

$18 billion: Fishing, hunting and wildlife watching in the Great Lakes generate almost $18 billion in annual revenue. As the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, the Great Lakes hold 95% of the United States’ surface fresh water. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is creating jobs and revitalizing struggling communities across the eight-state region.

Tripling our impact: Communities are benefiting from economic recovery and re-investment. A 2018 University of Michigan study found that the investments in the region will have a long-term impact on our regional economy. Every dollar spent under the initiative is projected to generate more than three dollars in additional economic activity.

Collaboration: Our agency is a proud partner in the implementation of the initiative and works with conservation partners to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Focus areas

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
  • Invasive Species
  • Nonpoint Source Pollution Impacts on Nearshore Health
  • Habitats and Species
  • Foundations for Future Restoration Actions

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.