Sustain Our Great Lakes Receives $7.4 Million in Grants

The five Great Lakes are critical parts of the world's freshwater ecosystem. They're home to countless species of fish and birds, and many plants and animals depend on the health of the lakes. On January 11, the Sustain Our Great Lakes partnership announced that it received $7.4 million in funding in 2020. The funding was distributed across 33 projects. Those projects focus on habitat restoration, improvement of water quality and enhancement of urban green spaces. The program also put out its 2021 requests for proposals, which will offer an additional $8.5 million in grants for its partnering organizations.

What the 2020 Grants Did for the Great Lakes

The $7.4 million in grants for 2020 leveraged about $7.6 million in additional project impacts, resulting in a total of $15 million in investments for the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. The grants supported projects in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and New York. Grant funds were also sent to the Canadian province of Ontario, which borders Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario.

Types of Projects Funded By the Grants

The grants awarded to the six states and to Ontario, CA, aim to protect, restore and sustain wildlife, fish and habitats. They also strive to improve the quality of the water in the Great Lakes and enhance green spaces in urban environments. Many cities are located along the Great Lakes, and the beaches and waterways provide essential opportunities for recreation, fitness, tourism, travel, wildlife viewing and more.

Specific Habitats and Species Helped By the Grants

Many priority species are being helped by the grant projects in the Great Lakes region. The rusty-patched bumblebee is one. This essential pollinator has been decimated by a fungal disease. Blanding's turtle is another species that is being helped by improvements to the Great Lakes ecosystem. The grants are adding structures for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. Funds will also be used to improve the infrastructure needed to handle storm water and to reduce sedimentation and farm runoff that affects the water quality of the Great Lakes.

Examples of the 33 Projects That Received Grant Funding in 2020

Some of the projects that received funding from the 2020 grant allotments included the restoration of 35 miles of stream habitats. More than 106 miles of rivers were opened for the passage of fish. Officials removed or adjusted 23 barriers to the passage of fish in streams and rivers. They also controlled invasive species on 2,800 acres of upland, wetland and riparian habitats. An additional 2,900 acres of wetland habitats were restored. More than 738 tons of sediment was stopped before it could enter the waterways. Infrastructure was added to handle more than 6.7 million gallons of additional stormwater, and 43,000 feet of stormwater infrastructure was installed.

What the 2021 Requests for Proposals Include

The Sustain Our Great Lakes organization has set up guidance for its 2021 requests for proposals. It will offer grants around specific projects related to the restoration and enhancement of stream and riparian habitats. It will also offer funding for expanding green stormwater infrastructure, removing invasive species, restoring coastal systems and preserving the biodiversity in natural areas along the Great Lakes watershed. An addition for the 2021 grants includes funding to accelerate the implementation of regenerative agriculture and conservation on working farmland.

New Partnership Adds Additional Resources

General Mills will be a new partner to the Sustain Our Great Lakes organization in 2021. The United States Department of Agriculture will continue providing funding for the year 2021 as well. Since 2006, the organization has provided $88 million in grants for 372 projects. It also leveraged an additional $109 million in matching contributions from businesses. Some of the businesses that have contributed over the years include the Caerus Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies and the Walder Foundation. The Caerus Foundation is a philanthropic group that supports issues facing young people. It also supports the arts and environment. The Crown Family Philanthropies organization contributes to projects that have a large social impact. The Walder Foundation focuses on critical issues that impact the entire world, including the environment, culture and the arts.

Government Partners to the Sustain Our Great Lakes Organization

The Sustain Our Great Lakes organization also has many government partners. Those have included the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service Natural Resources Conservation Service and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District.

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