Jump-starting Restoration: Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition Announces Grants to Help Great Lakes

Canoeing in the Great Lakes
Canoeing in the Great Lakes. Image: Shutterstock

Growing up swimming in the clear, cool water of Lake Superior I was blissfully unaware that the Great Lakes were under attack. I had a pretty good grasp of environmental issues  in my hometown – I knew why we didn’t eat the fish I caught with my dad near our house, and I knew which plants in our yard weren’t welcome, but my exposure to the Great Lakes was limited to the remote (and seemingly pristine) areas my family visited on vacation.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned about things like toxic algal blooms, aquatic invasive species, and the dramatic effects of climate change.

My work at NWF’s Great Lakes Regional Center has taught me so much more about current threats to the Great Lakes, but more importantly, about what groups across the region are doing to protect a resource that 30 million people depend on for their drinking water. Programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are making sure that restoration projects are happening in the areas where they are most needed.

Great Lakes projects are producing results in communities around the region. But there is more to do. This is where the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition (HOW) steps in.  Co-chaired by NWF, the HOW Coalition brings together more than 115 organizations across the region that share the common goal of restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. The Coalition is working to insure that the nation robustly funds Great Lakes programs – and that local groups can successfully participate in restoration efforts. Recently the HOW Coalition announced $115,000 in grants among nine organizations to help them prepare and apply for larger GLRI grants.

These grants, of up to $15,000 each, are given to groups in five geographic priority areas: The St. Louis River and St. Louis Bay in Lake Superior; the waters of Lake Michigan in the Chicagoland area; Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay; western Lake Erie and eastern Lake Ontario. These areas suffer from some of the most severe problems plaguing the Great Lakes, but also show great potential to be restored. The grants will help to jumpstart projects that are key to improving conditions for both wildlife and people who depend on the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes face many threats: sewage contamination fouls beaches, habitat destruction erodes water quality, Asian carp threaten to devastate the ecosystem, waters warm due to climate change, and toxic pollution persists across the region. Yet we know that we have solutions — projects like those funded by the HOW Coalition are significant victories in a larger struggle. They are important steps towards accomplishing an enormous and necessary goal. Projects like these that remind me that we are making progress in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes for future generations.

Read the list of 2011 HOW Implementation Grants

Join us in October for the 7th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference hosted by the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition in Detroit, Michigan!