Sustain Our Great Lakes Partnership Announces $17.6 Million in Conservation Grants for Great Lakes Restoration

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Funding supports 43 projects across the Great Lakes basin

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 12, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Sustain Our Great Lakes partnership today announced $17.6 million in competitive grant funding for 43 projects that will restore key habitats for wildlife, improve water quality and enhance urban greenspace throughout the Great Lakes basin. The grants will leverage approximately $25 million in additional project support from grantees, generating a total on-the-ground conservation impact of $42.6 million. The grants awarded today represent the largest single grant slate ever awarded by the SOGL program, an achievement that is due to the continued, strong support of program partners and a historic investment from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Sustain Our Great Lakes is a public–private partnership that supports habitat restoration throughout the Great Lakes basin and advances the objectives of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program designed to protect, restore and enhance the Great Lakes ecosystem. Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the program receives funding and other support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Caerus Foundation, Cleveland-Cliffs, General Mills, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the USDA Forest Service.

“Sustain Our Great Lakes is a model public-private partnership that demonstrates the strength of collaboration,” said Chris Korleski, director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office. “We are able to leverage Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds to increase the investment in on-the-ground projects to reduce stormwater runoff, restore habitat, and reduce sedimentation and nutrient runoff. Working with federal and non-governmental partners, corporate and nonprofit partners and grant recipients we are able to support projects that make a difference in communities and improve water quality across the Great Lakes basin.” 

“Sustain Our Great Lakes continues to demonstrate the extraordinary value of public-private partnerships for working at a basin-wide scale,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The 43 grants awarded in seven states will improve water quality, and enhance vital habitat for species for a cleaner and healthier Great Lakes system for wildlife and communities.”

This year’s SOGL grants will support projects in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat, improve water quality and enhance urban greenspace. The projects will enhance the quality and connectivity of streams and riparian habitat to benefit brook trout; control invasive species and restore unique habitats across the basin to benefit priority species, including the rusty-patched bumble bee and Blanding’s turtle; restore wetland habitat quality and structure for migratory birds, waterfowl and piping plover; improve nearshore health and urban greenspace through green stormwater infrastructure; and reduce sedimentation and nutrient runoff to improve water quality.

“General Mills depends on key landscapes, areas where we source ingredients, to make food the world loves. The Great Lakes region is a key supply shed for our dairy and row crop needs,” said Jay Watson, director of regenerative agriculture, General Mills. “Through this partnership we leverage the power of collective action to advance regenerative agriculture in a way that is integrated with conservation priorities for the region, including improved water quality. We are excited about the projects announced today that will help advance regenerative agriculture in the Great Lakes Basin.”

Collectively, the 43 projects receiving grants will:

  • Restore more than 8 miles of stream and riparian habitat
  • Reconnect 111 miles of river for fish passage
  • Restore 7,300 acres of wetland habitat
  • Prevent more than 39 tons of sediment from entering waterways annually
  • Add 25 million gallons of stormwater storage capacity
  • Improve land management using regenerative agriculture practices on 32,000 acres of farmland

“The projects funded by this year’s SOGL grants reflects the many conservation priorities for the Great Lakes and for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Chuck Traxler, the agency’s acting Midwest regional director. “By improving water quality, increasing connectivity, restoring aquatic habitat and helping imperiled species, these projects and partnerships help us carry out our mission to manage fish and wildlife resources for the benefit of the American people.”

Since 2006, Sustain Our Great Lakes has awarded 496 grants worth more than $128 million and leveraged an additional $155 million in matching contributions, generating a total conservation investment of more than $283 million.

For a complete list of the grants announced today, please see this link, and to learn more about Sustain Our Great Lakes, including applicant eligibility, funding priorities and submission requirements, visit


About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at

About Cleveland-Cliffs

Cleveland-Cliffs is the largest flat-rolled steel producer in North America. Founded in 1847 as a mine operator, Cliffs also is the largest manufacturer of iron ore pellets in North America. The Company is vertically integrated from mined raw materials, direct reduced iron, and ferrous scrap to primary steelmaking and downstream finishing, stamping, tooling, and tubing. We are the largest supplier of steel to the automotive industry in North America and serve a diverse range of other markets due to our comprehensive offering of flat-rolled steel products. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland-Cliffs employs approximately 27,000 people across its operations in the United States and Canada.

For more information, visit

About the Caerus Foundation

The Caerus Foundation aims to expand educational opportunities for young people, alleviate human suffering, cultivate a more inclusive arts community, and preserve the natural world for future generations. The Foundation’s environmental efforts include protecting and restoring ecosystems with emphasis on the Midwest. Caerus also supports science education and awareness building to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards and engage communities in safeguarding natural areas.

About General Mills

General Mills supports projects that restore and enhance habitat for fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes Basin through the Sustain Our Great Lakes Program and in the Southern Great Plains through the Conservation Partners Program. The projects funded by General Mills help farmers accelerate the adoption of regenerative agriculture principles.

About the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation

The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is a grantmaking organization dedicated primarily to sustained investment in the quality of life of the people of Southeast Michigan and Western New York. The two areas reflect the devotion of Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his beloved Buffalo Bills NFL team. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson provided that a significant share of his estate be used to continue a life-long generosity of spirit by funding the Foundation that bears his name. Based in Detroit, the Foundation began with a grantmaking capacity of $1.2 billion over a 20-year period, which expires January 8, 2035. This structure is consistent with Mr. Wilson’s desire for the Foundation’s impact to be immediate, substantial, measurable, and overseen by those who knew him best. For more information visit

About the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) leads the nation’s environmental science, research, education, and assessment efforts. The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office oversees the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which is used to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world – the Great Lakes.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

About the USDA Forest Service

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state, private, and Tribal landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit

About the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat. Through one-on-one, personalized and voluntary assistance, NRCS works with producers and communities to find the best solutions to meet their unique conservation and business goals to ensure the health of our natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture.


CONTACT: Rob Blumenthal National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (202) 857-0166 [email protected] 

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