The Great Lakes Initiative

Growing Blue

Restoring a North American Treasure: The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world’s freshwater resources by volume, and maintaining their sustainability is critical to future dependency on the resource. But unlike many water resources, the Great Lakes region is vast, encompassing one Canadian province (Ontario) and eight U.S. states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

This large region makes problem-solving difficult, as problems cross local governance boundaries, requiring group solutions and agreements across municipal, state and federal agencies. These political boundaries may present challenges for decision makers, but the problems of the water body remain the same, irrespective of politics. In the Great Lakes region, ecological and economic damage is created by invasive aquatic and terrestrial species, as well as pervasive levels of toxic pollutants.

Faced with this challenge, in 2010 the U.S. federal government, the EPA and 15 other federal agencies launched a $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to return the Great Lakes to pristine condition and leave the region in better condition for future generations.

The initiative is the largest reinvestment plan for the Great Lakes in two decades. The plan targets five focus areas: toxic substances and areas of concern; invasive species; near-shore health and nonpoint source pollution; habitat and wildlife protection and restoration; accountability, education, monitoring, evaluation communication and partnerships.

The initiative is based on a successful collaboration of planning and the execution of a wide range of action strategies [PDF] between federal, state, municipal, civic and tribal representatives that are part of the numerous ongoing restoration projects to protect a resource without borders.

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