Sustain Our Great Lakes Partnership Announces $8.6 Million in Conservation Grants for Great Lakes Restoration

Funding supports 35 projects across the Great Lakes basin

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 31, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Sustain Our Great Lakes partnership today announced $8.6 million in competitive grant funding for 35 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 $12 million in additional project support from grantees, generating a total on-the-ground conservation impact of $20.6 million.

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, 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.

A portion of the funding awarded today was made through a Sustain Our Great Lakes partnership effort to restore and preserve natural areas and biodiversity in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan watershed. This opportunity was funded by the Caerus Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the Walder Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Learn more about this initiative here.

“The grants announced today will advance key conservation priorities across the Great Lakes basin,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These grants demonstrate the essential role of partnerships and collaboration in providing resources for local restoration efforts critical to restoring habitat and improving water quality for important native species such as marsh nesting birds and cold-water fish.”

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 Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, rusty-patched bumble bee and Blanding’s turtle; restore wetland habitat quality and structure for migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, least bittern and northern pike; improve nearshore health and urban greenspace through green stormwater infrastructure; and reduce sedimentation and nutrient runoff to improve water quality.

Collectively, the 35 projects receiving grants will:

  • Restore more than 25 miles of stream and riparian habitat
  • Reconnect 53 miles of river for fish passage
  • Remove or rectify 14 barriers to aquatic organism passage
  • Restore 952 acres of wetland habitat
  • Prevent more than 2,900 tons of sediment from entering waterways annually
  • Add 17 million gallons of stormwater storage capacity
  • Install more than 120,000 square feet of green stormwater infrastructure
  • Improve land management using regenerative agriculture practices on 32,000 acres of farmland

“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. “The SOGL grant-funding process brings together federal and non-governmental partners, corporate and nonprofit partners and grant recipients that leverage Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds to increase the total amount of grant funding amount available. In turn, that larger funding amount delivers on-the-ground projects that reduce stormwater runoff, restore habitat and improve water quality in many communities across the Great Lakes basin.”

“In May we announced a partnership with NFWF to further our efforts to advance regenerative agriculture,” said Mary Jane Melendez, chief sustainability and global impact officer, General Mills. “Now, we’re pleased that this round of grants will support the implementation of regenerative agriculture practices on a targeted 32,000 acres of farmland. It’s partnerships like these—with dedicated, local support—that can create the momentum needed to make a positive impact on our planet.”

“The Great Lakes provide key habitat for fish and wildlife, and are beloved by communities across the Midwest,” said Charlie Wooley, midwest regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The projects funded through Sustain Our Great Lakes will help restore and sustain these critical resources into the future. We are proud to support this important work.”

“The Forest Service is honored to participate in the Sustain Our Great Lakes Partnership,” said Eastern Regional Forester Gina Owens. “The projects announced today will help restore climate-resilient habitats, support urban reforestation and ensure clean water flows to the Great Lakes.”

Since 2006, Sustain Our Great Lakes has awarded 405 grants worth more than $97 million and leveraged an additional $13.1 million in matching contributions, generating a total conservation investment of more than $210.1 million.

For a complete list of the grants announced today, and to learn more about Sustain Our Great Lakes, including applicant eligibility, funding priorities and submission requirements, visit Follow the program on Twitter (@SOGL) to keep up with the latest Great Lakes news and program announcements.


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, and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.8 billion. 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 and direct reduced iron to primary steelmaking and downstream finishing, stamping, tooling, and tubing. The Company serves a diverse range of markets due to its comprehensive offering of flat-rolled steel products and is the largest supplier of steel to the automotive industry in North America. Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland-Cliffs employs approximately 25,000 people across its mining, steel and downstream manufacturing 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 Crown Family Philanthropies

Rooted in the legacy of Arie and Ida Crown, as well as the Jewish tradition of tikun olam—or repairing the world—Crown Family Philanthropies (CFP) is driven by more than 70 years of family commitment to social impact. CFP funds vital and sustainable projects and organizations in the areas of education; health and human services; global health; Jewish giving; and the environment, where their grantmaking supports efforts to value, preserve and restore natural ecosystems through innovative science-based approaches, emphasizing collaborative efforts which deliver measurable results.

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 Ralph C. Wilson, Jr.’s devotion to his hometown of Detroit and greater Buffalo, home of his Buffalo Bills franchise. Prior to his passing in 2014, Mr. Wilson requested 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. The foundation has 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

Established in 1905, the Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 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 and private 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

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides one-on-one, personalized advice on the best solutions to meet the unique conservation and business goals of those who grow our nation’s food and fiber.  NRCS helps 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 health of our air, water, and soil. NRCS also generates, manages, and shares the data, research and standards that enable partners and policymakers to make decisions informed by objective, reliable science. In simpler terms, NRCS’s focus is “Helping People Help the Land.” For more information, visit

About the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
MMSD is a regional government agency, providing water reclamation and flood management services for 1.1 million people in 28 communities in the Greater Milwaukee Area. Award winning and globally recognized, MMSD is a partner for a cleaner environment. From green infrastructure, watershed planning, technology advancements and energy creation, the District strives to make its cities and villages better, healthier places to live.

About the Walder Foundation

The Walder Foundation was established by Joseph and Elizabeth Walder to address critical issues impacting our world. The Foundation’s five areas of focus—science innovation, environmental sustainability, the performing arts, migration and immigrant communities, and Jewish life—are an extension of the Walders’ lifelong passions, interests, and their personal and professional experiences. Learn more at




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