Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
America’s Great Lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario — hold 21 percent of the world’s surface fresh water, providing habitat for a variety of fish and wildlife and drinking water for more than 40 million people. Recreational and commercial fishing are one of the region’s major industries, and the lakes facilitate transportation and commerce in the eight states that border the lakes.
But the lakes suffer from pollution, caused by urban runoff and sprawl, sewage disposal, agriculture, industry and other sources. This pollution damages the aquatic ecosystems and poses risks to human health. In recent time, algal blooms in Lake Erie underscored the importance of continued conservation efforts in the region.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was launched in 2010 with NRCS as one of a number of federal agency partners. GLRI helps NRCS accelerate conservation efforts on private lands located in targeted watersheds throughout the region. Through GLRI, NRCS works with farmers and landowners to combat invasive species, protect watersheds and shorelines from non-point source pollution and restore wetlands and other habitat areas.
How Does GLRI Work?
Through Farm Bill conservation programs, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to landowners, enabling them to make conservation improvements to their land. This assistance helps them plan and implement a variety of conservation practices, such as planting cover crops, adopting no-till, removing invasive plants and restoring wetlands.
NRCS targets GLRI funds to watersheds that could have the biggest impacts on improving water quality. Some of the watersheds include the Genesee River in New York, the Lower Fox River and Green Bay, the Western Lake Erie Basin and the Saginaw Bay Basin.
How Does GLRI Benefit Producers?
Assistance from Farm Bill conservation programs help improve water quality while also helping farmers and landowners improve soil health, reduce soil erosion, reduce the delivery of nutrients and sediments to the lakes and their tributaries, make their agricultural operations more efficient, enable them to reduce input costs, employ innovative practices and make operations more resilient to climatic extremes.
How Does GLRI Benefit the Public?
GLRI gives farmers and landowners the tools they need to help improve water quality, restore and protect vital habitat, and provide cleaner water and healthier ecosystems.
GLRI is part of a larger national strategy encouraged by President Obama to improve water quality in the lakes. As part of an interagency funding agreement led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), GLRI encompasses a broad partnership of federal, state, local and non-governmental organizations taking action in the basin. NRCS focuses its work on private lands in priority watersheds.