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Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

GLRI - What's New

  • NRCS has successfully developed a series of Demonstration Farms networks in Wisconsin, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania.  Through this collaboration and funding, NRCS can publicly highlight the most effective conservation systems in an area.
  • NRCS continues to work with the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor the benefits of conservation practices to water quality in priority watersheds located in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Indiana.
  • NRCS has developed a unique partnership with the interstate agency Great Lakes Commission (GLC) to reduce nutrient and sediment loss with an emphasis on a significant reduction of phosphorus loads in the Great Lakes. GLC has successfully supported over 105 local projects.
  • Through GLRI funding, the NRCS, the US Geological Survey, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Purdue University are monitoring sediment and nutrient export in surface and tile runoff from select farm fields in four priority watersheds of the Great Lakes

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, through the GLRI, targets watersheds that are expected to 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.


  • Since 2010, using GLRI funding, NRCS has entered into 2,375 conservation contracts to help farmers implement conservation practices on over 488,000 acres improving water quality within the Great Lakes Basin.
  • NRCS GLRI efforts target phosphorus delivery by implementing conservation practices in the Great Lakes Region. Over 750,000 pounds of Phosphorus have been reduced since 2010 in GLRI target areas.
  • Over 8,200 acres of wildlife habitat were protected, restored and/or enhanced by the implementation of conservation practices via GLRI funded projects, 89 contracts located in Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
  • Over 2,000 acres of aquatic/terrestrial invasive species were controlled by the implementation of conservation practices via GLRI-funded projects, 47 contracts located in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

GLRI Partners

GLRI is part of a larger national strategy  to improve water quality in the Great 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. Federal agencies use GLRI resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals. Combining GLRI resources with agency base budgets, we work with nonfederal partners to implement protection and restoration projects.

NRCS has developed approaches with federal, state, and private partners to better target conservation planning and implementation for improving water quality in the Great Lakes Region. 

Additional NRCS Conservation Initiatives within the Great Lakes Region

Conservation Efforts in the Great Lakes Region 

USDA NRCS GLRI Success Stories

Official EPA GLRI News Website

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FY 19 GLRI Priority Watersheds
fy19 glri priority watersheds

Click map to open PDF (420KB)

FY19 GLRI Priority Watersheds Phosphorus

FY19 GLRI Priority Watersheds Phosphorus - PDF

Click map to open PDF (594KB)

 For more information:

Edwin Martinez 
Natural Resource Specialist
Areawide Planning Branch
(202) 205-7703

State-specific sites: