About

The mission of Sustain Our Great Lakes (SOGL) is to sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat in the Great Lakes basin by leveraging funding, building conservation capacity, and focusing partners and resources toward key ecological issues. Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the program receives funding and other support from ArcelorMittal, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service. A significant portion of program funding is provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a federal program designed to protect, restore and enhance the Great Lakes ecosystem.

The program achieves its mission, in part, by awarding competitive grants for on-the-ground habitat restoration. Funding priority is given to projects that restore aquatic connectivity, stream and riparian habitat, wetland habitat, and coastal habitat. Sustain Our Great Lakes offers funding annually, and grant awards range from $25,000 to $1.5 million. Eligible recipients include non-profit organizations, state, tribal and local governments, and educational institutions.

Program fact sheet.

History

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) was created in 2004 by a U.S. Presidential Executive Order recognizing the Great Lakes as a national treasure and calling for the creation of a “regional collaboration of national significance.” The GLRC created unique partnerships that worked together to develop a strategic plan for the conservation of the Great Lakes ecosystem. It built upon the goals of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), a commitment between the U.S. and Canada to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Great Lakes basin.

In 2006, to advance the goals of the GLRC’s strategic plan and the GLWQA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Natural Resources Conservation Service partnered with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to pool and leverage their resources for Great Lakes habitat restoration. The original program was called the Great Lakes Watershed Restoration Program. In 2007, the world’s leading steel company, ArcelorMittal, joined this group as the sole private funding partner. The result of this unique public–private collaboration is Sustain Our Great Lakes, a bi-national program working to sustain, restore and protect fish, wildlife and habitat in the basin.

In 2009, President Obama announced the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which has since directed hundreds of millions of dollars annually to advance the GLRC strategies. Federal agencies have entrusted Sustain Our Great Lakes with administering several million dollars of GLRI funding each year, which has been a primary driver behind the recent significant growth of the program. Since 2010, the program has awarded $39 million in GLRI funding, with other partner funding, to support projects that address priorities outlined in the GLRI Action Plans. In 2014, Sustain Our Great Lakes awarded $12 million in grant funding, representing the largest annual amount awarded since the program began.

By securing new partners and funding sources, Sustain Our Great Lakes has significantly increased capacity to support on-the-ground restoration and advance the goals of the GLRC strategy, GLWQA and GLRI Action Plan. Please click here to learn more about the organizations behind this public–private partnership.

Achievements

Since 2006, Sustain Our Great Lakes has awarded 245 grants worth over $54.8 million in federal and corporate partner funding. Grantees matched this funding with an additional $58.8 million, for a total conservation investment of over $113.6 million. This investment has provided support for the restoration of:

  • 1,698 stream miles of aquatic connectivity
  • 246 fish passage barriers removed
  • 33,184 acres of wetland, coastal, and upland habitat
  • 198 miles of stream and riparian habitat

To see more about Sustain Our Great Lakes’ accomplishments, please see our Focal Issue pages or view our Ten-Year Report.

Evaluation

Sustain Our Great Lakes partners place a high priority on evaluating program performance. Assessing project outcomes as well as program administration is important for tracking progress, increasing the effectiveness of program investments, and improving grant-making practices.

To help address these needs, Sustain Our Great Lakes partners commissioned a third-party program evaluation, which was completed by the Headwaters Group Philanthropic Services, Edward W. Wilson Consulting, and Coastal Restoration Consultants, Inc. Conducted in 2012 and 2013, the evaluation covered grant-making activities from 2006 through 2011. We invite you to learn more about the results of this effort by viewing the evaluation summary and downloading the report. Please click here to view more information about the third-party program evaluation.

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