Habitat Protection and Restoration

The GLFT pursues its efforts in habitat protection and restoration through direct investment in specific places with degraded or vulnerable habitat, as well as through collaborative efforts to develop next-generation systems for classifying and documenting the status of fish habitat in the Great Lakes. Funding is distributed through a combination of funder-directed and competitive grants.

Visit the Apply Now page for application guidance documents and to submit an application. Additional information about our funding priorities is provided below.


Targeted Land and Capital Efforts

This theme area emphasizes on-the-ground, tangible projects to protect or restore habitat. Supported efforts may include:

  • Targeted acquisition of land or easements to protect essential habitat
  • Restoration of Great Lakes wetlands
  • Removal of dams or barriers to restore fish passage
  • Targeted evaluations of the effectiveness of new or experimental approaches in habitat restoration and fish passage

For dam and barrier efforts, the GLFT prefers to support projects that offer an increase in long-term, sustainable, natural reproduction for species now supported by hatchery production. Project benefits should be targeted toward salmonids and non-salmonid predator game species. Projects that offer secondary benefits, for example, improved sea lamprey management or protection of state-listed threatened or endangered species, may be supported at a greater funding level.


Habitat Information Initiative

Given the expense and scale associated with habitat protection and restoration in the Great Lakes, communication and collaboration are essential across federal, state, and local governments, as well as conservation organizations. In order to share and compare information, work collaboratively, and direct resources toward common priorities, agencies and organizations need common systems through which to describe habitats, store habitat information, and share habitat information. Today, however, existing systems for classifying and documenting nearshore and river habitats are fragmentary, inconsistent, and generally specific to a particular study or agency.

The GLFT’s Great Lakes Habitat Information Initiative is designed to build toward a common classification framework for Great Lakes fisheries habitats, supported by appropriate geographic information system (GIS) tools, and to encourage use of this system throughout the basin.

The initial phase of the GLFT’s Habitat Information Initiative began with a grant awarded in 2012 to the University of Michigan, which is leading a team to develop a habitat classification framework for the Great Lakes. Working in consultation with diverse stakeholders, the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework (GLAHF) is under development—a pilot habitat classification framework for the Great Lakes basin to build support and facilitate its use by resource managers, researchers, and conservation organizations. The platform is being used to support the Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership, under the National Fish Habitat Action Plan (NFHAP), to conduct a coastal condition assessment. In addition, the GLFT will work to facilitate its use by agencies and funders, as well as encourage more comprehensive mapping of nearshore and large river mouth fisheries habitats to determine the distribution and condition of critical nearshore and large river fisheries habitats and build knowledge of gains and losses. Another goal of the framework is to build knowledge and understanding of the ecological function and dynamics of various Great Lakes coastal habitat types and occurrences. A longer-term goal is to establish a permanent home for the system, which will require ongoing maintenance and an established central coordination point.

Building off these past efforts and to respond to needs identified by resource managers and regulatory agencies the GLFT convened an aquatic connectivity workshop in September 2014.

Aquatic Connectivity

In the Great Lakes basin, there is continued interest among the public and resource managers to reconnect tributary habitat (aquatic connectivity) with barrier removal and other fish passage projects (e.g., bypass channels). The most common barriers to aquatic connectivity are dams and road-stream crossings that prevent natural stream function and organism passage. Dams and road-stream crossings each present unique issues for resource managers as they seek to achieve multiple, sometimes conflicting, environmental outcomes.

Within the Great Lakes basin, researchers conservatively estimate there are more than 7,000 dams and 265,000 road-stream crossings that may serve as barriers to migratory fish. The resource management community has reached general consensus that removing barriers to aquatic organism passage above the lowermost barrier is a priority to enhance ecosystem health. This includes dams upstream of the lowermost barrier and almost all road-stream crossings, which rarely serve as an effective barrier to invasive species but can severely impact populations of native and desirable nonnative species. Given the number of road-stream crossings that may serve as barriers to fish passage and the desire for aquatic connectivity, the resource management community has identified the need to develop decision-support tools to prioritize connectivity projects within and among watersheds and deploy scarce resources more strategically.

To respond to needs identified by resource managers and regulatory agencies, the GLFT convened an aquatic connectivity workshop in September 2014. The goal of the workshop was to identify types of decision-support tools that resource managers and agency regulators need and would use to guide decisions on where to improve fish passage or remove a dam in the Great Lakes basin.

Over 50 workshop participants representing state, federal, and tribal agencies; utilities; binational coordination organizations; universities; county road commissions; and nonprofit organizations attended.

The results of the workshop are summarized in the Developing Decision-Support Tools to Enhance Aquatic Connectivity in the Great Lakes Basin: Results of a Workshop Sponsored by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust proceedings document.


How to Apply

Visit our apply page to submit an application. The forms and instructions necessary to guide you through the application process are provided in the application guidance document.