Lesser yellowlegs

Sustain Our Great Lakes Program

Lesser yellowlegs

Sustain Our Great Lakes is a public–private partnership designed to address these threats and improve the ecological health of the Great Lakes basin. Its mission is to sustain, restore, and protect fish, wildlife, and habitat in the basin by leveraging funding, building conservation capacity, and focusing partners and resources toward key ecological issues. The program achieves this mission, in part, by awarding grants for on-the-ground habitat restoration and enhancement.


The Great Lakes are among the most important natural resources in the world. With more than 20 percent of the earth’s surface fresh water, 10,000 miles of shoreline and 30,000 islands, they provide drinking water for tens of millions of people and habitat for a vast array of plants and wildlife, including more than 200 globally rare species.

The region’s immense network of coastal marshes, inland wetlands, and forests provide critical ecological services, such as water filtration and storage, flood control, nutrient cycling, and carbon storage. The Great Lakes also offer unmatched opportunities for shipping, industry, tourism, and outdoor recreation that have fostered one of the largest economies in the world.

Despite these values, the Great Lakes have been significantly degraded by human activity during the past two centuries. Threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species and pollution have impaired water quality, wildlife populations, and quality of life in the basin.

Funding priorities for this program include:

  • Aquatic connectivity (e.g., dam removal, bridge and culvert replacement, installation of fish passage structures);
  • Riparian and stream habitat (e.g., streambank stabilization, invasive species control, restoration of native vegetation, placement of in-stream structures);
  • Wetlands (e.g., invasive species control, restoration of native vegetation, hydrological restoration); and
  • Green stormwater infrastructure (e.g., construction/improvement of urban wetlands, installation of bioswales, pervious surfaces, and rain gardens, and native tree planting).

From 2006 through 2019, the program has awarded 337 grants worth $81 million in federal and corporate partner funding. Grantees matched this funding with an additional $93.5 million, for a total conservation investment of over $174.5 million. Some of the important outcomes generated by this investment include 2,145 miles of restored aquatic connectivity, 42,878 acres of restored habitat, and 281 miles of restored stream and riparian habitat.

NFWF administers the Sustain Our Great Lakes program in partnership with ArcelorMittal, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Significant program funding is provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a federal program designed to protect, restore and enhance the Great Lakes ecosystem. Partners supporting the new funding available for projects in Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan watershed include the Caerus Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Walder Foundation.

Application Information

07/16/2020 Request for Quotations: Contract to Conduct On-the-Ground Monitoring To Assess NFWF Impact on Migratory Shorebirds, Waterfowl and Marsh-Nesting Birds in Priority Wetlands of the Great Lakes View Now
06/10/2020 2020 Request for Proposals - CLOSED View Now
03/17/2020 2020 Guidance for Applicants View Now
12/16/2019 Webinar Recording: FishWerks Guidance and Updates View Now

Due Dates

Due Date Name
Contract Awarded: Contract to Conduct On-the-Ground Monitoring
12/03/2019 Great Lakes Business Plan Download the PDF
12/03/2019 Sustain Our Great Lakes Program Fact Sheet Download the PDF
12/03/2019 Sustain Our Great Lakes 10-Year Report Download the PDF
12/03/2019 Sustain Our Great Lakes Evaluation Download the PDF
12/03/2019 Sustain Our Great Lakes 2019 Grant Slate Download the PDF
12/03/2019 Sustain Our Great Lakes 2018 Grant Slate Download the PDF
Staff Representatives

Program Director, Great Lakes

Manager, Great Lakes Programs

Regional Program Coordinator