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Sustain Our Great Lakes Program

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF)

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Grant amount: US $100,000 - US $1,000,000

Deadline: The deadline for this grant has passed

Applicant type: Government Entity Nonprofit College / University Indigenous Group

Funding uses: Research, Applied Project / Program

Location of project: Canada, Michigan, Lake County, Illinois, Counties in Indiana: Adams County, Allen County Expand all

Location of residency: Canada, United States

About this funder:

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The Sustain Our Great Lakes program is soliciting proposals to benefit fish, wildlife, habitat and water quality in the Great Lakes basin. The program will award grants in 2018 to improve and enhance: 1) stream and riparian habitat; 2) coastal wetland habitat; and 3) water quality in the Great Lakes and its tributaries. Up to $5.4 million is expected to be available for grant awards in 2018. The program is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in partnership with ArcelorMittal, Michigan National Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. Significant program funding is provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program designed to protect, restore and enhance the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Geographic Focus

To be eligible for funding, projects must occur in the current or historic Great Lakes basin. Most of the available funding will be directed to projects in the United States. Approximately $100,000 – $200,000 may be directed to projects in Canada with preference given to projects in the western Lake Ontario region, particularly near Hamilton, Ontario.

Program Priorities

In 2018, grant funding will be awarded in four categories:

  • ​Streams
  • Coastal Wetlands
  • Green Storm Water Infrastructure
  • Special Initiative: Technical Assistance for MI Landowners

Funding Category 1: Streams

This category will direct up to $1.8 million to projects that improve the quality and connectivity of stream and riparian habitat. Preference will be given to projects designed to improve populations of species of conservation concern, with an emphasis on brook trout and lake sturgeon. Preference will also be given to projects that reduce sediment and nutrient loading to streams and other waters. Funding will primarily support the following four strategies.

  • ​Restore aquatic connectivity: barrier removal, bridge and culvert replacement, and fish passage structure installation to facilitate movements of fish and other aquatic organisms
  • Naturalize stream channel configuration: channel realignment and excavation to restore stream meander, floodplain connections, and other geomorphological processes
  • Improve in-stream habitat: installation of in-stream structures to improve geomorphological processes and habitat complexity for fish and other aquatic organisms
  • Improve riparian habitat: bank stabilization, invasive species control, and native plant restoration along streambanks and riparian wetlands to improve habitat and water quality

Applicants proposing work in coldwater streams are encouraged to demonstrate strategic value of selected stream sites based on existing regional or organizational strategies and indicate anticipated benefit to brook trout. In addition, applicants proposing aquatic barrier removals are encouraged to use the FishWerks tool to help describe expected connectivity improvements relative to other potential barrier removal scenarios in the project watershed (see the Consultation with Sea Lamprey Control Program section below for more information pertinent to barrier removals). Applicants proposing projects to benefit lake sturgeon are encouraged to indicate how the proposed scope of work relates to and builds upon existing lake sturgeon restoration efforts in the watershed, such as a supplementation program or population-based plan.

Funding Category 2: Coastal Wetlands

This category will direct up to $1.8 million to projects that improve the quality and connectivity of coastal wetlands (defined as existing or historical wetlands with a current, previous or potential surface or subsurface hydrologic connection to a Great Lake or connecting channel such that wetland water levels are influenced by Great Lakes water levels). Priority will be given to wetlands (on non-federal lands) monitored by the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program. More information on priority wetlands can be found by clicking here. Additional preference will be given to projects designed to improve populations of species of conservation concern, with an emphasis on shorebirds, waterfowl, and marsh-spawning fish such as northern pike. Funding will primarily support the following three strategies.

  • ​Restore aquatic connectivity: installation of passage structures, and removal of sediment and hard structures to improve hydrology and access by fish and other aquatic organisms
  • Improve hydrology: water control techniques to manage water levels, control invasive vegetation, and restore habitat for target species
  • Improve habitat structure: invasive species control and native plant restoration to improve hydrology and habitat complexity

All applications must include a breakdown of the acres of wetland habitat types represented within the project area (e.g. dry mudflat, wet mudflat, shallow open water etc.; please refer to additional grantee guidance document available here) and estimates for how restoration and enhancement activities will impact these habitat type acreages. As applicable, applicants are encouraged to use new coastal wetland decision support tools such as the Coastal Wetland Monitoring Program Decision Support Tool, and wetland restoration assessment decision support tools for projects located in the Saginaw Bay/western Lake Erie and Green Bay geographies to help plan and demonstrate the value of proposed projects.

Funding Category 3: Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The green stormwater infrastructure category will direct up to $1.1 million to green infrastructure projects that slow, store and filter storm water. Priority will be given to green infrastructure projects in shoreline cities that add more than 100,000 gallons per year of stormwater storage capacity and directly benefit Great Lakes water quality. (Applicants planning green storm water infrastructure work in the Chicago and Calumet regions are encouraged to apply to the Chi-Cal Rivers Fund during spring 2018.) Competitive projects will occur in close proximity or otherwise demonstrate water-quality benefits to the Great Lakes or connecting channels. Preference will be given to projects of sufficient size and scope to significantly reduce runoff into sewer systems and contaminant discharge to local waterways. Small, isolated projects (e.g., a single, small parking lot) without a connection to a larger green infrastructure plan or other forestry plan will not be competitive. Projects that are legally required under existing consent decrees or regulations are not eligible for funding. Additional preference will be given to projects using native plant and tree species designed to improve habitat for native pollinators and diversify the urban canopy. Funding will primarily support the following three strategies.

  • Create and enhance urban wetlands: construction/improvement of wetlands in urban areas to slow, store and filter storm water while improving habitat
  • Install green infrastructure: installation of rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, pervious surfaces, and other green infrastructure solutions to increase storm water storage and capture
  • Restore urban forests: strategic planting of diverse native tree species along riparian zones and other flood-prone areas to slow and retain storm water runoff, moderate water temperatures, improve habitat, and increase ecosystem resiliency

All applications must report anticipated outcomes in terms of gallons of storm water storage capacity added (design retention capacity) and provide a projection for the volume of stormwater runoff captured and infiltrated per year (gallons/year) due to project activities. Applicants are encouraged to use the EPA storm water calculator tool to estimate storm water to be retained by green infrastructure projects and/or i-Tree  to calculate gallons of storm water to be treated or intercepted by tree planting projects (utilize a 10- year tree age for measuring stormwater benefits in i-Tree).

Funding Category 4: Special Initiative - Technical Assistance for MI Landowners

In partnership with Michigan Natural Resource Conservation Service, up to $700,000 in 2018 funding will be directed to technical assistance projects in Michigan. Grant funding will be used to hire field conservation professionals who will, in direct coordination with Michigan NRCS Field Offices, increase participation in federal Farm Bill conservation programs and assist private landowners to implement conservation practices to reduce phosphorus runoff and sedimentation from agricultural lands, improving the ecological condition of priority watersheds. Priority will be given to proposals supporting term positions of three years. Priority will also be given to proposals supporting water quality and soil health technical assistance activities within the following geographies: Saginaw Bay, Western Lake Erie basin, National Water Quality Initiative Watershed located in Clinton and Calhoun counties, MI, St. Joseph River Watershed, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (forestry), and the Maple River watershed. Typical grant awards to support these positions will range from $100,000 to $350,000, and a matching contribution of at least 50% of the total funding request in non-federal cash or in-kind services will be most competitive. Priority actions for this Michigan technical assistance funding include:

  • ​Improve Soil Health & Water Quality: provide technical assistance to landowners to strategically apply soil health conservation practices, such as the use of cover crops in crop rotation, construction of on-farm riparian buffers and wetlands, drainage and tillage practices to reduce sediment and phosphorous losses and improve fish and wildlife habitat
  • Engage Landowners in Conservation Planning: coordination of outreach and implementation of conservation systems on agricultural land in priority watersheds and convening farmer-led groups to engage in conservation planning (nutrient management plans, forest stewardship plans, etc.)

All applications must report anticipated outcomes in terms of pounds of sediment and phosphorus inputs avoided annually, number of landowner technical assistance jobs sustained, and number of NRCS conservation practices implemented for Farm Bill Program contracts (include in pre-and full proposal narrative). All applicants seeking consideration for this funding will be required to submit a letter of support from the Michigan NRCS State Conservationist. If applicants wish for positions to be co-located with an NRCS office, concurrence documentation from the appropriate NRCS Area Conservationist must be provided as evidence of available space and resources to support these positions. Additionally, if proposed positions will not be co-housed with MI NRCS offices, a detailed descriptions of roles and responsibilities between the applicant/host organization, the position(s), and NRCS Field Offices must be provided to detail the communication and collaboration between NRCS and the position.

You can learn more about this opportunity by visiting the funder's website.


  • Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, Indian tribes, and educational institutions.
  • To be eligible for funding, projects must occur in the current or historic Great Lakes basin.


  • The ratio of matching contributions offered to grant funding requested is one criterion considered during the review process, and projects that meet or exceed a 1:1 match ratio will be more competitive. 


  • Ineligible applicants include federal government agencies, unincorporated individuals, and private for-profit businesses.
  • Grant funds and matching contributions may not be used to support political advocacy, fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations.
  • Grant funds may not be used to support ongoing efforts to comply with legal requirements, including permit conditions, mitigation and settlement agreements.
    • However, grant funds may be used to support projects that enhance or improve upon existing baseline compliance efforts.