Forest Service Supports Great Lakes Restoration with $4.5M in Grants

Contact(s): Franklin Pemberton

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust's Forest Beach Migratory Preserve

Sunrise at Ozaukee Washington Land Trust's Forest Beach Migratory Preserve
in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Photo by Jim Kurovsky.

MILWAUKEE, November 9, 2020 – The USDA Forest Service is pleased to be awarding nearly $4.5 million in grants to support 27 Great Lakes restoration projects in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

These projects are funded through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) under an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As part of a multi-agency regional working group, the U.S. Forest Service uses GLRI grants to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and accelerate progress toward shared long-term restoration goals. As a result of this collaborative effort of the Forest Service and Environmental Protection Agency, over 540,000 trees have been planted on nonfederal lands since 2010, preventing over 31 million gallons of stormwater runoff per year.

Some of the expected outcomes of this year’s projects:

  • Plant over 230,000 trees
  • Mitigate invasive insect and disease impacts on over 800 acres
  • Enhance over 1,200 acres of coastal, riparian and shoreline habitats, supporting resilience to climate change and other ecosystem stressors
  • Intercept an estimated 13 million gallons of stormwater annually through 10 green infrastructure projects involving trees

Constituting 84 percent of North America’s surface freshwater, the Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world and the source of drinking water for more than 30 million people. According to Gina Owens, USDA Forest Service Eastern Regional Forester, “Through the distribution of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants, we are able to serve organizations and communities who are taking local approaches with projects to enhance the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. These projects are an investment in communities, to manage and maintain community trees, provide employment and job training, promote community volunteerism, and enjoy the economic and health benefits of trees and natural areas.”

To learn more about GLRI grant recipients in your area and the Forest Service’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative program, visit the Forest Service GLRI grant website.

This year’s funded organizations, project descriptions and federal funding amount awarded are listed below. Each grant recipient provides at least 20 percent match for this funding, in collaboration with state or local partners, donors or volunteers.



Openlands, $199,569: The Openlands TreePlanters IV program will assist neighbors and community groups to plant 1,000 diverse, native trees at 40 events with at least 1,000 participants in the Chicago region, while learning about the urban canopy and how to protect and care for their new trees.

The Morton Arboretum, $142,306: The Morton Arboretum will partner with three under resourced communities and a zoo in Cook County, Illinois, to improve long-term urban forest canopy by removing 40 high risk dead ash trees; planting 275 native trees; and building four communities’ capacities to plant and care for trees.

Wildlife Habitat Council, $118,613: Wildlife Habitat Council will work with Illinois International Port District, the Chicago Park District, and the City if Chicago to plant 500 trees and shrubs and restore about 40 acres of degraded shoreline, reducing non-point source pollution in the Calumet River and Lake Michigan.

The Morton Arboretum, $260,758: The Morton Arboretum, Chicago Region Trees Initiative and Village of Alsip will replace impervious surface adjacent to the Little Calumet River with 200 trees and shrubs, 10,000 native plugs and seed to absorb stormwater flow, improve habitat, and provide job training.



Ottawa Conservation District, $200,000: The Ottawa Conservation District will survey and treat 15,000 trees within 500 acres at the northern known extent of hemlock woolly adelgid in five west Michigan counties where it is present.

Ottawa National Forest, $10,000: The Ottawa National Forest will work with the Ontonagon Conservation District on a pilot project to plant suitable trees in black ash wetlands vulnerable to emerald ash borer (EAB) prior to EAB infestation in the County.   

The Greening of Detroit, $130,000: The Greening of Detroit, City of Detroit and partners will plant trees in city parks and along neighborhood streets, to replace ash trees lost to EAB, restore about 5 acres of urban canopy in the Rouge River watershed, and engage 500 residents and volunteers.

Alliance of Rouge Communities, $261,780: This project will build on past Forest Service GLRI grants by planting 895 trees and installing 2.9 acres of green infrastructure to intercept a total of 1.3 million gallons annual runoff throughout 17 Rouge River Watershed communities.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources, $100,000: This project will use a subgrant program to target tree planting in priority communities and watersheds where water quality is impaired and tree cover is deficient, supporting municipal plans for sustainability and climate resiliency.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources, $254,134: Trees for School Forests will plant 111,475 trees at 10 school forests in Michigan. All schools will have Forest Stewardship Plans and will become Tree Campus K-12 certified by end of project.  Over 1,000 students will visit the forests and learn how trees protect water quality.

Superior Watershed Partnership, $116,268: The Superior Watershed Partnership and City of Marquette will plant over 1800 native, climate-adapted trees and shrubs along approximately 4,200 feet of severely impacted Lake Superior coastline to restore coastal habitats.

Lake Superior State University, $250,000: Lake Superior State University will create the first green stormwater demonstration project along the St. Marys River, near the Center for Freshwater Research and Education and an adjacent park in Sault Sainte Marie. The project includes rain gardens, treescapes, and community education.

Trout Unlimited, $200,000: Trout Unlimited will enhance the resilience of West Michigan forests by planting 31,000 trees and shrubs at 13 riparian and shoreline sites in the Lower Grand, Pere Marquette, White, and Muskegon watersheds and along Lake Michigan resulting in 87 acres of forest restored.



The Nature Conservancy, $200,000: This project will restore 600 acres of degraded riparian forest by planting and protecting 29,500 trees along 10 miles of Lake Superior tributary streams in Lake and Cook Counties, Minnesota.  The project builds on efforts of multiple partners to reach a 10-year conservation goal.


New York

Onondaga County Soil & Water Conservation District, $50,000: The District will partner with lake associations to treat approximately 1,500 eastern hemlocks currently or potentially infested with hemlock woolly adelgid in the Skaneateles and Otisco Lake watersheds. These watersheds provide drinking water to 485,000 residents of Onondaga County.

Finger Lakes National Forest, $68,200: Approximately 123 acres of the Sawmill and Gorge Creek watersheds in the Finger Lakes National Forest will be retreated to ensure continued protection of eastern hemlock trees from hemlock wooly adelgid, as well as elongate hemlock scale where it occurs. 



Metropolitan Park District of the Toledo Area, $200,000: Metroparks Toledo, in partnership with the City of Toledo, will plant 30,000 native hardwood trees on existing parklands to create 44 acres of new forests within the Maumee River watershed in Lake Erie’s western basin.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History, $187,468: The Mentor Marsh Coastal Wetland Restoration Planting Project will restore and enhance habitat in a degraded 806-acre coastal wetland. A 62.5-acre planting includes 2,500 Buttonbush shrubs and 135,000 plant plugs of 12 wetland species along the lakeshore in Mentor, Ohio.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources, $113,711: This project will replace impervious surfaces with a newly established coastal wetland dune/swale habitat planted with native wetland species at Headlands Dunes State Park on Lake Erie in northeast Ohio, building on State efforts to restore the site.

Western Reserve Land Conservancy, $110,035: Western Reserve Land Conservancy and partners will plant and maintain approximately 500 trees throughout Cleveland, with a focus on four neighborhoods at particularly high risk of stormwater runoff, as well as empowering residents with knowledge to properly plant and care for trees.

Chagrin River Watershed Partners, $215,933: Chagrin River Watershed Partners and collaborators will plant 2,620 native tree and shrubs along streams to intercept more than half a million gallons of rainfall yearly in Ohio’s Central Lake Erie Basin Watershed.

Cleveland Metroparks, $193,500: Cleveland Metroparks will restore a degraded site in the Euclid Creek watershed (Cuyahoga River Area of Concern) via soil decompaction, soil amendments and planting native hardwood trees on at least 5.5 acres of floodplain.



Ozaukee County, $200,000: The Ozaukee County Planning and Parks Department and its partners will mitigate the impacts of emerald ash borer in the Hawthorne Hills County Park Project Area by planting 10,300 diverse native trees on approximately 80 acres within a Natural Area of Countywide and Regional Significance.

Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, $200,000: This project will mitigate emerald ash borer impacts in a public park and conservation properties within the Manitowoc-Sheboygan River Watershed through selective removal of hazard dead/dying ash trees and planting up to 2,000 trees across the watershed.

City of Milwaukee, $100,000: The City of Milwaukee will mitigate 18 acres for non-native insects through removal and replacement of 450 ash street trees with resistant, non-host tree species, partnering with Milwaukee Community Service Corps for tree installation.

Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership, $300,000: This project will install up to 7,000 trees to diversify degraded forests, restore canopy cover, provide critical migratory pathways, enhance riparian and shoreline habitats, and enable ecosystem resiliency within coastal ecosystems in Ozaukee, Sheboygan, Manitowoc and Kewaunee counties.

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, $107,867: Ozaukee Washington Land Trust will plant 2600 native trees and shrubs to connect and expand the riparian forest corridor within a six-mile stretch of the Milwaukee River. Activities include reforestation of degraded farmland, increasing species diversity, and invasive species control.



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