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Habitat Restoration in the Great Lakes: By the Numbers

March 01, 2021

NOAA’s habitat restoration work in the Great Lakes strengthens healthy fisheries and ecosystems, benefits local economies, and supports resilient communities.

Aerial view of a large forested island in the middle of a river Aerial view of Belle Isle in the Detroit River. (Photo: Friends of the Detroit River)

The Great Lakes are some of our nation’s most important natural, recreational, and economic resources. But they face many threats, including habitat degradation, pollution, overfishing, and the spread of invasive species. NOAA and our partners work to restore habitat in the Great Lakes region to support the fish, ecosystems, and communities that rely on them.

Here are a few key numbers that help illustrate the scope of our habitat restoration work in the region through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

11 years: NOAA has worked through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative since 2010 to restore habitat across the Great Lakes region. Our story map celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, highlighting a decade of NOAA and partners’ work in the Great Lakes. 

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Construction equipment in a wetland
Construction underway at the Lower Muskegon River restoration project site.

79 projects: NOAA has supported almost 80 high-priority habitat restoration projects through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Our efforts have helped strengthen valuable Great Lakes fisheries and restore coastal wetlands that improve water quality. We recently supported habitat restoration in places like the Detroit River in Michigan and the Buffalo River in New York.

4,500 acres: The projects we’ve supported have restored more than 4,500 acres of habitat for fish and wildlife. This restoration work has improved fish passage, cleaned up debris, restored coastal wetlands, and managed invasive species. 

6 states: NOAA has supported habitat restoration projects in six states: Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin. You can explore projects we’ve supported in these states through the NOAA Restoration Atlas, our interactive project mapping tool.

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Four people in two red canoes paddle through a wetland
Visitors paddle through a portion of Howard Marsh, the site of ongoing restoration work by NOAA and partners. (Photo: Metroparks Toledo)

17 Areas of Concern: Our habitat restoration work in the Great Lakes has helped improve conditions in 17 “toxic hot spots” known as Great Lakes Areas of Concern. There are currently 26 designated Great Lakes Areas of Concern in the United States. These are areas where a waterway’s poor conditions are affecting the environment, human health, and the local economy. NOAA and partners work to address the most pressing threats facing these waterways, so that they can be removed from the list of Areas of Concern. Our restoration work in places like Michigan’s Muskegon Lake and Manistique River is helping make progress toward delisting these Areas of Concern.

As the largest freshwater system on earth, the Great Lakes are one of the most important natural resources in the world. They serve as important economic resources, supporting industry, transportation, commercial and recreational fishing, and tourism. NOAA’s habitat restoration work helps strengthen valuable fisheries and coastal resources and restore coastal wetlands that improve the quality of our water. It also provides recreational opportunities and supports the resilience of Great Lake communities.

Last updated by Office of Habitat Conservation on March 02, 2021

Great Lakes