Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Launched in 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is the result of multi-sector, community-based collaboration among federal agencies to protect and restore the Great Lakes system. Members of the GLRI Task Force include the Council on Environmental Quality, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of State, among others.

GRLI produces publications, datasets, and tools for use by members of its Interagency Task Force to address the biggest threats facing the Great Lakes and to meet long term goals for the ecosystem. One such tool is the Science in the Great Lakes (SiGL) Mapper, which allows users to track, plan, and analyze restoration activities in the basin. GLRI tracks and provides information about each agency’s completed and ongoing projects.

In 2010, a task force of 16 federal agencies and several regional governors produced the The GLRI Action Plan FY2010-FY2014. This plan acknowledged climate change as an emerging problem with could potentially alter Great Lakes water levels and ice cover long-term. This Plan contained five focus areas:

  • Cleaning up toxics and areas of concern;
  • Combating invasive species;
  • Promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted runoff;
  • Restoring wetlands and other habitats; and
  • Tracking progress, education and working with strategic partners.

Climate change was similarly included as an issue with potential implications across all of these focus areas, necessitating that GLRI projects and programs address climate change impacts and Great Lakes community adaptation needs. However, the Plan also acknowledges that knowledge of climate change impacts is incomplete and inadequate.

In September 2014 the GLRI released its Action Plan II, which sets priorities and focus areas for FY15-FY19. This Plan acknowledges that climate change can compromise the GLRI’s restoration work and recommends that those agencies funding projects through the GLRI consider how the impacts of climate change in their design and selection using a set of standardized climate resiliency criteria. Federal agencies should develop these criteria using lessons learned, their own agency climate adaptation plans, and relevant project assessment tools. For example, these criteria should guarantee that plants and trees selected for restoration projects are suitable for expected future climates. Projects related to watershed restoration should account for the impacts of increased storm frequency and intensity, and therefore changes in erosion and runoff. Ideally, these criteria will be incorporated in the early stages of project development and updated annually to reflect new climate information.


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