Habitat and Coastal Management represents a Great Lakes Commission priority as articulated in the Commission’s biennial workplan. To view current projects and accomplishments in this area, please use the links at right.
Habitat Protection and Restoration
Past and ongoing human alterations have compromised Great Lakes-St. Lawrence habitats, including wetlands, resulting in their loss or degradation. The region has lost more than half its original wetlands and 60 percent of forested lands and only small remnants of some other habitat types remain. Natural habitat is critical to the health the Great Lakes ecosystem which, in turn, is inextricably linked to the vitality of the regional economy and quality of life. This is prominently recognized in the Great Lake Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes, as well as numerous other regional policy agreements. Wetlands, coastal zones and nearshore open waters are a high priority for the Commission because they are essential for numerous species of fish, aquatic life and birds, and are under stress from landside encroachment, aggressive invasive macrophytes and climate change. Natural stream functions for most Great Lakes watersheds have been compromised by impoundments and reduction of vegetation buffers, reducing their abilities to support a viable fishery and increasing sediment and nutrient loadings to the Great Lakes. The Commission is empowered to assist its Member states/provinces and Observers to coordinate regional activities to address these problems.
The Great Lakes has over 10,900 miles of coastline that provides valuable ecologic and economic benefits to the region. Not only do these areas support rich and diverse ecosystems, they also provide recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing. Coastal tourism and recreation is a growth sector in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence regional economy. The health of these systems is important, not just for our economy, but also for water quality, as coastal wetlands help keep freshwater systems clean for human consumption. Past and ongoing human activities have negatively affected this coastal environment, leading to loss of wetlands, toxic pollution, and overall ecosystem degradation. The Great Lakes Commission is dedicated to protecting this important area.