Protecting the Great Lakes basin

Land trusts across the country are working diligently and creatively to protect water quality, quantity and equitable water access every day. Land trusts working in the Great Lakes basin are no exception, helping to protect one of the largest sources of fresh water on Earth. Covering 21% of the world’s surface fresh water, there’s a lot at stake.

By Laura Eklov May 4, 2021

If you haven’t seen them in person, it’s hard to understand how immense and awe-inspiring the Great Lakes are, from the rocky shores of Lake Superior to the world’s largest freshwater sand dune system along Lake Michigan. Young children playing along their shorelines often mistake them for the ocean. They learn early on that the Great Lakes are part of their HOMES, an elementary school prompt used to remember all five: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Critical to both humans and wildlife, The Great Lakes Commission summarizes their importance well:

The Great Lakes cover more than 94,000 square miles and hold an estimated 6 quadrillion gallons of water. The system is invaluable as the source of drinking water for more than 48 million people in the U.S. and Canada. The lakes directly generate more than 1.5 million jobs and $60 billion in wages annually. They’re also home to more than 3,500 plant and animal species, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Recreation on the Great Lakes — including world-renowned boating, hunting and fishing opportunities — generates more than $52 billion annually for the region.

Land trusts working in the Great Lakes basin understand that protecting fresh water means protecting the land — through acquisition, proper stewardship, restoration, conservation easements, partnerships, land use policies and cooperative best practices. When we surveyed Alliance land trust members working in the basin, 94% identified water quality as one of their top conservation objectives.

In the weeks ahead, watch our blog for some of the ways land trusts are helping keep the Great Lakes great. Or, if you prefer, grab the Spring 2021 issue of Saving Land to see all the stories together.