Great Lakes Initiative

Conserving and restoring the Great Lakes

Cool water, coastal wetlands, and an appreciation for the outdoors define Ducks Unlimited's Great Lakes Initiative area. The coastline of the five Great Lakes exceeds 10,000 miles and encircles approximately 20 percent of the world's fresh water. Glaciers created a diversity of wetlands, shallow lakes, coastal estuaries, and river flowages. Through the Great Lakes Initiative, DU will address all of these habitat types and provide abundant resources for continentally significant numbers of breeding, migrating, and wintering waterfowl.

It's up to those in the Great Lakes states to support solutions for excessive inputs into wetlands, lakes, streams, and rivers resulting in substantial water quality issues. In addition, invasive species have degraded remaining habitat and new exotics threaten the region each year. More recently, declining lake levels are cause for considerable concern. Lower waterfowl and hunter numbers are the inevitable result of changes in Great Lakes habitat conditions. In Michigan, breeding mallard numbers have dropped 50 percent. Recent research suggests that mallard population growth is largely limited by brood survival, so the primary emphasis of breeding conservation programs has been on restoring complexes of wetlands with a mosaic of open-water and emergent vegetation on public and private lands.

An estimated 60 percent of historic wetlands have been lost in the Great Lakes Initiative area, and continued loss is estimated at 1 percent annually. The majority of that loss has occurred in key waterfowl landscapes and exceeds 90 percent in some areas. Loss of native prairie grasslands has been extreme, also exceeding 90 percent. Help curb and reverse this loss of critical wetlands and grasslands in the Great Lakes with your gift to DU's Great Lakes Initiative today.

Resources Beyond Waterfowl

The Great Lakes Initiative area is home to far more than just waterfowl and wetlands. The region holds vast human, political, and philanthropic capital, accounting for 29 percent of the U.S. population and 31 percent of Ducks Unlimited members nationwide. The waterfowling tradition is strong within the region, which is home to nearly 30 percent of America's active waterfowl hunters, as well as a quarter of DU's mission-critical Major Sponsors.

The residents of this region have an incredible sense of connection to their home—to the Great Lakes themselves, the associated wetlands and wildlife habitat, and to the sense of community that ties them all together. Your generous gift to DU's Great Lakes Initiative is critical to ensuring a bright future for this great landscape, for waterfowl, outdoorsmen and women, and all of the generations yet to come.

DU's Five-Year Plan for the Great Lakes

Ducks Unlimited is seeking to raise $6.9 million in philanthropic funds from generous donors like you to achieve our conservation goals in the Great Lakes Initiative area. Funding derived from the Great Lakes Initiative enables Ducks Unlimited to conduct important science, public policy, and outreach efforts, as well as conserving the breeding habitats important to waterfowl utilizing this landscape. DU's research and evaluation efforts are the foundation upon which our direct conservation programs and our policy and outreach work are based.

The focus of DU's Great Lakes Initiative is to maximize benefits for continental waterfowl by restoring, enhancing, and protecting wetland complexes that include large marshes and shallow lakes on public and private lands throughout the watershed. These wetlands provide critical feeding and resting areas for waterfowl during spring and fall migration, as well as habitat for a number of waterfowl species that breed within the region. This initiative also recognizes that public policy impacts waterfowl as surely as weather does, and we must put forth a dedicated effort, including strong relationships with elected officials, to ensure success for DU policy efforts regionally and nationally.

Great Lakes Initiative at Glance

Five-Year Goals (FY 2012-16)
Habitat Delivery: 35,000 acres
Public Revenue: $42.6 million
Philanthropic Revenue: $6.9 million
Total Revenue Goal: $49.5 million

Initiative States and Provinces:
Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Wisconsin, and Ontario

Conservation Focus:
Maximize benefits for migrating and breeding waterfowl by restoring, enhancing, and protecting wetland and grassland complexes that include coastal and riparian marshes and small interior wetlands on public and private lands throughout the Great Lakes watershed.

Cross-border Conservation



Migratory waterfowl are a shared continental resource and know no borders. Thus, DU must work across North America to ensure a bright future for waterfowl and the people who enjoy them. By contributing to DU's Great Lakes Initiative, you will be supporting critical waterfowl habitat conservation in the Great Lakes Initiative area, as well as priority breeding grounds in the Prairie Pothole Region, Western Boreal Forest, and Atlantic Canada, where the vast majority of waterfowl are produced prior to making their way south each fall.

The Great Lakes Need You Now

Your gift to Ducks Unlimited is invaluable, and it is truly the greatest contribution you can make to secure the future of wetlands and waterfowl. Every dollar you give to Ducks Unlimited is leveraged multiple times to create a conservation impact far beyond your initial gift. In addition, we invest at least 80 cents of every dollar received in our conservation mission. Start making a difference right now for waterfowl, outdoorsmen, and future generations of wildlife and people by making your gift to DU's Great Lakes Initiative. Help conserve more than 35,000 acres of key habitats in the Great Lakes watershed with your gift today.

Don't wait.

Call DU at (734)623-2000 today to speak with fundraising staff in your area.

Make an online gift

Download a printable PDF for this initiative