Over the next 6-18 months, the Great Lakes Coastal Assembly and Blue Accounting team will focus on refining basin-wide goals, identifying the most relevant metrics to track progress toward those goals, and improving the accuracy and breadth of project-level data for reporting on metrics.

Our Goal

Protect and restore coastal wetlands in the Great Lakes region.

  • The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has a goal of 60,000 acres restored and protected by 2019 across the Great Lakes basin.
  • Biodiversity Conservation Strategies for Lake Erie and Michigan each set a goal to increase the total acreage of coastal wetlands by 10%, compared to 2011 acreage. Similar strategies for the other Great Lakes specify a need to improve coastal wetland conditions through restoration.

Our Solution

Coasts are where land, water and people meet. The coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes are key economic drivers and are essential to ensuring high quality water for fish, wildlife and people throughout the Great Lakes basin. But over the past two centuries, the Great Lakes region has lost roughly one half of its wetlands. Our solution is to collaboratively identify priorities, inform decisions, and communicate the results of coastal wetland restoration and protection investments to improve the health of the Great Lakes.

To do this, Blue Accounting is helping the Great Lakes Coastal Assembly increase the efficiency of regional coastal conservation and resource management. The GLCA has initiated a pilot project for coastal wetland conservation encompassing coastal areas from Saginaw Bay to Sandusky Bay in western Lake Erie.  The GLCA is working with practitioners to set regional coastal wetland protection and conservation goals, to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities, invest in decision-making tools, refining ecosystem service metrics, support coastal wetland monitoring programs, and incentivize action at all levels. The Blue Accounting team will support these efforts while also providing an online system to track progress and share knowledge.


Why It Matters

Why it Matters Slide Show -Coastal

Black-crowned night-heron at Erie Marsh

Wetlands provide recreational and tourism opportunities for communities.

Black-crowned Night Heron at Erie Marsh Preserve, North Maumee Bay, Michigan, Spring Treasure Hunt 2017. Photo Credit: © Deb Allen 

Blue heron flying with jogger in the background, Detroit River

Wetlands provide habitat for a diverse array of rare, threatened and endangered plants and animals, spawning and nursery habitat for fish, nesting and feeding areas for waterfowl, and migratory bird stopover sites.

Source: Great Blue Heron, Detroit River, Michigan © Michael David-Lorne Jordan/David-Lorne Photographic

Lotus flowers at Erie Marsh

Coastal wetlands are beautiful places in many seasons.

Source: Lotus flowers at Erie Marsh Preserve, North Maumee Bay, Michigan. Photo credit: © Jason Whalen

Recreation in wetlands

Wetlands support the world-class Great Lakes fishery by providing critical habitat for fish to spawn and grow.

Source: Fishing boat at Munuscong Bay, St. Mary’s River.  Photo Credit: Tammy Patterson, USGS

Who’s Involved

The Great Lakes Coastal Assembly (GLCA) is a cross-agency team working together to conserve and restore lands and waters in the critically important coastal zones of the Great Lakes. It is the lead collaborative working on the Blue Accounting Coastal Wetlands issue. GLCA members include:

  • Great Lakes Commission
  • Illinois Natural History Survey
  • Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • Ohio Department of Natural Resources
  • Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

How We Work

The Great Lakes’ coastal areas support a rich variety of species. At the same time, coastal areas are also critical to human activity, as they have some of the highest population densities in the region. As pressures on these systems increase, there is a strong need for action to protect and restore sensitive areas. Long-term sustainability of coastal resources requires coordinated management and protection across an array of land owners and management styles.

The GLCA and its partners work to:

  • Identify shared conservation goals and objectives for restoring and protecting coastal wetlands
  • Invest in data and knowledge to fill gaps, and tools to better inform decisions
  • Support and develop strategies that incentivize action and provide leadership towards attaining objectives
Where We Work

From Saginaw Bay to Sandusky Bay in Western Lake Erie

The GLCA is currently piloting collaborative landscape conservation design and producing on-the-ground results for coastal wetlands from Saginaw Bay to Sandusky Bay in western Lake Erie as well as the Detroit River, which connects Lake Huron to Lake Erie. This area was selected because the lake plains adjacent to the bays are of low elevation and high coastal wetland restoration potential. They once supported expansive coastal wetlands, but have been modified over time for agriculture and expanding urban areas.

Extensive data has been gathered in this pilot area, and new decision support tools have been developed. Guided by these tools, and with support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the GLCA can focus on-the-ground efforts to selected projects that lead to maximum, cost-effective impact.  These tools and techniques will be expanded to include the entire Great Lakes basin.



Saginaw Bay to Western Lake Erie is the pilot area for coastal wetlands landscape conservation design and lies in the heart of the GLCA region.