As the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie is also the most fertile, producing more fish at times than the other Great Lakes combined.
The lake’s western basin, which averages about 24 feet, is where Lake Erie’s productivity reaches its zenith. It is a hot spot for sport fishing enthusiasts chasing trophy walleye, boating, duck hunting, bird-watching and other recreational pursuits.
The Nature Conservancy is working with agriculture, business, government and citizens to improve the quality of the water flowing into Western Lake Erie from tributary streams and restore the health of coastal wetlands. Our goal is a healthy, resilient system that provides clean drinking water, habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife and world class fishing and recreation opportunities today and far into the future.
Spanning 8.3 million acres in the U.S., Western Lake Erie Basin encompasses parts of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. Most of the land was converted to agriculture or industrial and other urban uses long ago.
Just five percent of the basin’s wetlands remain today, and most were diked to protect them from the erosive forces of wind and waves. Very little of the basin is still forested. Threats to the basin’s health include:
The Nature Conservancy has a long history of land protection and restoration in the basin. We are building on that work and expanding it to encompass the entire basin from headwaters to open water.
Working with Agriculture: We are working with farmers and using science to target conservation practices where they will most effectively reduce nutrient and soil loss and improve drainage.
Restoring and Reconnecting Coastal Wetlands: We are collaborating with multiple partners to protect, restore and expand the remaining coastal wetlands and, where feasible and most beneficial, reconnect them to the open waters of Lake Erie.
Planning for a Healthy Basin: We are engaging people in developing a vision for a healthy Western Lake Erie Basin. Our planning efforts include:
We’re working to restore the health of Western Lake Erie Basin, and you can help. With your support, we can restore a dynamic, functioning system that meets the needs of people while maintaining the its own health and resilience.