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Great Lakes

Western Lake Erie Basin

The Nature Conservancy is working with agriculture, business, government and citizens in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio to revive the health of the Western Lake Erie Basin by facing concerns brought on by phosphorus and soil run-off, loss and alteration of coastal wetlands and invasive species.

Facts about the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB)
  • The WLEB includes not only the western portion of Lake Erie, but also millions of acres of farmland and coastal wetlands (view map).
  • Lake Erie is the warmest and shallowest of all Great Lakes. In fact, the western portion of Lake Erie averages only 24 feet.
  • It generates more than $7.4 billion annually through water-based tourism.
  • The Basin has some of the world’s most fertile farmland, with agriculture annual market values exceeding $1.2 billion.
  • It spans 8.3 million acres in the U.S., and its tributaries run through 3 states: Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. 
 Issues in the Western Lake Erie Basin
  • Excess nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen run-off from point and non-point sources
  • Altered water flows
  • Excess sediment
  • Invasive species

Together with our partners, we are improving the quality of the water flowing into Lake Erie from tributary streams and restoring the health of coastal wetlands. Our goal is a healthy, resilient system that provides us with sustainable agriculture, clean drinking water, habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife and world class fishing and recreation opportunities today and far into the future.



The Nature Conservancy has a long history of land protection and restoration in Western Lake Erie Basin. We are building on that work and expanding it to encompass the entire basin from headwaters to open water. In this working landscape, we are collaborating with others to restore a dynamic, functioning system that meets the needs of people while maintaining its health and resilience.

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