Foundation grantmaking focuses on four major program areas.
These programs touch upon a number of major issues.
Each grantmaking program also works within clearly stated geographic parameters or regions.
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We believe the need for clean, plentiful freshwater is one of this century’s greatest challenges. Securing sustainable levels of this precious resource to meet the needs of both people and nature — what we call the freshwater challenge — is a key focus of much of the Mott Foundation’s environmental grantmaking in the United States.
We place special emphasis on the Great Lakes region — not only because the shores of our home state of Michigan touch four of the five Great Lakes, but also because the Great Lakes are the single largest system of surface freshwater on Earth. As such, they affect the physical, social and economic well-being of tens of millions of people in and beyond the region.
On a more limited basis, we also support work in the southeastern United States specifically aimed at securing healthy river flows. When it comes to rivers and streams, the Southeast is one of the most important places on the planet and, next to the Amazon, is home to the most biologically diverse freshwater ecosystems in the world. Increasingly, however, the rivers of the Southeast region face high risk of rising pollution levels and habitat degradation. We concentrate our grantmaking in three ecoregions: Tennessee-Cumberland, Mobile Bay and South Atlantic. This translates roughly into a focus on the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.
In both of these globally significant regions we’re working to help strengthen the community of nongovernmental organizations dedicated to the long-term conservation of freshwater ecosystems. We also seek to inform and advance well-designed and effectively implemented water-quality and water-quantity policies that conserve freshwater resources.
The majority of our freshwater grantmaking focuses on the Great Lakes — the single largest system of surface freshwater on Earth.
In the southeast, we concentrate our grantmaking in the three ecoregions pictured.
Many Great Lakes cities have aging stormwater infrastructure which is unable to keep up with more frequent and intense rains. As a result, stormwater runoff washes toxic materials and sediments into local waterways and can also flood homes and businesses. The Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago, Illinois, designs and implements strategies that support livable and sustainable urban communities. With Mott support, the Center for Neighborhood Technology will conduct a pilot program to help selected Great Lakes communities adopt practices to prevent and minimize flooding and water pollution. Based on the results, the Center for Neighborhood Technology will refine and expand its RainReady program, develop a replicable model, and share information with other Great Lakes communities.
Rivers, lakes, and wetlands are designed to incorporate a certain amount of soil, sand, and rock deposited by rainwater and snow melts. Reductions in the density of trees and plants that help keep soil in place have led to increased quantities of soil and sediments that runoff into Great Lakes waterways. More frequent and intense storms also exacerbate soil erosion. With Mott support, the Delta Institute will research strategies for reducing sediment runoff into Michigan’s harbors and marinas. The organization will examine how new funding approaches could reduce harbor maintenance costs, promote upstream conservation efforts, and employ urban best management practices. With offices in Chicago and Michigan, the institute is a nonprofit organization with a mission to work with business, government, and communities in the Great Lakes region to develop market-driven solutions that build environmental resilience, economic vitality, and healthy communities.
The Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute, part of Grand Valley State University, is located in Muskegon, Michigan. The institute seeks to integrate research, education, and outreach in support of enhancing and preserving freshwater resources. With Mott support, the institute will examine the feasibility of more effectively integrating water management decisionmaking in the state of Michigan. With the help of a multidisciplinary advisory group, the institute will develop a white paper that outlines opportunities for increasing the coordination of water management decisions across various municipal, county, and state jurisdictions in a way that also includes other freshwater stakeholders, including farmers, businesses, and environmental groups.
Every autumn, when cold air settles over the Great Lakes region, anglers from as far away as Europe and Asia make their way to a river in west Michigan to test their skill against powerful fish known affectionately as “silver bullets.”
The prized catch is steelhead and the Muskegon River is one of the best places in America to find them, according to biologists and experienced anglers. It’s a remarkable designation for a river that carried millions of logs to sawmills in the 19th century, only to become strangled by hydroelectric dams in the first decade of the 20th century.
Dams changed the Muskegon’s natural blueprint by creating new flow patterns, altering the movement of sediment and nutrients, raising the temperature of its water, reducing the amount of oxygen available to fish, creating artificial divisions in wildlife habitat and preventing fish in Lake Michigan from reaching 79 percent of the river that is upstream of the towering structures. The result: a vital ecosystem that was profoundly changed and put at risk of significant damage.
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