Freshwater Ecosystems

Freshwater Ecosystems

The Mott Foundation's domestic environmental grantmaking focuses on Conservation of Freshwater Ecosystems in the Great Lakes basin and a large portion of southeastern United States.

Grantmaking pumped new life into rivers, paved the way for restoration efforts nationwide

Hyropower dam

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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Developed in 1984 at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, GREEN engages more than 100,000 middle- and high-school students in 20 states each year to monitor the streams, creeks and rivers in watersheds across the United states. Flint River GREEN is one of the largest of these local programs.
Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. American Rivers, a Mott grantee, preserves, protects and restores thousands of miles of U.S. rivers.