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.
Land conservation in Michigan, the only state entirely within the Great Lakes basin, directly contributes to the protection of the associated rivers, streams, and wetland areas and ultimately the Great Lakes themselves. In recent years, the capacity of the state agencies to maintain the lands they currently hold, much less protect new land, has declined due to budget cuts and related trends. Recognizing the impact this has on their own work, private land conservancies formed the Heart of the Lakes Center for Land Conservation Policy to bolster the work of the public sector. This general purposes grant will support efforts to promote the value of land conservation, assist local and regional land conservancies across Michigan, and help build the organization's internal capacity.
The University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment seeks to protect the Earth's resources and promote a sustainable society through research, teaching, and public outreach. Based in Ann Arbor, the university takes a special interest in Great Lakes issues and provides a valuable contribution to the region's scientific knowledge and skill base. The university also leads nationally recognized programs that promote multicultural engagement in environmental policies and programs. The grantee seeks to leverage this expertise to increase citizen participation in crafting sustainable, innovative solutions to the region's freshwater problems. With Mott support, the grantee will assist Great Lakes environmental nonprofits in refining face-to-face and online networking and outreach mechanisms, as a way to expand constituencies and strengthen partnerships that advance sustainable, effective Great Lakes policies.
American Rivers, a national organization based in Washington, D.C., with offices in the Great Lakes region, is dedicated to protecting and restoring freshwater resources. With prior Mott support, American Rivers worked at the municipal and state levels in the Great Lakes region to promote water conservation, support the use of “green” stormwater infrastructure, and identify best practices for coordinating urban water management decisions. With renewed support, the organization will continue these activities with a specific focus on urban areas and will develop a Great Lakes-focused strategic plan to guide efforts over the next five years.
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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