The Great Lakes Protection Fund was created as a private nonprofit corporation in 1989 after increasingly cooperative efforts to address the ecological problems of the world’s largest single source of surface freshwater. The governors of the Great Lakes states pledged $97 million to create the Fund to help protect and restore their shared resources. It’s the first private, permanent endowment ever created to benefit a specific ecosystem. 

Over the past three decades, Fund-supported teams have:

  • Created the world’s first series of ballast water filtration and disinfection systems on working vessels
  • Restored more natural flows in over 1,500 miles of basin rivers through collaborative re-operation of more than 100 hydroelectric facilities
  • Designed and deployed a water quality trading system that became the basis for the national strategy
  • Developed modeling frameworks and measurement tools that track and predict how changing water uses leads to improved hydrological and biological conditions
  • Created and sustained the forum for the design and development of what became the Great Lakes St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and associated Regional Agreement, providing over $1 million for expert advice, travel support, and staff time
  • Much more

To look at our upcoming plans, read our Strategic Plan.


The Fund’s work is possible because of the careful investment of its endowment, which was created by one-time contributions from seven Great Lakes states. Each state contributed in proportion to its use of Great Lakes waters. The money is invested to produce income and increase the endowment. The Fund’s Board of Directors directs the use of this income. The original contributions are permanent and cannot be spent.

Two-thirds of the Fund’s net income is dedicated to regional projects and teams. The remaining one-third is returned annually to the member states, in proportion to their original contribution, for each state’s Great Lakes priorities. Thus, the states receive two types of return on their original investment: the benefits of the Fund’s support of project teams and an annual income stream.

The Board of Directors has committed investment earnings of more than $100 million to support project teams, and the state shares mechanism has returned nearly $57 million to the states.

Seven of the Great Lakes states have provided one-time contributions to the endowment totaling $81 million. The Fund receives no ongoing government support. Their membership contributions are proportional to each state’s usage of Great Lakes waters:

$ 0
$ 0
$ 0
$ 0
$ 0
New York
$ 0
$ 0