Aquatic Habitat Connectivity Collaborative

Restored stream on Ocqueoc River

Reduced connectivity affects nearly every Great Lakes tributary. More than two hundred thousand road-stream crossings and dams or other barriers are present in the Great Lakes basin. Efforts to improve stream connectivity can be driven by a desire for more "natural" streams, but also stems from the need to address aging dam infrastructure and its risk to human safety. Federal, tribal, provincial, state, and municipal governments, non-government organizations, and private individuals are increasing efforts to reconnect aquatic habitats by removing dams or adding fish passage, as well as designing and building fish friendly road-stream crossings. Proposals to improve the function of these public trust resources often originate from within a single agency or by stakeholders or other interest groups, and are often supported by documents such as watershed management plans. Locally focused projects could benefit from improved coordination, collaboration, and awareness of larger-scale impacts, coupled with clearly stated objectives aligned with broader regional goals. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission is working to bring individual agencies and organizations together to foster that cooperation and collaboration by co-coordinating the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Connectivity Collaborative with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Heavy equipment (dump truck and digger) working to restore stream habitat

The collaborative is a focus area of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative, which has joined with the Great Lakes Basin Fish Habitat Partnership. This teamwork takes advantage of the landscape-scale perspective of the collaborative and the proven ability of the partnership to put projects on the ground, and combines resources to better address concerns and priorities of fishery management agencies and partner organizations.

The collaborative is identifying shared conservation goals and objectives for restoring connections in Great Lakes waterways among federal, provincial, state, tribal, and non-government partners, with the intent to harness the capacities, expertise, and abilities of all partners in support of common conservation outcomes. Collaborative efforts are focused on the following:

  • Identifying and engaging key partners, including aquatic resource managers, municipalities, and departments of transportation;
  • Supporting research and development of decision support tools;
  • Identifying data and knowledge gaps and investing in projects that fill them;
  • Developing strategies that encourage action; and
  • Providing leadership toward attainment of objectives