The continued growth of cities and the virtually uncontrolled suburban sprawl have negative effects on the Great Lakes ecosystem, including increased water and air pollution, higher transportation and residential energy use and increased encroachment on agricultural lands and natural areas. In addition, former big city industrial sites, known as brownfields, remain neglected because the liability associated with cleanup is too risky for many businesses. Instead, these businesses turn to cleaner, rural areas to develop. The development of these outlying greenfields and rural areas continues unabated. In Michigan, for example, between 1980 and 1990, farmland was converted to some other use at the rate of 10 acres per hour.
Wetlands and the wildlife who rely on them for habitat also feel the brunt of unwise land-use practices. More than two-thirds of the natural Great Lakes wetlands have already been filled in or drained for agriculture, urban uses, shoreline development, recreation and resource extraction (such as peat mining). The loss of these lands poses special problems for hydrological processes and water quality because of the natural storage and cleansing functions of wetlands.
Fortunately, people are now recognizing the harm caused by unwise land-use practices and are developing better options. For example, conservation tillage, which keeps crop residue on fields, is now widely practiced in the Great Lakes Basin. This approach reduces soil erosion, keeping sediment and associated chemicals from entering rivers and lakes.
Great Lakes Sustainable Land Use Great Lakes Commission A clearinghouse for brownfields-related information; provides opportunities for Great Lakes jurisdictions to showcase their individual programs and activities.
1000 Friends of Minnesota Devoted to promoting a sustainable landscape where finite natural resources are protected, cities are vital and livable, and all citizens have access to clean air, water and soil.
American Farmland Trust For the past 16 years, American Farmland Trust has worked to protect our nation's best, most productive farmland while encouraging farmers to improve the stewardship of their land.
Conservation Ontario Conservation Ontario is a network of 36 Conservation Authorities of Ontario, community-based environmental organizations dedicated to conserving, restoring, developing and managing natural resources on a watershed basis.
Gathering Waters A land trust conservation organization formed in 1995 to assist land trusts, landowners and communities in their efforts to protect Wisconsin's land and water resources.
Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy Since 1991, the Regional Conservancy has established 21 nature preserves in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Kalkaska Counties in Michigan, and they have protected nearly 9,000 acres of land, including over 25 miles of shoreline.
Huron Land Use Alliance The Alliance provides information to Washtenaw County, Mich. residents and decision-makers bout alternatives to the suburban sprawl model of growth.
Ontario Stewardship Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Links southern Ontario landowners with funding information and expert resources.
Ozaukee Washington Land Trust Through preservation and education, the OWLT protects the natural areas and open spaces of Ozaukee and Washington counties in southeastern Wisconsin.
People and Land (PAL) W.K. Kellogg Foundation PAL grew out of the Kellogg Foundation's interest in preserving Michigan's rural and agricultural heritage and exploring how farm and rural populations can work with partners to address issues of land use.
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is the state's largest private land conservation organization. It has one essential purpose: to conserve water, land, and wildlife.
Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program A cooperative initiative of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Great Lakes Regional Headquarters) and the Great Lakes Commission to develop sediment transport models for tributaries to the Great Lakes that discharge to federal navigation channels or Areas of Concern.
Land Cover Mapping Illinois Department of Natural Resources Using Landsat satellite imagery, DNR scientists have compiled a comprehensive database of the state's surface cover.
Michigan Land Use Institute The Michigan Land Use Institute was founded in 1995 to establish an approach to economic development that strengthens communities, enhances opportunity, and protects the state's unmatched natural resources.
Openlands Project Openlands is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing public open space in northeastern Illinois.