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Population, Greenspace, and Development: Conversion Patterns in the Great Lakes Region

December 11, 2018

An ongoing concern in both urban and rural America is the tradeoff between residential and commercial development and the conservation of forestland, shrublands, and grasslands, commonly referred to as greenspace. As communities develop, adding schools, housing, infrastructure, and the commercial space needed for an expanding population and economy, greenspace remains critical because it contributes to air and water purification, storm abatement, and enhanced human health and quality of life. The tension between development and maintaining greenspace is greatest where human populations are densely settled and expanding, and the concern is of particular relevance because the transformation tends to be permanent—developed land rarely reverts to greenspace. 

Inspiring Change: Portraits of Partnership

December 21, 2015

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation 2014 Annual Report. We've had a focus on strengthening partnerships between individuals and communities since our earliest days of grantmaking, and this approach is still evident in grants we made in 2014 across our four program areas: Civil Society, Education, Environment and Flint Area.

On Track? Ensuring the Resilience of the Great Lakes Compact

September 26, 2013

The Great Lakes hold about 20 percent of the world's available surface freshwater, and 84 percent of North America's surface freshwater. As a resource, the lakes and their tributaries are invaluable -- providing drinking water for 40 million people and serving as the region's economic and recreational lifeblood.Yet, the sheer vastness of the lakes belies a fragility that policy-makers, scientists and other experts have struggled to address for more than a century . With less than 1 percent of the waters of the Great Lakes renewed annually through rainfall and snowmelt, the lakes are vulnerable to misuse and depletion.Congress unanimously approved and President Bush signed the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact into law in October 2008. The eight-state water management pact is a first-of-its kind model for a consensus-based, basin-wide approach to decisions about how much and how far away Great Lakes water can be used. The eight Great Lakes governors who collectively wrote and unanimously endorsed the pact deliberately left it to the states to devise their own rules of implementation for in-state water use. Since the compact's adoption, the Great Lakes states have developed water use standards that are much improved from what existed before, though many lack proactive policies designed to protect and nurture water sustainability. Meanwhile, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council -- the body established by the compact to make decisions about water diversions outside the basin -- has not rendered binding rules for its review of diversion applications, leaving a void that may expose the pact to legal challenge and put Great Lakes water at risk.The compact will soon face its first regional test from Waukesha, Wis., a community eligible to apply to divert Great Lakes water beyond the basin because of its location within a county straddling the Great Lakes and Mississippi River divide. The compact allows for straddling communities and communities within straddling counties not currently using Great Lakes water to be granted an exception to its ban on diversions -- but only if the community can prove no reasonable alternative water source exists and that the water will be returned to the basin. Absent water-tight regional implementation rules, however, this precedent-setting application could reveal deficiencies in the application process that, if unaddressed, leave the compact vulnerable to legal challenges .Waukesha is only the first of a number of communities that may line up for Great Lakes water in the coming decades. We encourage the Great Lakes governors to consider not only the implications of reviewing the Waukesha application under current guidance, but how the decisions made during this review will inevitably shape the basis for future decisions. The first section of this report identifies a number of communities -- some similarly situated in straddling counties, others themselves straddling the border of the Great Lakes Basin -- that may face the need for an alternative water supply soon and could find requesting Great Lakes water a sensible prospect in the coming decade. The second component of the report seeks to take advantage of a narrowing window of opportunity to fix shortcomings in the Compact Council review process; a window that will shut with the arrival of the first diversion request on its doorstep. The report analyzes Compact Council implementation deficiencies which, if not addressed, leave the application review process vulnerable to legal challenges that could reshape parts of the compact.

An Evaluation of Sustain Our Great Lakes: A Report Prepared for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

June 1, 2013

The Headwaters Group Philanthropic Services, in partnership with Edward W. Wilson Consulting and Coastal Restoration Consultants, Inc., conducted an evaluation of Sustain Our Great Lakes (SOGL) covering the period 2006 through 2011. The research included site visits to 20 selected project sites, a survey of grantees, and interviews with SOGL's partners and informed observers of the program. The evaluation concluded that SOGL's strategic decisions have been sound and strategic and that its grantmaking program has been well executed. Among the grants that are likely to yield the greatest long-term environmental benefits are those supporting the conversion of uplands to wetlands and hydrological modifications to existing wetlands. Of the many weed control projects supported by SOGL, the ones that are most likely to be effective are those that detect and eradicate early stage invasions before they become established. SOGL has also funded a range of connectivity projects that are likely to confer important environmental benefits as long as they are properly maintained and as long as sufficient care is taken to assure that non-native invasive species are not allowed to extend their ranges. By funding relatively labor-intensive habitat restoration projects, SOGL is helping to create jobs and in the longer term is making economic contributions by strengthening sport fisheries, enhancing opportunities for outdoor recreation, and lowering water treatment costs. In some cases, SOGL investments are playing important roles in larger community and economic development efforts. The evaluation offered a series of recommendations aimed at: improving project planning and design, ensuring adequate post-project maintenance, removing barriers to funding complex projects, building knowledge about effective restoration approaches in the Great Lakes region, and helping grantees prepare for the effects of climate change.

Funding Formulas, School Choice, and Inherent Incentives

March 15, 2008

An array of school choice options now exists across the U.S., including: charter schools, voucher and private schools, interdistrict and intradistrict choice, and home schooling. These options can be contrasted with local public schools, where places are allocated primarily based on residency. This paper examines how these options might be funded and the challenges associated with including them in funding formulas. The primary difficulty is that local public schools and school choice options are not easily compared. Public schools and choice options differ in terms of: (1) mission; (2) regulations; (3) resources provided (staffing and buildings, for examples); and (4) cost of resources provided. They also differ in the characteristics of their student bodies. Consequently, deciding how much funding to allocate is difficult. The result is that states have adopted varied funding approaches to educational choice and created varied incentive structures. This study offers examples of such variety across the Great Lakes states, surveying each choice form but focusing particularly on charter schools, where the evidence is greatest.

America's North Coast: A Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Program to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes

September 1, 2007

Examines the baseline ecological conditions of the Great Lakes and offers a plan for the area's environmental protection and restoration. Demonstrates how a restoration program can provide economic benefits that substantially exceed its costs.

Evaluating the Impact of Charter Schools on Student Achievement: A Longitudinal Look at the Great Lakes States

June 1, 2007

This study looks at student achievement in math and reading in charter and traditional public schools over a five-year period in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The primary finding is that student achievement in charter schools in these six states is lower than in traditional public schools. The study also finds, however, that student achievement in charter schools is improving over time.

Ecosystem Shock: The Devastating Impacts of Invasive Species on the Great Lakes Food Web

October 1, 2004

Gives an account of the changes to the Great Lakes ecosystem brought about by non-native aquatic species. Assesses the current and future impacts on fish communities and commercial fisheries. Provides policy and research recommendations.