Incorporating Environmental Justice in the GLRI Action Plan

Ann Arbor, MI

In 2023, the National Wildlife Federation – Healing Our Waters Coalition (HOW) hired CIS to identify environmental justice (EJ) principles and goals to be included in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan.

Project Scope

  • Research and Analyses
  • GLRI Action Plan
  • Stakeholder Engagement/ Interviews
  • Environmental Justice
  • Workforce Development

To guide investments in the Great Lakes basin through the GLRI Action Plan, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops a new Action Plan every five years. The current plan— GLRI Action Plan III—is set to expire in 2024. EPA is currently gathering input for the formation of GLRI Action Plan IV, which will cover federal fiscal years 2025 through 2029. EPA anticipates finalizing GLRI Action Plan IV by September 2024. Although comprehensive in its environmental goals, the GLRI Action Plan III has many glaring omissions. For example, the word “climate” appears just once, and “justice” appears just twice in the 30-page long GLRI Action Plan III.

As a part of this project, CIS interviewed a wide range of stakeholders across the Great Lakes basin, including community leaders, state and federal agency officials, and Indigenous government leaders, to identify EJ principles and goals that they wish to see included in the GLRI Action Plan IV. CIS also reviewed existing literature and worked with the HOW leadership to further identify historical practices, relationships between federal agencies and local community, and the vision for EJ. Based on these insights, CIS encouraged federal agencies managing the GLRI program as well as other governmental and nongovernmental organizations to build EJ as an integral part of the program rather than as just one of the many components that make up this program.


This project provides recommendations for how EJ can be incorporated into the GLRI Action Plan IV. If the recommendations are adopted, we expect to see more GLRI projects in EJ communities and greater social, environmental, and economic benefits distributed to these communities.


National Wildlife Federation
Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition