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Great Lakes Essential Resources: Government Information

Last Updated: Jan 8, 2024 4:08 PM

The United States Government plays a critical role in the continued preservation of the Great Lakes system This includes monitoring water quality, passing legislation related to the Great Lakes, protecting fish and wildlife of the region, and much more. Numerous government agencies are responsible for the vast number of publications about the water, land, flora, fauna and peoples around the lakes.

Resources are organized by department/agency and include reports, public databases, datasets and listing of select reference works. Also included is a select list of Canadian Government publications. Additional pages off the Government Information tab provide a legislative overview of the Great Lakes and state government resources.

Jump to a government agency or organization:

EPA  |  NOAA  |  USGS |  Fish & Wildlife Service  |  Dept. of Transportation  |  Army Corps of Engineers  |  National Parks  |  NASA  |  Collaborations

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

State of the Great Lakes 2019

The United States Environmental Protection Agency provides facts and data on the Great Lakes system, including information on the health environmental issues, governmental funding and partner organizations.

Pursuant to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, Canada and the United States, together with their many partners, have established a suite of 9 indicators of ecosystem health to assess the state of the Great Lakes. The EPA and Canadian government release the annual State of the Great Lakes.

See also the EPA's Great Lakes Biology Monitoring Program and Great Lakes Environmental Database – GLENDA.

Resource Highlights


USGS Great Lakes Science Center

The Great Lakes Science Center is a part of the Midwest region of the United State Geological Survey (USGS), which is the sole science agency for the Department of the Interior. The USGS was formed by an act of Congress in 1879. The Great Lakes Science Center's mission is to "meet the nation’s need for scientific information used by resource managers to restore, enhance, manage, and protect the living resources and habitats in the Great Lakes basin."

U.S Fish & Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the premier government agency dedicated to the conservation, protection, and enhancement of fish, wildlife and plants, and their habitats. The Lower Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Conservation Office's mission is conserving and restoring healthy populations of native fish and other aquatic species, and protecting the lakes, rivers, wetlands and estuaries where they live.

Department of Transportation

"Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation is a wholly owned government corporation created by statute May 13, 1954, to construct, operate and maintain that part of the St. Lawrence Seaway between the Port of Montreal and Lake Erie, within the territorial limits of the United States. Trade development functions aim to enhance Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway System utilization without respect to territorial or geographic limits."

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Check out the Army Corps of Engineers' Great Lakes Information page for current data and news.

Great Lakes Update

Published first as the Great Lakes Levels Update, then simplified as Great Lakes Update.

National Parks

National Park Service logo

The Great Lakes region contains 7 national parks, lakeshores, monuments, and memorials. 

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is America’s civil space program and the global leader in space exploration. The Earth Observatory’s mission is to share with the public the images, stories, and discoveries about the environment, Earth systems, and climate that emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and models. 

Collaborative Efforts

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

"The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative accelerates efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world – the Great Lakes. Built upon the foundation of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, GLRI answered a challenge of the governors of the Great Lakes states. Since 2010 the multi-agency GLRI has provided funding to 16 federal organizations to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward achieving long term goals."

international joint commission logo

International Joint Commission

Canada and the United States created the International Joint Commission because they recognized that each country is affected by the other's actions in lake and river systems along the border. The two countries cooperate to manage these waters and to protect them for the benefit of today's citizens and future generations.

The IJC is guided by the Boundary Waters Treaty, signed by Canada and the United States in 1909. The treaty provides general principles, rather than detailed prescriptions, for preventing and resolving disputes over waters shared between the two countries and for settling other transboundary issues. The specific application of these principles is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Searching for Great Lakes Government Documents

Government information includes publications, videos, data, technical reports, and maps that have been published by a government agency.

Try conducting general searches on "Great Lakes" or using a specific lake (Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario)

Limit by author (including government agencies), year, etc.

Public Databases

Government Document Highlight


Canadian Resources

Canadian Flag