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Stories of Impact

Natural Environment

Protecting the Natural Resources of the Great Lakes Region

“Michigan has spectacular forests, beautiful coastlines, and freshwater that is abundant. Maintaining and taking care of those natural resources is one of the most important things we can do, because we all rely on them for pretty much everything we have: from our food to our energy, everything.”

Janet Matson Lee, Director of Philanthropy, The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect the lands and waters in Michigan and the Great Lakes region for more than 60 years. From preserving waterways, coasts and forests to championing the policy and science that make those initiatives more impactful, the organization’s work is critical to the ecological and economic health of the region.

The Walters family has been personally supporting the work of The Nature Conservancy for more than 15 years ­– from serving on the Board of Directors to providing conservation leadership to funding a variety of regional projects that match the family’s giving priorities. One such project is the Western Lake Erie Basin wetland restoration, an initiative that is critically important to preserving the habitat of migratory birds.

“Eighty percent of the wetlands in the Western Lake Erie Basin are gone, which has created a drastic decline in populations of some migratory birds,” says Lee. “The improvements we’re making through this massive ongoing project will protect what remains of this important shoreline, enabling more effective fish passage and a healthier habitat for birds and plants.”

In addition to funding specific conservation projects, the Walters Family Foundation provides undesignated giving funds to The Nature Conservancy. This funding allows The Nature Conservancy to flex and adapt to meet new pressing priorities and embrace exciting opportunities as they arise.

“It provides fuel for growth by allowing us to plan ahead, and attract and retain talent,” says Lee. “It also covers fundamentally important operating costs as we work to protect natural resources in the largest freshwater system on earth — a system that is of incredible ecological value, as well as an economic driver for the people who live here.”