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Over $1.5 million in grant funding available for fisheries habitat conservation, dam removal and more

Project preproposals are due Oct. 20

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering more than $1.5 million in funding for a variety of activities tied to improving state fisheries and aquatic resources, including fish habitat conservation, dam removal and repair, resource assessment studies and public access to recreation opportunities.

Distributed through three themes – aquatic habitat conservation, dam management, and aquatic habitat and recreation in the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon river watersheds – Fisheries Habitat Grant funding is available through an open, competitive process to local, state, federal and tribal governments and nonprofit groups.

“Recreation and local economies throughout Michigan rely on healthy rivers, lakes, and wetlands to support fishing, boating and other enjoyment of our natural resources,” said Joe Nohner, a resource analyst with the DNR Fisheries Division. “These grants help our partners protect and rehabilitate fisheries and aquatic ecosystems in a state that relies heavily on those resources. In cases where we remove, repair or renovate dams, we also can improve public safety for residents and visitors.”

Examples of proposed projects addressing the causes of habitat decline include efforts to:

  • Improve the management of riparian land (land situated near or on the water).
  • Restore natural lake levels.
  • Improve or create passage for aquatic organisms by removing culverts, dams and other barriers.
  • Improve water quality.
  • Implement watershed-based approaches to improving both the quality and quantity of water.
  • Develop projects that demonstrate habitat conservation.
  • Restore stream function.
  • Add structural habitats, like woody habitat or aquatic vegetation.
  • Conduct assessments that will guide conservation projects.
  • Complete other projects that meet program goals.

Grant and application guidelines

Grant applicants may apply for and receive funding from all three themes with one application, if eligible for each. Expected funding is derived from three sources:

  • $989,000 from the state’s Game and Fish Protection Fund, supporting the aquatic habitat conservation theme.
  • $350,000 from the state’s General Fund, supporting the dam management theme.
  • At least $225,000 from a hydropower license and settlement agreement between Consumers Energy and several entities including the DNR, supporting aquatic habitat and recreation in the Au Sable, Manistee and Muskegon river watersheds.

Applicants have the option of requesting funding from the current funding cycle or a conditional commitment from a future year’s funding. Conditional commitments to very competitive projects allow recipients to leverage DNR contributions toward partner applications for additional funding sources on larger projects or secure a Fisheries Habitat Grant funding commitment based on other conditions. The available funding in this announcement does not include $150,000 in existing conditional commitments the DNR has made to partners from this year’s grant funding.

Grant amounts start at a minimum of $25,000 and have the potential to be as large as the total amount of funding available in all theme areas for which a project is eligible. If necessary, smaller projects within the same region addressing similar issues can be bundled into a single grant proposal package to reach the minimum grant amount.

Priority projects

The DNR identifies specific priority projects through its Fisheries Priority Habitat Conservation Projects list that may receive preference during proposal review. Applications for projects on this list will still need to be competitive in other aspects, such as cost, appropriate methods and design, and applicant expertise, so grant awards are not expected to exclusively fund projects on this list.

In previous grant cycles, about 40% of all funded projects were Fisheries Priority Habitat Conservation Projects. All applicants must first discuss their projects with their local DNR fisheries biologist, then complete and submit a short preproposal for DNR review. Preproposals must be:

Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their preproposal by Nov. 29 and, if selected, will be invited to submit a full application. An invitation to submit a full application does not guarantee project funding.

Final funding announcements are expected to be made by May 2024. The detailed program handbook, including timeline, preproposal guidelines and forms, is available at

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. Caption information follows.

  • Au Train Lake: Over 90 woody habitat structures will be installed in Au Train Lake (Alger County, Michigan) to benefit fish, waterfowl, amphibians and other aquatic life. (Photo courtesy Matt Watkeys/Alger Conservation District)
  • Bald Mountain Dam: A Fisheries Habitat Grant funded the removal of Bald Mountain Dam to enable fish passage to a tributary of Paint Creek, a popular trout stream in Oakland County, Michigan. (Photo courtesy Michigan DNR)