Great Lakes Revolving Fund

The establishment of the Great Lakes Revolving Loan Fund addresses the critical need of land trusts and public agencies to respond quickly to land or conservation easement purchase opportunities with ready funding.

In 2002 The Conservation Fund launched its Great Lakes Revolving Loan Fund with a generous grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Using capital from this source, the Fund provides technical assistance and bridge financing to nonprofit land trusts working to preserve resources within the Great Lakes Basin—the nation’s most significant freshwater ecosystem. The Mott Foundation’s $7.3 million gift has allowed the Fund and its partners to protect more than 90,000 acres, valued at more than $150 million, across the region.

The Great Lakes Basin

The Great Lakes Basin includes all of Michigan and portions of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. This is the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, and contains 20 percent of Earth’s fresh surface water. The basin’s sand dunes, coastal marshes, rocky shorelines, rivers, streams and wetlands support a rich diversity of wildlife.

But often the areas with the highest ecological value are also the most sought after for development. And the need to respond quickly to land purchase opportunities is growing. Parcels held by families for years are coming up for sale. Rising property taxes are making it impossible for some landowners to keep their property, and mergers and acquisitions lead commercial owners to sell land for cash.

The Need for Capital

Because the average wait for public funds or private fundraising campaigns is 18 to 24 months, the bridge funding provided by the loan fund can make a tremendous difference. In the case of many of the GLRLF projects, homes most likely would have been build on the property and the biological, scenic and public access resources would have been lost forever.

Working in Partnership With Land Trusts And Public Agencies

Under the provisions of the GLRLF, short-term loans are made to public agencies and nonprofit land trusts for the conservation of coastal and freshwater sites of high ecological significance. Fund are available for two primary types of transactions: direct loans to land trusts and advance purchase of land on behalf of public agencies and/or nonprofits.

Loans from the GLRLF have helped to protect places including:

  • Seven Mile Point, Michigan. Partner: North Woods Conservancy
  • Tip of the Keweenaw, Michigan. Partner: The Nature Conservancy
  • Crystal River, Michigan. Partner: The Leelanau Conservancy
  • Maple Bay Farm, Michigan. Partner: Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy
  • Lake Erie Bluffs State Park, Pennsylvania. Partner: Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
  • North Bass Island, Ohio. Partner: Ohio Department of Natural Resources
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan. Partner: Leelanau Conservancy, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Oak Savannah Trail Greenway, Indiana. Partner: Lake Heritage Parks Foundation
  • Mystery Valley, Michigan. Partner: Michigan Karst Conservancy
  • Upper Manitou Forest, Minnesota. Partner: The Nature Conservancy
  • Brule River State Forest, Wisconsin. Partner: Brule River State Forest
Leveraging The Investment In The Great Lakes

With the repayment of loans, the GLRLF will be used again for conservation throughout the Great Lakes region. On average, the Fund uses revolving funds three times every five years.


Brule River State Forest Aerial of Brule River

Anyone seeking to escape into the great outdoors can do so in Wisconsin’s Brule River State Forest. This forest contains perhaps the finest trout stream in the state and is a favorite place for fishing, canoeing, kayaking and other outdoor… Read More


Mike Kelly
Mike Kelly Bay City, MI
(989) 892-9171

Great Lakes Office Director Mike Kelly advances conservation across Michigan, through real estate projects and the administration of the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network. In his spare time, he can be found outdoors with his kids—and often a fishing pole.