Private foundation supports reintroduction of Arctic grayling in Michigan

Philanthropy continues to have a prominent role in the historic reintroduction of the Arctic grayling to Michigan, with the award of a $180,000 gift from the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The funds will support a research project as part of Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative. DNR Fisheries Chief Jim Dexter shared news of the gift at today’s Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting in Lansing.

This initiative is a statewide partnership effort focused on restoring self-sustaining populations of this native fish and was founded by the DNR and the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians in June 2016. The partnership includes more than 40 organizations.

The gift will support critical research that will determine how co-existing populations of brown trout and brook trout may affect reintroduction efforts. This work also will provide insight into potential impediments to the Arctic grayling’s successful reintroduction. The funds and the research will be spread over three years.

“It’s very exciting to be able to support research that we hope will directly impact Michigan’s ability to reintroduce Arctic grayling,” said Charles Wilson, a member of the Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation’s board. “We can’t wait to see what the next three years bring and the valuable knowledge that will be gained through this project.”

There will be three studies within this project supported by the foundation’s gift:

A predation study that will look at the effects of smaller size classes of resident trout (brook and brown trout) on survival of Arctic grayling fry as they enter the stream environment.

A competition study that will assess behavioral interactions between young resident trout (brook and brown trout) and Arctic grayling in an artificial stream environment and habitat use by Arctic grayling in the absence and presence of these potential predators.

An imprinting study that will determine if Arctic grayling develop a preference for their “home water” during the period when fish are reared in a remote stream incubator.
Some of the funds will support researchers traveling to Alaska to pick up Arctic grayling eggs, which will be used for the studies and to help establish Michigan’s future broodstock program.

“We are so honored to have the philanthropic support of several organizations who believe in the mission of Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative,” Dexter said. “We cannot complete this project without the financial and technical support of partners. This unique public-private partnership is a hallmark of the Arctic grayling reintroduction that we hope will be considered in future programs involving Michigan’s invaluable fishery resources.”

This is the third grant awarded to support the initiative. The first came from the Consumers Energy Foundation, which provided $117,000 to support identifying prime northern Michigan streams for this work. The second was a $10,000 grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City to facilitate a fund development strategy.

For more information or to contribute to the reintroduction of Michigan’s Arctic Grayling Initiative, visit or call Todd Grischke, assistant chief of the DNR Fisheries Division, at 517-284-5830.