With help from a team of graduate students from the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council and Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy developed a land conservation plan for the Kalamazoo River watershed. With the Watershed Management Plan as its foundation, our planning team convened over 40 local conservation organizations and state agencies to select water quality-based criteria that the graduate students used to calculate conservation scores for each land parcel in the watershed. The result was a geographic information systems (GIS) analysis that prioritized parcels based on existing high-quality landscapes and water features, as opposed to restoration of degraded landscapes.
With input from local partners, the final criteria used to determine the conservation priority for individual parcels included existing land cover, wetlands, proximity to water bodies and conserved lands, presence of coldwater streams, and threatened or endangered species/habitat.
The analysis revealed eight subwatershed areas with the highest density of priority lands for conservation. The protection of these high-priority lands is the most important for improvement of water quality, the health of the Kalamazoo River, and ultimately Lake Michigan. The landscapes in these areas are extremely diverse, with everything from forested floodplains to prairie fen wetlands to coldwater trout streams.
The plan will be incorporated into the Kalamazoo River Watershed Management Plan and adopted by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. While the plan emphasizes the eight priority land areas, it is important to note that high priority parcels for conservation were identified throughout the watershed. We encourage local planning organization and conservation groups to contact us to discuss the results from your specific area.
The Kalamazoo River Watershed Council always welcomes volunteers. Register your interest today!