Local land conservancies, Watershed Council partner up to safeguard water quality

Local land conservancies and the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) joined forces in 2014 to help private land owners protect natural areas with the potential to impact water quality. Beginning this week, the partnership will hold information sessions throughout the Huron River’s watershed so that land owners can learn about the land protection process and register for free land assessment tools.

The Huron River is considered Michigan’s cleanest urban river. It owes this designation both to historic land conservation efforts and to the watershed’s remaining natural areas.

“Undeveloped lands—woods, wetlands, prairies, and other natural areas—support water quality by helping to store rainwater, absorb spring melts, and filter runoff,” said Kris Olsson, Watershed Ecologist for the Huron River Watershed Council. Olsson explained that even lands that are not directly located along a river or creek bank provide significant benefit to water quality.

“Using scientific best practices, we created a map of priority lands within the watershed to focus on important remaining natural areas,” said Olsson, adding, “The key to protecting the health of our freshwater is this strategic land conservation.”

To help record the most accurate information about these remaining natural areas in the watershed, HRWC is offering free field assessments to private land owners in the watershed with at least 10 acres of natural area.

After land owners contact HRWC to schedule an appointment, a small team of volunteers will spend 2-3 hours gathering information about forest structure, wetland types, plants and animals, invasive species, and other ecological data about the land. This information will help with the ongoing monitoring of the river’s health.

Land owners in the watershed can play another vital role in protecting the future of our land and water by creating a conservation agreement for their land. Local land conservancies can help land owners utilize permanent, private land conservation tools that may offer tax incentives and ease the generational transfer of land ownership to the next generation.

Several land conservancies in Southeast Michigan collectively promote and protect the region’s wild nature through a consortium known as SEMIWILD.  Participating conservancies are Legacy Land Conservancy, Six Rivers Land Conservancy, Livingston Land Conservancy, Michigan Nature Association, North Oakland Headwaters Land Conservancy, and Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy.

“So far, land owners have protected thousands of acres of their own land in the watershed,” said Meghan Prindle, Outreach Coordinator for Legacy and Six Rivers land conservancies. “What an amazing legacy these folks are leaving for future generations who will inhabit our communities.”

“Through SEMIWILD,” Prindle added, “we, the local conservancies, can be more accessible with the nuts and bolts information about natural area preservation.”

Now SEMIWILD and HRWC invite landowners in the watershed to information sessions kicking off later this week, where attendees can learn more about free field assessments and about permanent, private land conservation tools.

Upcoming information sessions are scheduled for:

Thursday, March 10, 7-8:30pm, Springfield County Oaks

Monday, March 21, 12-2pm, Lyon Oaks County Park Golf Center

Thursday, March 31, 7-8:30pm, Dexter District Library.

Attendees can register by emailing semiwild@heartofthelakes.org or calling (248)326-4751.

Sharing is caring!