Kalamazoo River Watershed Land Conservation Plan (2014)

Client Organization: 
Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
Client is confirmed: 
Project Location : 
Kalamazoo, MI
Secondary Client Organization: 
Kalamazoo River Watershed Council
Summary of Project Idea: 

The Kalamazoo River watershed is located in the southwest portion of Michigan's Lower Peninsula and drains about 2,020 square miles from 10 counties including Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Eaton, Hillsdale, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Ottawa, and Van Buren.  The watershed is about 162 miles long and varies in width from 11 to 29 miles. Despite the historical pollution problems along the mainstem, the watershed has relatively natural forest, wetlands, and grasslands. This is due to its overall rural nature, the abundance of isolated wetlands that could not be drained for agriculture, and the widespread abandonment of agricultural activity on more marginal lands that were too sloped, erosion prone, or sandy. In addition, the broad floodplains of the Kalamazoo River valley have returned to a more natural state in many reaches. These natural features, together with land that is still in agriculture, provide important ecosystem services that are often underappreciated, including recreational opportunities, maintenance of groundwater recharge, clean water, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) and Kalamazoo River Watershed Council (KRWC) believe that there is a need and opportunity to develop a watershed wide Land Conservation Plan for the entire Kalamazoo River basin to identify natural areas and open space  that protect critical water resources and enhance ecosystem functions.

To identify these high priority areas for conservation, the conservation plan utilized ArcGIS software to perform an overlay analysis of the watershed. In the Kalamazoo River Watershed Land Conservation Plan, GIS was used to a set of conservation criteria on top of each other to reveal areas in the watershed that, if conserved, stand to contribute positively to overall water quality. Additionally, outreach materials were developed that will be used as mailings to selected landowners identified through the GIS model. An executive summary was also created that will be utilized for partner websites and newsletters. 

Skills/Expertise Needed: 

GIS analysis and modeling skills, knowledge of stream systems and how human activities influence rivers and watersheds, excellent communication to coordinate with multiple partners, and familiarity with Michigan flora, fauna, and natural communities.

Secondary Client Confirmed: 
SEAS Program Areas: 
Conservation Ecology (Aquatic Sciences, Terrestrial Ecosystems, and Conservation Biology)
Environmental Policy and Planning
Behavior, Education, and Communication
Environmental Informatics
Professional Career Development Benefits: 

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is the 3rd largest regional land trust in the State of Michigan. Students will have the opportunity to learn about land conservation and gain experience with a land trust. They will also have the opportunity to work with the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council. There will be many opportunities to make professional connections through both of these organizations. The students will be expected to present to the Board of Directors of both organizations.  The products that the students produce will be useful in providing to potential employers as examples of professional work.  This project will also give you the opportunity to refine and enhance technical skills, especially with GIS software and data.

Funding Sources: 

We will apply for a small grant from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and look for other funding sources to help cover associated costs.

Identify expected products/deliverables: 

A final Land Conservation Plan for the Kalamazoo River Watershed, and executive summary of the plan. Written press releases and written information for both SWMLC and KRWC websites. A list of landowners with contact information in high priority areas. Outreach materials for those landowners, project partners, and other stakeholders. Presentation to the SWMLC and KRWC Board of Directors on the process, findings, and next steps.  Possible coordination of landowner outreach meetings and presentations.

Contact full name: 
Emily Wilke
Job title: 
Director of Land Protection
State or Country: 
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
David Allan
Contact Phone: 
Advisor Confirmed: 
Contact e-mail: 
Contact information: 
SNRE alum
U-M faculty member
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Kyle Alexander, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Jamie Jackson, MS Behavior, Education and Communication
  • Fumi Kikuyama, MS Environmental Informatics
  • Ben Sasamoto, MS Environmental Policy and Planning
  • Alison Stevens, MS Environmental Informatics/Conservation Ecology
Project Status: 
Past Project