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.
- 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