Thursday, December 18, 2008

Muskegon Watershed Protection

Muskegon River
Muskegon River
photo by Terry Stilson
from the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, Winter Newsletter 2008-2009

Earlier this year, the Land Conservancy of West Michigan was awarded a grant from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality for the purpose of purchasing conservation easements of critical lands within the Lower Muskegon Watershed. These grant funds will allow the Land Conservancy to seek important lands that protect habitat for wildlife and fish, preserve and enhance water quality, and protect scenic views from public roadways and from the river system itself.

The Muskegon River’s headwaters are in Houghton Lake in Roscommon County and it flows into our service area through central Newaygo and Muskegon Counties, emptying into Lake Michigan through Muskegon Lake. The Muskegon River is the second longest river system completely contained within the state of Michigan (the Grand River is the longest), and the system drains approximately 500 mi² of land within our service area.

The Muskegon River has been the source of great interest because of its unmatched natural resources and habitat for fish, such as the lake sturgeon. Also because of its powerful current, it is a source of hydroelectric power with the Croton, Hardy and Rogers Dams being located on the mainstem of the river (Croton and Hardy Dams are located within our service area). Historically, the river was a highway of timber when Michigan was cleared of the virgin white pine forests shortly after European settlement. It supported several lumber mills on Muskegon Lake as well as upstream on the river itself.

By having the grant funds available, the Land Conservancy has the ability to offer money to owners of important lands within the river system. Usually, only income and property tax benefits are available to our landowners who donate conservation easements. Because of a variety of factors, donations of conservation easement rights for many landowners are not feasible, but these grant funds help bridge the gap in many of these cases.

Identification of high quality sites throughout the Lower Muskegon Watershed was a task taken on by the Annis Water Resources Institute (AWRI) at Grand Valley State University. Rod Denning of AWRI, who has experience working with the Conservancy, took on the task of mapping characteristics of the watershed including natural land cover, river frontage, critical habitat, and water quality impact, among numerous other factors. Rod’s final map has been supplied to the Conservancy and shows potential conservation areas throughout the watershed. This map will not only be used to contact landowners for the purposes of this project, but will be used for many years to continue to target private natural lands.

Along with the Michigan DEQ and AWRI, the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly out of Big Rapids and the West Michigan office of The Nature Conservancy are partners in this project. With the wealth of knowledge that these organizations supply, the Conservancy is confident that lands of the highest quality are being targeted for protection.

See Land Conservancy of West Michigan
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

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