At HRWC’s annual data collection presentation in January, I shared the results from the 2016 field season of our Bioreserve Project, which assesses and protects the remaining natural areas in the watershed.
We use data from HRWC’s Bioreserve Map and field assessments to help our partners direct limited funds to strategically protect the most ecologically important lands. Our field assessments measure indicators of ecological quality in order to find the sites that are providing the most ecological services to the watershed. In 2016, 24 volunteers helped us do 36 assessments. HRWC has done assessments on 320 properties throughout the watershed.
This year, in Washtenaw County nearly 300 acres (six properties) were permanently protected with conservation easements. This includes an addition to Legacy Land Conservancy‘s Reichert Preserve, on Portage Creek. Nearby conservation easements closed in tandem to help protect nearly a mile of the creek.
In Oakland County, Six Rivers Land Conservancy is currently juggling nearly 200 acres of projects they hope will lead to permanent protection, and they just recently closed on a 34-acre property that straddles the Huron and Rouge river watersheds.
At both Legacy Land Conservancy and Six Rivers Land Conservancy, the hard work that HRWC staff and volunteers spend scoring and ground-truthing Bioreserve sites is invaluable.
HRWC’s 2016 field assessments helped our conservancy friends protect natural areas in three ways. In one case, Legacy did a site visit with an interested landowner. The landowner wanted to know more about her property, so she scheduled a field assessment. From the results, the landowner learned just how ecologically important her land was for the watershed, Legacy was able to present her with the conservation value of the property and she felt compelled to move ahead with arranging protection.
In another case, an HRWC field assessment led to a Legacy site visit. The landowners were excited about the various plants they saw in the field assessment that they hadn’t previously noticed. With the field assessment report in hand, both the landowner and Legacy staff did a joint site visit. Both were informed about what natural features, flora, and fauna to expect. The assessement helped inform the conversation while discussing the terms of a conservation easement.
In a third case, a field assessment helped reignite that landowners’ interest in preserving their land – that land will now become a County preserve!