Trees: Silent Heroes Safeguarding Our Waterways

Protecting natural areas, such as forested land, is one of the best ways to protect the Huron River and its creeks. Most residents in the Huron River watershed get their drinking water from the Huron River and groundwater from within its boundaries.
Because of this, forests are much more than great places for mindful breaks from a busy day. They are fundamentally connected to the river’s health:

Tree Planting Ypsilanti Township April 2022
Volunteers and community partners plant 25 fruit and nut trees in Ypsilanti Township, April 2022.
  • Trees soak up polluted stormwater with their roots and catch rainwater in their canopies and bark. This slows down the amount of water rushing into creeks, which prevents erosion and sedimentation issues. Depending on the size and species, a single tree can store 100 gallons or more of rainwater!
  • Trees filter pollution such as pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste from runoff.
  • When planted near water, trees shade the river and its streams, keeping them cool. Many fish and other aquatic wildlife need cooler water to survive.
  • Trees provide habitat for wildlife. This supports a balanced ecosystem.

About this Project

The Forest Stewardship Program at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is leading a team of a dozen conservation partners on a new project called “Forest to Mi Faucet” to educate woodland owners and the public about the connections between forests and drinking water. The project is funded by the USDA Forest Service and builds on its national Forests to Faucets 2.0 spatial analysis of priority watersheds for protecting surface drinking water in the United States. HRWC is one of the conservation partners.

Through this project, HRWC will:

  • Create a spatial data set of natural lands and urban tree canopy cover that provides ecosystem services values for water quality and climate resilience for the Huron River watershed area
  • Identify high priority properties for protection and/or improved forest management
  • Maintenance and planting workshops for forested property owners
  • Field assessments for landowners (10+ acre minimum lots)
  • Toolkit of land protection options
  • Framework for payment for drinking water ecosystem services by municipal water utilities and other entities to forested property owners identified through our Natural Areas Assessment and Protection Program
  • Three tree planting or tree distribution events.

In 1997, New York City spent $1.5 billion to preserve the forested watershed that supplies New York City’s drinking water by purchasing thousands of upstate acres of forested watershed. A filtration plant large enough to clean New York City’s water supply would have cost more than $6 billion dollars.” -Arbor Day Foundation/Ecosystem Marketplace

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Past Events

Lodi Township landowners workshop, “How to Assess, Manage, and Preserve Your Land” (December 11, 2023)

Tree Planting, Gunnar Mettala Park, Wixom (October 28, 2023)

HRWC staff and volunteers planted trees in a park near one of HRWC’s bioswale sites that was installed this year.

Tree Planting, Dexter (October 14)

In partnership with ReLeaf Michigan and the City of Dexter

Sharon Township Landowner Community Meeting (January 18, 2023)

Northfield Township Landowners Workshop (October 3, 2022)

Tree Planting in Ypsilanti Township’s Appleridge Park (April 30, 2022)

April 2022, community groups and volunteers planted 25 fruit and nut trees. The Washtenaw County Conservation District partnered with ReLeaf Michigan, Willow Run Acres, and HRWC on this project.

Non-industrial private forestland encompasses 11 million acres of Michigan – 57% of Michigan’s forested land base – owned by over 420,000 family forest landowners.” -Michigan Association of Conservation Districts

Resources and Links

It’s very easy to participate! All you need to do is give us permission to visit your land for 2-3 hours. We will schedule a team of 2-4 highly-trained HRWC volunteers to walk through the woods and wetlands on your property. The team will gather information about forest structure, wetland types, invasive species cover, signs of disturbance, plant and animal species on the site, and other ecological data that can help determine the ecological quality of your property. You are welcome to join the assessment if you’d like, but it is not necessary.

HRWC will provide you with a detailed report of our field assessment.

  • An assessment will give you a base knowledge about what natural features exist on your land and the water quality benefits they provide.
  • You will get valuable information for making decisions about maintaining your land, such as how to manage invasive species
  • You can learn about options that could provide tax incentives for conserving ecologically valuable areas.
  • The report may provide data that can help you obtain funding for preservation.

Interested? Great! Email Kris Olsson here to get started.

Tree Resilience Toolkit
Learn about the effects of climate change on trees and best practices for maintaining and planting trees in a changing climate. View the tree toolkit here.

Impacts of Climate Change on Tree Species
Get an at-a-glance measurement for climate change impacts for 30 SE Michigan tree species. The predictions for these species can give urban foresters insights as to how species and communities are likely to respond to changes in climate and make informed decisions about management and restoration of these natural resources.

A Review of Management Options for Improving Climate Resiliency in the Huron River Watershed’s Forest and Tree Resources
This report presents a summary of climate adaptation strategies emerging for forest and tree management. Summaries are intended to introduce the array of possible approaches being discussed in the literature to improve the resilience of forests impacted by climate change.

Climate Impacts to Tree Species is summarized in this table and detailed information on each species is available in individual fact sheets:

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i‐Tree Design is a free tool for creating a simple estimation of an individual tree’s benefits. Just enter your location, species, tree size and condition to find out how much your tree offsets greenhouse gas, improves air quality and captures stormwater.