The Huron River headwaters begin in this wooded swamp.
The Huron River headwaters begin in this wooded swamp.

The Huron is the cleanest urban river in Michigan. This is mostly due to the substantial natural areas that remain throughout the watershed – about 44% of it is still forest, wetland, and fields.

HRWC’s Natural Area Assessment and Protection Project

The goal of the roject is to protect the Huron’s vital natural areas. Through this project, we:

  • have created a Bioreserve Map of the watershed’s remaining natural areas;
  • are helping local communities, conservancies, and state and county agencies to prioritize limited funding to preserve the best natural areas first;
  • are working with local governments to develop policies to protect natural areas;
  • are providing information to natural area landowners to help them manage and maintain their natural areas; and
  • are organizing volunteer teams to perform field assessments on these natural areas. If you like to get outdoors and learn about ecology, join us!

Free Assessments for Landowners

We would be delighted to help you find out more about the natural areas on your property. Our assessments can help you make decisions about maintaining your land, including developing options that could provide tax incentives for conserving high quality areas. An assessment will give you a base knowledge about what natural features exist and the benefit they may provide.

Here is an example of the report that we create for your property. We send the report to you, your community, and your local conservancy.

Contact Kris Olsson to find out how you can be involved. Phone: 734-769-5123, Email:

Communities and Conservancies: Partner with HRWC

HRWC is seeking partnerships with local governments, conservancies, and parks departments to actively pursue strategies to permanently protect high quality natural areas. HRWC will work with partners in recruiting volunteers to assess sites, holding training sessions, and developing ordinances and policies to protect natural areas.

Contact Kris Olsson to find out more about how you can be involved. Phone: 734-769-5123, Email:

A volunteer team assesses a bioreserve site.
A volunteer team assesses a natural area (bioreserve) site.

Rapid Ecological Assessment of Natural Areas

To allow us to obtain more information about these sites and to further identify those of the highest quality, we created the rapid ecological field assessment method. HRWC adapted the method from assessments performed by professional ecologists at the Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI), making it general enough that volunteers with a half-day of training will be able to complete it, but detailed enough to glean meaningful information about the ecological quality of the site. Volunteer teams walk the site and fill out separate forms for wetlands, forests, grasslands, and creeks. The forms include questions about the kinds of plants growing on the site as well as vegetation structure (e.g. tree size distribution, percent cover of native vs. invasive plants), soils, and signs of human disturbance.The information from the forms is then inputted into a database, which computes scores for ecological integrity and levels of human disturbance for each site.

Results from the field assessments are shared with property owners, land conservancies, and local communities to aid in planning and preservation efforts.

Here is an example of the report that we create for each assessment. We send the report to the property owner, the community, and the local conservancy.

Go here to sign up to be a Natural Area Assessment volunteer.

All plants identified at our assessment sites so far

  • Wetland Plants-– Species are organized in this set by those most frequently found to least frequently found.
  • Local Grassland Plants-– Each species is organized in this set by those found most frequently to least frequently.
  • Forest Plants-– Plants are organized in this set by most frequent to least frequent.