In order to accomplish the Washtenaw County Conservation District’s mission of educating and assisting the people of the County with the conservation and management of their natural resources, the issues and concerns related to those natural resources need to be identified. Every five years, the District conducts an assessment for this purpose. The most recent Resource Assessment was completed in 2016.
The procedure used includes:
Develop a list of stakeholders.
Contact stakeholders to gather input on resource issues and concerns.
Summarize the information obtained and identify the District’s priority issues for the next five year period.
Up date the District’s long-range strategic plan, and prepare annual implementation plans which identify actions the District will take to address the priority issues outlined in the resource assessment
Results of Resource Assessment Using an on-line and paper survey, residents, local conservation organizations, township, municipalities, County & State agencies were asked to rank their top three natural resource/environmental issues.
The prioritized major resource issues were: Surface and Ground Water Quality, Land Use, Wildlife and Habitat, Forests and Trees, Energy Use, Solid Waste/Recycling, Wetlands, and Air Quality. Each issue is briefly described below.
Surface and Ground Water Quality The quality of our surface and ground water is affected by many factors, including point and non-point sources of contamination. Soil erosion and sedimentation, fertilizer and pesticide use, road runoff, septic systems and other sources all impact water quality. Surface and groundwater in Washtenaw County is used for drinking, recreational and aesthetic purposes. Maintaining good water quality is vital to the health and quality of life in the County.
Land Use Land is a basic resource. Wise land use planning, whether for agriculture, urban/residential, commercial/industrial, recreation or other uses, is critical. Unplanned development creates urban sprawl and fragmentation that is not conducive to the best use of the land resource. The loss of agricultural land to urban use is a concern, as is the need for wiser planning of development for the optimum use of the land resource.
Wildlife and Habitat The presence of wildlife in Washtenaw County is an asset that is enjoyed by many residents, but also poses negative impacts when that wildlife damages agricultural crops and livestock, causes traffic accidents, or is displaced from natural habitat by man’s activities and developments. Destruction of habitat for wildlife by land fragmentation and development increases the conflicts between man and wildlife that are becoming more commonplace. There are limited wildlife management efforts on private lands and public properties in the County making only minimal impact in these conflicts.
Forests and Trees The rural forests and woodlands of Washtenaw County contain a range of high to low quality hardwood species, with many woodlands having had limited forest management. Also, because of a high percentage of urbanized land, the County has a large urban forest resource that also has not had consistent management. Both of these forest resources have been severely impacted by a number of invasive insect and plant species, and diseases that kill or stress trees severely.
Energy Use Energy is various forms is used to heat, cool and light our homes and businesses, and fuel our vehicles. The impacts on the environment from the exploration, processing and distribution of current energy sources such as coal and oil, as well as alternative sources such as wind or solar, must be balanced with the costs of those sources, and the cost to the consumer.
Solid Waste/Recycling Waste created by human activity in large part ends up in landfills. That solid waste and how it is managed can have serious impacts on ground and surface waters in addition to finding the space to store this waste. Recycling is a primary method to reduce the waste stream and has been embraced by Washtenaw County and its residents for many years. However, concerns about recycling services and opportunities has increased in recent years.
Wetlands Wetlands are important for wildlife habitat, storage of storm water, cleansing of water, and groundwater recharge. The destruction and filling of wetlands for development, sedimentation of wetlands from agricultural and urban land uses, and invasion of invasive plant species seriously impact the ability of wetlands to provide these benefits.
Air Quality The quality of our air can impact our health, participation in outdoor activities, and the growth and development of trees, plants, and crops. Factors such as emissions from vehicles and industry, smoke and particulate matter from fires, weather conditions, and others can affect air quality.
While each of these resource concerns can be viewed independent of the others, they are all interconnected when looking at natural systems. So in many cases, concerns related to one issue will also impact others.
Priority Concerns The priority concerns identified for each major natural resource/environmental issue include:
Major Resource Issue #1: Surface and Ground Water Quality
Groundwater supply protection and management.
Surface water supply protection and management.
Storm water management.
Major Resource Issue #2: Land Use
Natural areas and open space preservation. (tie)
Better development growth management and zoning. (tie)
Loss of farmland from urban sprawl.
Major Resource Issue #3: Wildlife and Habitat
Restoration and improvement of habitats.
Invasive plant species control.
Destruction of wildlife habitat by construction.
Major Resource Issue #4: Forests and Trees
Tree diseases, insects, species decline.
Invasive plant species control.
Woodlots needing management.
Major Resource Issue #5: Energy Use
More economically viable alternative energy sources.
More exploration and production of current energy sources.
Major Resource Issue #6: Solid Waste/Recycling
Expand recycling options and locations.
Landfill space and management.
Encourage/educate public on product reuse.
Major Resource Issue #7: Wetlands
Preservation of connected natural systems.
Invasive plant species control.
Loss of wetlands by construction or filling.
Major Resource Issue #8: Air Quality
Health related concerns.
Other Survey Responses Survey respondents also were asked to rate:
How familiar they were with the Conservation District and its programs and services.
How their natural resource/environmental issues were being addressed by local, County and State conservation/environmental groups, organizations and/or agencies.
How would they describe the setting in which they live?
What the Conservation District could do to address their priority resource issues in Washtenaw County?
Summary The complete 2016 Resource Assessment is available in PDF format. Copies of the assessment can also be obtained at the District office, 7203 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor. Or by calling the District office at: 734-761-6721 extension 5, and requesting a copy of the 2016 Resource Assessment.
Washtenaw County Conservation District Copyright 2016