Watershed planning is a lot more fun than it sounds. Without it, the fate of our local rivers and streams would be left to chance. Considering that the resources they provide are vital to our survival, it’s in our best interest to do some planning!
The Conservation Foundation started working in the watershed planning arena in 1997 with the development of the Upper DuPage River Watershed Implementation Plan, one of the first watershed plans in the state. We have worked with all levels of local government, private landowners and the public sector to develop watershed plans that reflect the needs and interests of the watershed. The planning component is important as it lays out what needs to be done, and once the watershed plan is in place, our focus shifts to working with others to implement plan recommendations.
Watershed planning consists of bringing together people who have an interest or a stake in the watershed to discuss issues, gather data and information and create a list of implementation actions to address identified problems. Having good data is key. Some watershed plans are focused more on preserving or protecting a high quality resource, usually in a more rural setting, and some plans are focused on maintaining and restoring the health of urban streams. The premise that we start with is that everything we do on the land impacts our rivers and stream either positively or negatively, so everyone has a role to play.
Although watershed planning has been done for more than 30 years in some places, it is ever evolving. The most successful programs are those that have good participation from not only decision makers, but decision implementers. They often base their decisions first on good data, monitor their results and make changes or adapt as needed to meet aquatic life goals for the streams.
We have had a great deal of focus and success on the DuPage River Watershed (the West Branch DuPage River is right across the street from our McDonald Farm headquarters), but we have also coordinated the stakeholder groups for Blackberry Creek (Kane & Kendall Counties), Tyler Creek (Kane County) Ferson/Otter Creek (Kane County) and Aux Sable Creek (Grundy & Kendall Counties), and acted in an advisory role for Big Rock Creek (Kendall & Kane Counties).