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Sustainable Futures for the Muskegon River Watershed

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Developing Sustainable Futures for the
Muskegon River Watershed: A Decentralized Approach

Project Manager: John Koches

  • Michigan State University Center for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Science
  • Land Conservancy of West Michigan
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Langworthy, Strader, and Le Blanc Inc.

Funded By: Wege Foundation and Fremont Area Foundation


The project seeks to support local decision-making in a manner that protects and enhances the Muskegon River Watershed. We will accomplish this through the development of a geographical information system (GIS) outreach tool, which we will present through an integrated information and education program. Thus, the project involves two primary activities: (1) database construction and (2) public information dissemination, both of which borrow conceptually and intrinsically from an existing 319 watershed management program.

  • Data Base Construction
    Our goal in this phase of the project is to implement a concept of development risk that we will cartographically represent in a series of both digital and hardcopy maps. First, we will update the 1978 statewide land cover data for counties in the watershed and place them in a GIS layer along with available cadastral information and land use zoning maps from individual townships. We will include information on areas of prime importance for ecological endpoints such as biodiversity maintenance, unique natural features, and water quality. Using GIS, we will generate maps showing areas of key importance to the ecological integrity of the region. We will use these together with the developmental projections to show zones important ecologically and vulnerable to development in the near future. Given the spatial nature of the data, we will then be able to target townships and other local decision-makers for informational and educational outreach, bringing to the table detailed information about their local resources and a toolkit of possible strategies for response.
  • Public Information Dissemination
    Through an advisory team of potential database users, we will develop an approach for dissemination of (1) the information produced by the GIS and (2) the potential strategies for minimizing development risks (e.g. land acquisition and management, planning and zoning, and sustainable economic development). We will test this approach in a few selected communities, where we will share with stakeholders information on local areas of critical importance to the watershed and those that may be threatened by degradation or incompatible development. Pilot communities will also undergo a more detailed natural features inventory to further refine the GIS representation of critical areas. Following the pilot studies, we will develop a protocol for disseminating risk maps and potential strategies to communities and other stakeholders throughout the watershed.