Watershed Forestry

Protecting our freshwater community’s trees and forests will preserve our Up North water quality~and quality of life.

Trees need water~and water needs trees, too!

Our EPA-approved Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan finds that nutrients and sediments are the top pollutants threatening Grand Traverse Bay and its 1,000-square-mile watershed.

Trees soak up excess nutrients and sediments like a sponge, helping improve water quality. Trees protect water quality, even if they are not located right next to a lake, river or stream.  Their roots prevent erosion.  Their canopies divert runoff.

May the Forest Be With You

We all love trees. They’re so beautiful. Tree-lined streets embrace our communities, trees beckon children to play and trees make our property aesthetically pleasing. But that’s just on the surface!

Trees filter runoff, provide oxygen and offer shade~all for free! Just one 15-inch maple tree provides $35 worth of stormwater management annually.

Multiply that by several trees, and you’ve got thousands of dollars of runoff management for very little investment! Trees are much more cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing than continually installing municipal runoff managment systems, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Check out this super cool Tree Benefit Calculator to see how hard the trees on your property are working.

You can also download our Plant a Tree for Water Quality brochure and a Watershed Forestry 2010 Short Report by Ellen Kohler.  You can also view this Power Point presentation.

Plant a Tree for Water Quality

The first step of the Watershed Forestry Initiative involved using aerial imagery to measure changes in tree cover from 2001 to 2009. The Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, a project partner, fed that data into specialized CITYgreen software, which shows how changes in tree cover affect the Grand Traverse Bay watershed’s ability to manage runoff. This software reports the runoff volume and dollar value associated with treating excess runoff.

CITYgreen found that between 2001 and 2009, the Grand Traverse Bay watershed lost:

  • 4,126 acres of tree cover
  • 30,103,675 cubic feet of runoff storage
  • $60,207,351 of runoff storage value
  • $795,085 of air pollutant removal value

The primary phase of the Watershed Forestry Initiative also included developing a tree canopy goal that prioritizes areas throughout the watershed for public and private tree planting projects.

Later phases of the initiative develop alternative future development scenarios in CITYgreen to illustrate how each one affects water quality. This will be a critical tool as our freshwater community implements the Grand Vision. The 50-year plan identifies the primary importance of natural resources, especially waterquality, to our local economy and quality of life.

Later phases of the project also include performing close-up analyses of buffers along the Boardman River, Grand Traverse Bay and inland lakes. This will fine tune target areas where tree planting would benefit water quality.

Not Just Another Pretty Tree

The Watershed Center is:

  • Conducting analyses of ecological services trees provide in sensitive watershed areas
  • Identifying priority areas for tree planting
  • Working with local governments to protect tree cover, including tree cover goals and ordinances to protect trees
  • Analyzing alternative future scenarios and impacts resulting from them
  • Educating local governments, developers and homeowners about benefits of managing runoff with trees and other types of native vegetation through Low Impact Development
  • Supporting tree planting efforts throughout the watershed

Our Watershed Forestry Initiative will increase resiliency of the Grand Traverse Bay watershed as we face predicted impacts of climate change. Planting trees sequesters carbon, mitigating the impacts if increased carbon dioxide from human activity. It also mitigates runoff impacts from predicted stronger storm events that would otherwise increase erosion, sedimentation and nutrient flow to our critical water resources.

Project Partners

What Can I Do?

  • Plant trees on your property
  • Help plant trees at local parks and natural areas, and help water young trees to ensure that they become well-established
  • Ask your local government to develop tree cover goals and to adopt and enforce ordinances that protect trees and forests
  • Find other tips for your backyard here 
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