New Conservation Initiative Aims to Revitalize the Saline River Watershed


The Saline River is about to undergo a transformative conservation project aimed at enhancing its ecological resilience and water quality for future generations.

The Washtenaw County Conservation District (WCCD) has announced a new and exciting easement pilot project that focuses on the Saline River Headwaters watershed - the Saline River Watershed Buffer Easement Pilot Project, aiming to fortify the region against the detrimental effects of erosion.

The Saline River Watershed is an ecological gem spanning 188 square miles in southeastern Michigan, and at the heart of this innovative pilot project is the introduction of "filter strips." These are narrow swathes of unfarmed land near waterways planted with native grasses and/or forbs. Acting as environmental safeguards, these strips capture excess nutrients, preventing them from seeping into the water. They also serve as barriers against surface erosion.

As part of the project's long-term vision, easements will be purchased to ensure these filter strips remain untouched, preserving the waterway's purity for generations.

Saline River from bridge on Petersburg Rd, facing west, York Twp. Photo by Dwight Burdette.

For those unfamiliar, the Saline River Watershed is a diverse ecological zone in Washtenaw County, draining into the Huron River and eventually reaching Lake Erie. It features a variety of water bodies, including the Saline River, Mill Creek, Macon Creek, and Evans Creek. Its landscape is a rich tapestry of agriculture, urban areas, forests, and wetlands, with the city of Saline, for which the river is named, being a notable urbanized region.

However, this biodiversity hotspot has had its fair share of environmental challenges. Issues ranging from agricultural runoff and sedimentation to urban stormwater runoff have threatened its water quality and the health of its aquatic habitats.

In response, various local entities like the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner's Office, alongside conservation groups such as WCCD, have been proactive in their endeavors to rejuvenate and protect the watershed. Their efforts span a range of activities, including stream bank stabilization, reforestation, and promoting best management practices in agriculture and urban development.

For the current pilot project, various land types are eligible, whether currently farmed, lying fallow, or existing as a buffer strip. In cases where a filter strip doesn't exist, the project will bear the costs for its installation, ensuring it's at least twenty feet wide. Participating landowners stand to gain financially from the easement's purchase, enjoy tax benefits, and even have the option to harvest the filter strip.

Landowners interested in learning more about the program can contact Nick Machinski at 734-302-8711 or

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