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Dennis Haskins, Resource Conservationist, Hillsdale County Conservation
District, Jonesville, Michigan.
Date January 5, 2004
The geographic scope of the interview was Hillsdale County, Michigan. Hillsdale County is in south central Michigan on the Indiana border and adjoins the following St. Joseph River Watershed counties: Branch, MI; Calhoun, MI; and Steuben, IN. The easternmost portion of the watershed (the Headwaters River Valley Segment) covers about half of Hillsdale County and includes the Cities of Hillsdale and Jonesville and the Villages of North Adams and Allen. Major tributaries in the county include the headwaters of the St. Joseph River, Hog Creek, Sand Creek, and Beebe Creek. Most farms use minimum or no till practices and are dominated (about 90%) by corn and soybean production. Wheat and hay are also produced.
Projects/beneficial watershed features
Soils in the St. Joseph River watershed are generally well-drained and of little relative concern for runoff issues. However, well-drained, sandy soils are more likely to allow nutrients or pollutants to infiltrate to the groundwater. Most Conservation District activity occurs in the southernmost portion of the county, outside of the watershed due to the occurrence of soils that are more prone to generate runoff in the Lake Erie Basin.
Hillsdale County established a land planning commission to create land-use planning guidelines based the findings of a 1998 stakeholder survey. Stakeholders identified rural character, clean air, clean water, and clean lakes and streams as very important management goals. Suggested practices to reach these goals are to protect prime farmland, educate landowners on soil loss, protect wetlands, develop a surface water quality monitoring program, balance nutrient application with crop nutrient requirements, identify and protect environmentally sensitive areas, require new development to handle stormwater, recommend low impact development, and numerous other quality of life recommendations.
www.hillsdalecounty.info contains a wealth of county information including suggested land management goals and is available through the Land Information Access Association and made possible with funding provided by C. S. Mott and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Michigan Council of Local Governments, and participating Units of Governments & Organizations in Hillsdale County.
Other features include:
A watershed management plan is nearly complete for Hog Creek and the coordinators have applied for implementation funding this year.
Challenges in the watershed
Though the county is creating an ambitious land use plan, its outcomes will only be recommendations and therefore voluntary. Problems exist in this headwater portion of the watershed, but it should be recognized that most items in the following list represent isolated cases that local managers are aware of, and in many cases, working to address, particularly associated with the Hog Creek Watershed planning effort.
Additional needs for the jurisdiction
Riparian corridors are relatively intact in the area, and protecting and enhancing connections between these naturalized areas could improve biotic diversity. Top concerns identified during the interview included the need to:
Hillsdale is unique in that six major Great Lakes Basin watersheds flow out of the county, making the whole county a headwater area on that geographic scale.