Photo by John C. Lorson

Muskingum Watershed Strategic Planning for Nature and People

The Muskingum Watershed is the largest watershed fully contained in Ohio. Covering 8,000 square miles and more than 18 counties, the watershed is approximately 20% of the state. The watershed is defined by a diverse landscape, spanning an area from the more urbanized Medina and Portage Counties in the northern portion to the more rural foothills of Appalachia in the south.

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District was founded in 1933 to operate a series of US Army Corps dams across the Muskingum Watershed. MWCD is the largest conservancy district in the state, currently managing 14 dams. The organization’s mission is as follows: Responsible stewards dedicated to providing the benefits of flood reduction, conservation, and recreation in the Muskingum River Watershed.

The Problem

The lands and waters of the Muskingum are being threatened by a range of challenges such as development and urbanization, fragmentation of habitat, nonpoint source pollution, and contamination from historic mines. If action is not taken, then the remaining high-quality ecosystems will be degraded or lost.

Not only does this decline in watershed health impact water quality and biodiversity, but it also impacts the human communities that rely on the watershed for recreation, tourism, drinking water, agriculture, forestry, and scenic views. While MWCD has always engaged in certain conservation activities since their founding, they did not have a fully developed conservation plan that highlighted priority conservation goals for the entire Muskingum Watershed.

The Solution

The MWCD decided to work with Sustainable Economies Consulting to develop the first official conservation strategic plan for the Muskingum Watershed. The planning process engaged internal stakeholders as well as dozens of external stakeholders to get feedback on the goals and strategies. The process included:

  • Suport from an advisory committee with MWCD Board and Staff, and federal, state and local partners engaged in conservation across Ohio
  • Completion of goal setting retreat with 50 participants, 17 of which represented partner organizations
  • 6 community engagement sessions completed, one in each subbasin of the watershed, with 100 participants total

Throughout the process, stakeholders showed a strong level of support for a collaborative, watershed-scale plan led by MWCD. Stakeholders emphasized a need for coordination across partners and jurisdictions to ensure successful implementation of the plan. The process resulted in an actionable plan with goals, outcomes, and strategies.

In addition to the Partnership in Watershed Management grants that MWCD already gives out to support conservation and watershed management, they have now invested $5 million into a new fund to support conservation. The fund is managed by The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. These funds supplement the strong conservation strategies being implemented directly by MWCD staff, providing a powerful leverage and scalability to their conservation work.



Muskingum Watershed Strategic Planning for Nature and People



Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District

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