Let’s return to our discussion of the need for watershed-wide restoration and management planning for the Lake Wingra watershed. In an earlier post I wrote about the degraded state of the watershed, the need for comprehensive watershed planning, why a restoration approach in particular is appropriate, and listed a few possible restoration principles upon which watershed planning could be based. This time I write about what a management Master Plan is and list a few possible desirable restoration outcomes for the watershed.
A Master Plan fills three essential roles. First, a restoration Master Plan paints a “big-picture” guiding vision for the way watershed lands should be treated and how they will look when the goals are met. Secondly, the Master Plan describes how to achieve the meaningful engagement of partners, stakeholders, neighborhoods, and citizens in the restoration process. Thirdly, the Master Plan guides policy makers, agencies, and public and private partners in efforts to plan for and improve the ecological, social, and cultural integrity of Lake Wingra and its watershed lands.
Core of the Master Plan
A good master plan is strategic, in that it is focused on the few, essential things that are critical to achieving its goals. A master plan also has effective tactical means to achieve its strategic goals. But, the focus is on strategy, not tactics.
For example, a Master Plan should establish a handful of broad, watershed-wide desired outcomes and sets of supporting goals and objectives that, when implemented will help the watershed community achieve its vision.
To illustrate, possible desired outcomes for the Lake Wingra watershed could include these:
1. Reverse ecosystem fragmentation to sustain and optimize biodiversity and ecosystem services. (Develop ecological/social corridors between existing preserved natural areas. For example, connect existing “green areas” with walking/cycling paths that take users to the lakeshore. Such linkages can also serve as wildlife corridors.)
2. Provide additional natural resources for citizens to learn about biological sciences and conservation. (Take the pressure off the now over-used and abused natural areas bordering Lake Wingra by creating new, or enhancing existing marginal natural areas.)
3. Use cooperative watershed planning principles and landscape-scale approaches to improve care of the Lake and its entire watershed. (Look beyond jurisdictional/administrative boundaries to find common ground for cooperation and collaboration.)
4. Develop planning and management strategies that address local and regional urban influences and impacts that are amenable to corrective action through improved on-site, local, and regional planning, implementation, and management approaches. (Develop adaptive management strategies to accommodate or alleviate current and future climate changes.)
5. Identify project opportunities that combine ecological, social, and cultural goals. (The SW Bike Path is a prime example of where this linkage is already being developed at small scales; build upon this project and look for similar opportunities.)
All of the above desired outcomes would support specific watershed goals of: improved water quality, improved storm water management, replenished groundwater and natural spring flow, improved natural habitat quality, increased biodiversity, and ways for watershed citizens to meaningfully engage with the ecological, social, and cultural aspects of the landscape.
A good local example of visionary thinking comes from the Friends of Lake Wingra and its document, “Lake Wingra: A Vision for the Future.” This is an excellent start, but stops short of what is needed, which is a full-on, comprehensive, watershed-wide planning effort. Similarly, other existing plans do not take a big enough view of the local situation because they emphasize only on Lake Wingra, or only the land, but not the entire, integrated watershed.
Master Plans and the restorations they call for, are most successful in the long run if they are planned using a collaborative process involving neighbors, members of the community interested in conservation issues, and invited areas professionals. Civic participation, when done well, builds enthusiasm, interest, understanding, and support. I’ll look at this more next time at this critical feature of watershed master planning. Until then, take a look at what the watershed’s current leader in this area, the Friends of Lake Wingra (FoLW) is doing.