The Milwaukee River Watershed Corridor Plan: The Watershed Perspective

The Milwaukee River Watershed Corridor Plan: The Watershed Perspective

Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers
by Monique DiGiorgio

A Living Landscape
The Milwaukee River Watershed is home to more than 60 mammals, including the northeastern coyote, northern white-tailed deer, six species of bats, four types of voles, shrews, and many others. It is also the breeding ground for hundreds of species of birds.*

Currently, the Milwaukee River Watershed has an array of natural areas that provide food and shelter to this wildlife. These areas are fragmented, however, and create a discontinuous landscape. In order to create a contiguous living landscape, corridors must be established within the Milwaukee River Watershed.

River conservation is evolving. As consciousness is raised and perspectives broaden, the need for a program that addresses Milwaukee’s Rivers within the framework of the entire Milwaukee River Watershed has become essential. Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers (FMR) is pleased to present an education and outreach plan that addresses this watershed perspective and raises awareness about the watershed as a living landscape: The Milwaukee River Watershed Corridor Plan (The Corridor Plan). The Corridor Plan will adopt the concepts of corridor biology and the importance of a living landscape to protect all of Milwaukee’s Rivers.

Natural corridors sustain a biologically diverse community of native plants and animals.
By protecting corridors, or greenways, within the Milwaukee River Watershed, the communities of organisms in this area are free to move and breed with other communities. Also, an increase of natural areas within the watershed dramatically affects the water quality of the entire system, providing a better environment for wildlife. Protecting and restoring a living landscape in the Milwaukee River Watershed directly impacts people by providing recreational areas that are alive and healthy. Rivers are natural primary and secondary corridors because wildlife frequently use them to travel and feed. For this reason, inclusion of all of Milwaukee’s rivers is of the utmost importance when implementing a corridor plan.

Protecting the Milwaukee River Watershed begins miles from the shorelines of its rivers. It starts by safeguarding the land and tributaries that flow into Milwaukee’s Rivers. This land plays a vital role in the quality of the water in the rivers and streams of the Milwaukee River Watershed. The natural areas of the watershed also provide critical habitat for the wildlife that lives in the entire Milwaukee River Basin.

It is exactly this watershed perspective that FMR embraces through the Milwaukee River Watershed Corridor Plan because it speaks to our overall mission to protect water quality and promote sound land use in the Milwaukee River Watershed.

The Corridor Plan has four educational components for outreach into the Milwaukee Basin: a Riverkeeper who meets with all 75 watershed governances to talk about watershed planning; a corridor biology curriculum for high school students; an educational brochure on corridor biology, and an interactive website with links to watershed organizations, corridor biology information and graphics, and data collected by the high school students participating in the corridor biology curriculum.

The Corridor Plan will be launched this summer, 2002. Call the FMR if you would like to get involved.

Dr. Kevin Crooks of the Department of Wildlife Ecology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has agreed to advise the Milwaukee River Watershed Corridor Plan. His research has focused on the effects of habitat fragmentation and urban development on the behavior, ecology, and conservation of wildlife populations. He is currently conducting studies on how to incorporate functional wildlife corridors in fragmenting landscapes.

According to Dr. Crooks, “[l]andscape-level connectivity is essential to allow for the natural movement of animals among foraging and breeding sites, the dispersal of individuals from natal ranges, genetic exchange between populations, natural range shifts in response to climate change, and the continuity of ecological processes such as hydrology, succession, and seed dispersal. Where connectivity is not retained across developing landscapes, many plant and animal populations may eventually disappear.”

*Statistics provided by WI Department of Natural Resources.


Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers
About FMR

FMR is a non-profit organization serving more than one million people in seven counties of Wisconsin. Our mission is to restore the Milwaukee River Watershed, protect its wildlife habitat, and conserve land along the river. We work to protect water quality and to promote sound land use in the Milwaukee River Watershed.

Friends of Milwaukee’s Rivers – Who We Are:
Bob Boucher, Executive Director/Riverkeeper
Monique DiGiorgio, Executive Assistant/Biologist
7028 W. State St.
Wauwatosa, WI 53213
(414)-476-6042, (414)-476-6053 (fax)



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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.