Watershed planning for Great Lakes communities

Most every decision we make results in some sort of impact. Take our development decisions, for example. In some way, they impact sustainability. How can we better understand the impact of our decisions?

Tipping Points & Indicators 2014-12-04

Tipping Points and Indicators is a collaborative program that gives land use planners, natural resources managers and stakeholder groups in the Lake Erie Watershed the information they need to enhance local economies and protect natural resources. Using its decision support system and action planning process, communities can determine how close a watershed is to the thresholds (or “tipping points”) that might change the way aquatic ecosystems function and pinpoint the land use practices driving them.

Tipping Points and Indicators is a new Great Lakes research and Extension program comprised of a web-based, data driven decision support system and a facilitated community visioning and action planning process designed to enable effective protection and management of natural resources throughout Great Lakes. The web-based portion is available at tippingpointplanner.org.  The facilitated portion yields an action plan that includes an overview of the current community status and whether the community is nearing or exceeding Great Lakes tipping points. It also provides customized education strategies, example policies and sample ordinances to improve current conditions. The program is targeted to land use planners, natural resources managers and stakeholder groups with an interest in assessing community sustainability using Great Lakes tipping points.

Research team members identified land use indicator variables that determine the threshold, or tipping points, that when exceeded can impact aquatic ecosystems. Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Extension Specialists developed the associated website and facilitation process that guide community groups through an interactive watershed action planning process. Touch screen monitors are used to enable community groups to collaborate and explore the website, tools and GIS maps to determine planning priorities linked to community values.

The overall program goal is to enable the development of sustainable, watershed-specific land use strategies. The Tipping Points and Indicators planning process is facilitated by Great Lakes Sea Grant specialists. Contact your state facilitator and request a planning workshop for your community.

(Submitted by: Joe Lucente, Assistant Professor and Extension Educator, Ohio Sea Grant College Program and Ohio State University Extension)