Identifying Priority Agriculture, Conservation, and Development Areas in the Swan Creek Watershed of northwestern Ohio

(2009)  The Swan Creek Watershed of northwestern Ohio is not unlike many watersheds in the Midwestern United States. Within the 204 mile2 watershed, areas are dominated by agricultural use, residential development, and important natural areas. Most notably, the watershed encompasses much of the Oak Openings Region, the most biodiverse region in the state, as well as some of the fastest growing residential areas in Ohio.

The Swan Creek Watershed Pilot Project used GIS to develop a plan outlining priority agricultural, conservation, and development areas within the watershed using criteria determined by the Swan Creek Watershed Planning Partnership (SCWPP). The partnership is made up of representatives from all participating jurisdictions within the Swan Creek Watershed.

In developing these models, I used existing GIS data layers describing the location of important development infrastructure (water and sewer lines, highways, incorporated areas and commercial markets, etc.), natural features (wetlands, rare plant & animal occurrences, large forest patches, current protected areas, etc.), and agricultural properties (farmland preservation areas, prime farmland, farm size, currently farmed areas, etc.) to provide an objective method for analyzing the landscape. The value of different conditions and their weighting in the models was determined by the SCWPP.

The final result was the development of GIS layers of priority areas within the watershed for three different uses: (1) development; (2) conservation; or (3) agriculture.  With additional input from the 23 jurisdictions that make up the watershed, the Swan Creek Watershed Balanced Growth Initiative is now moving forward with identifying incentives for land-use decisions that fit with the identified priority areas.

For more information: Swan Creek Watershed Balanced Growth Initiative