Baird Creek Watershed and Sustainability

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Living a lifestyle of industrialism, our society makes a distinction between the habitat of humans, and the uninhabited woodland, or as it is commonly called, the wilderness. Beyond the constraints of concrete and steel, the wilderness represented a wild freedom unobtainable to many in the large cities: so in order to protect said wild expression of freedom, sustainable policies have been enacted to protect the wilderness. With this distinction came a flaw however, as these policies were solely adopted for wilderness areas, it failed to transfer into the urban landscape, the responsibility of sustainable planning surprisingly disregarded. This is the concept that William Cronon introduced in his essay “The Problem with Wilderness”, as he advocated for a middle-ground ethic, or an area where elements of the natural environment co-existed with an area that permits human use, (particularly for residency) [1]. A local representation of Cronon’s argument resides in Baird Creek, Green Bay, home of an influential watershed that eventually leads into the Fox River. While there are sustainable action plans established for the most of the region by several preservation foundations, the surrounding homes, farmland, and other industrial services are less inclined to adopt these policies, in-turn affecting the nearby wood, wet, and prairie-land inadvertently. In observing the policies and tactics of the BCPF in relation to these residential areas’ maintenance policies, a comparison can be made and from there, improvements can be applied to not only further protect the ecosystem of the watershed, but to better the urban areas and facilities surrounding the reservation through creating a clean, resourceful human environment.

Baird Creek Watershed:The The Location and Surrounding Area

The Watershed and the surrounding area are situated in the city of Green Bay, Wisconsin, as Baird Creek begins from the West in Humboldt and flows East through the city of Green Bay, to where it then empties into the East River, East of downtown Green Bay [2]. The Watershed itself ranges sixty-eight square miles of land spanning the Creek, a large part of it designated as park land [3] Eaton and Humboldt are agriculturally-driven communities, slowly shifting into urban life [4], with the city of Humboldt to the West of the creek's watershed range,and Eaton residing to the South-East of the Creek.

Map of he Baird Creek Watershed. Source: UWGB

Industrialization surrounding, or within Baird Creek

As previously mentioned, the towns of Eaton and Humboldt are primarily agriculturally-driven, as farm-areas sit intermittently alongside the residential areas of these two regions . The amenities of an industrialized society, (which contribute to its effects on he environment) includes major streets, a school (Baird Elementary School, Danz School), Parking areas. Within the Greenway area itself, there appears two utility corridors: The first, is an overhead electric line that travels east from Danz Avenue to Clement Street, while a sanitary sewer drain along the northern portion of the creek to Huron Road. Meanwhile, situated in he Baird Creek Valley, there are two railroad corridors, along the southern region of the greenway: one travels from Berger Street to the I-43, and then from there, eastwards to Grandview road, and another bordering the greenway, as its path lies in between the greenway itself, and Danz School [5] .

Environmental Concerns

In the nineteenth century, the Swampland Act was passed, in an effort to produce more agricultural land through the drainage of wetlands. Since then (1850) onto modern day, over 800,000 acres of wetland have been lost within the United States. Continuing onto this day, the nation on average loses 58,000 acres annually [6]. Along with the rise in farmland came the threats of urbanization, as increased emissions, random litter, erosion, and other pollutants that would come with city life. Of all these pollutants, none are more threatening to the watershed than runoff, particularly from the farmland regions. From farmlands, pesticides, nutrients, and soil particles get into the water-stream, contaminating the water as it flows, thereby throwing the entire ecosystem off balance [7].

Restoration and Conservation Policies

Baird Creek Preservation Foundation

Upon its initiation in 1997, the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation established its Master Plan to lay out their goals of preservation and restoring the area of the greenway. Among their other goals of preservation of the natural beauty of the area and working in cooperation with the City of Green Bay and other local programs to maintain the fore-mentioned programs, they established a supporting goal to focus on the watershed, and diminish the effects of land use around the area [8]. Such initiatives include implementing best management practices to lessen impacts on land use, and to work with the local towns of Eaton and and Humboldt to understand the importance of the upstream watershed to the overall health of the creek, and In 2010, the BCPF has applied for a fifty percent funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to buy 28.83 acres of land from Eaton, and also expand the range of the greenway toward's the creek's origin [9]. In accordance with the second sub-point, 33.8 acres of land from Humboldt, using a thirty percent funding from the same program in 2012 respectively [10]. The stated use of the land would be to leave it in its natural, non-industrialized state for the purpose of open, Low-impact recreation for citizens, some of which include hiking, animal watching, and fishing, to name a few activities.

Lake Michigan Lakewide Management Plan

While the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation's policies appear limited to the greenway portion of the watershed (500 acres along stream-body from East River to Huron Road [11]), another program is at work, which covers the broader area of the watershed. Known as the Lake Michigan Lakewide Management Plan, the program was established by the US EPA and influenced by the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, as well as the Clean Water Act, the plan's range of influence covers the entirely of the Lake Michigan ecosystem, including the creeks and streams that flow into it [12]. . One of The key programs implemented by the plan was through establishing conservation buffers around the areas of high runoff density, particularly surrounding agricultural regions What makes up a conservation buffer are strips of land clustered with permanent vegetation, which would either halt or greatly diminish the flow of pollutants, sediments and other unwanted materials from entering the watershed. The plan suggests, that upon its implementation, the conservation buffers has the capability of prevent fifty percent or more of the nutrients and pesticides used on farmlands, sixty percent or more of unwanted pathogens, and over seventy-five percent of sediment from flowing into the water stream [13].

examples of conservation buffers used to protect Watersheds. Source: Steams County Soil and Water Conservation District

Future Plans and Suggestions

Baird Creek Preservation Foundation

Among the several long and short-term restorative environmental plans (0-5 years and beyond) put forward, such as those pertaining to vegetative restoration and cooperation between other groups, were plans to stabilize and monitor the water-stream and stormwaters. In the short-term (0-5 years) the BCPF plans to continue efforts at finding solutions to erosion-risk areas, as well as conduct programs to treat runoff at its source, preventing it from entering the watershed [14]. for their long-term goals well over five years, many of their plans involve actively educating and raising awareness programs for the residents living within and around the watershed, teaching them how to monitor the area's water quality, and build rain gardens to slow the progression of runoff [15].

Lake Michigan Lakewide Management Plan

Most immediately, industrial progress from the city of Green Bay and the surrounding areas poses a threat to the health from around the upper regions (Eaton and Humboldt) to the middle regions (Green Bay) of the watershed. As such, the plan calls for the sustainable redevelopment of the urban areas in the town of Green Bay, while suggesting that the further developments of the towns of Eaton and Humboldt occur closer to already developed areas, so as to leave areas open for conservation buffers, as well as other programs to reduce the runoff rate [16]. Similar to the BCPF, several programs specialized in the training of citizens of Best Management Practices, more specifically focusing on the Northeast Stormwater Consortium, which works in establishing a network between communities in order to share resources to and save money for these best management practices[17].

Final Thoughts

The human body may reside in the industrial environment, but his soul is free, and escapes to the wilderness to find its solace: in maintaining the neighboring forest-land and waterways, he makes the forest-land a part of his own natural environment. Such was the ideal of Aldo Leopold, who saw that the best use of the land comes with co-dependency, as both the natural environment and the human one contributes to the other's ongoing health and survival, benefiting themselves as a trade-off. To summarize the shared ideals between Cronon and Leopold, I quote Aldo Leopold: "We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong we may begin to use it with love and respect." [18]


  1. Cronon, William Trouble With Wilderness New York Times (New York, NY) August 13, 1995.
  2. Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, Baird Creek Master Plan :Environmental Framework (Wisconsin: Green Bay, n.d.) page 11
  3. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment (Illinois: Chicago, 2004) page 13,
  4. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment (Illinois: Chicago, 2004), page 22, ,
  5. Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, Baird Creek Master Plan :Environmental Framework (Wisconsin: Green Bay, n.d.) pages 13-19
  6. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment (Illinois: Chicago, 2004), pages 20-21,
  7. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment (Illinois: Chicago, 2004), page 13,
  8. Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, Baird Creek Master Plan: Introduction (Wisconsin: Green Bay, n.d.) page 7,
  9. "Baird Creek Preservation Foundation seeks grant for acquisition of land" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Last modified October 5, 2010.
  10. "Baird Creek Preservation Foundation seeks grant for acquisition of land" Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Last modified August 6, 2012.
  11. Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, Baird Creek Master Plan: Introduction (Wisconsin: Green Bay, n.d.) page 2,
  12. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment (Illinois: Chicago, 2004) page 8,
  13. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment (Illinois: Chicago, 2004) page 21-22,
  14. Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, Baird Creek Master Plan: Implementations (Wisconsin: Green Bay, n.d.) page 75,
  15. Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, Baird Creek Master Plan: Implementations (Wisconsin: Green Bay, n.d.), Page 75,
  16. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment(Illinois: Chicago, 2004), page 30-31,
  17. n.a.Baird Creek Watershed Stewardship Assessment (Illinois: Chicago, 2004), page 31,
  18. Leopold, Aldo. Foreword to A Sand County Almanac 1949

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