Four years ago the Model Urban Natural Resources Conservation Plan (UNRCP) was implemented for the City of Madison and Madison County. The purpose of this project was to address the concerns of protecting the natural resources while maintaining a suitable quality of life for a rapidly developing urban area and addressing the changing environment of the Culley and Brashears Creeks watershed areas. The goal of the program was to provide for continued economic development, while at the same time maintain ecological integrity (health) of the watershed.
The plan was born when the Mayor and local officials of the City of Madison, through the Central Mississippi Resource Conservation & Development Council, first highlighted natural resource concerns. A steering committee was formed and through a series of meetings they categorized all concerns under four general headings. They are NonPoint Source Pollution (water quality), Water Management, Landscape (temporal & spatial), and Wildlife Habitats (terrestrial and aquatic).
This project required vital input from numerous agencies throughout all phases of the project. The plan required an understanding of the landscape and its functional processes and characteristics and the composition and spatial relationship of elements. Concerns for non-point source pollution, land use, resource harvesting and run-off required identification and consideration. The common denominator throughout the process was water, therefore the watersheds were chosen as the study areas.
The study area included the drainage of four subwatersheds that encompass parts of the cities of Ridgeland, Madison, and Madison County, involving approximately 10,000 acres (15.6 sq. miles). The four watersheds are Brashear Creek, Culley Creek, Culley Lake and Hearn Creek (see chart on previous page) which provide drainage for 75% of the city of Madison.
The study found that fragmented landscaping around these watersheds had greatly impaired the capacity of the landscape function which is to allow the movement of plants, animals and people both within and between ecosystems. Riparian corridors, vital to the structure and functioning of a landscape, would play a crucial role in correcting the fragmentation.
Wildlife habitat is being destroyed or fragmented as large areas are converted to urban development. Steam channels, altered to accommodate the needs of man, have continued to widen through the years with ever increasing erosion of the creek beds and slopes. The forests have been severely depleted because of construction growth within the past 20 years resulting in a loss of vegetative cover and erosion. Soil erosion is a problem resulting in a degradation of quality from the loss of ability to retain water and nutrients. A final area of study is imperviousness which is the sum of roads, parking lots, sidewalks, rooftops, and other impermeable surfaces of the rural/urban landscape.
Now for the good news. The possibilities to correct the identified deficiencies are numerous. Many are already underway or completed with more planned for future projects. One of these corrective measures include widening riparian buffers in direct proportion to the size of the runoff area, the steepness of the adjacent slopes and riparian zones, and the intensity of cultural activities and disturbances in uplands such as suburban or urban development. Other steps include the slowing or halting of the degradation of forest systems and initiating measures to correct damage caused by past practices. This will undoubtedly include the establishment of high quality forests and protection of existing forests. Wildlife habitat can be improved by the halt of further stream deterioration and the reestablishment of wildlife corridors providing unfettered movement and improved water quality and food sources.