Conservation AcquisitionBusiness Partnerships

Supporting Grassroots Projects Michigan’s Saginaw Bay

dow-logo
In 1998, The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) approached The Conservation Fund to help them develop a new program that could improve Michigan’s Saginaw Bay watershed and the communities where its employees live, work and play. As an organization that works at the intersection of business and the environment, we were ideally suited to forge the local and regional partnerships necessary to realize Dow’s bold vision for a sustainable Saginaw Bay.

Challenges

  • Impact the quality of life in local communities
  • Support local projects that protect natural resources and strengthen economies

Solutions

The largest watershed in Michigan, Saginaw Bay is located between the thumb and forefinger of Michigan’s “mitten” on the state’s eastern boundary with Lake Huron. The watershed includes more than 7,000 miles of rivers and streams and 175 inland lakes. It is home to more than 90 fish species and is a path for migrating songbirds and waterfowl travelling along the Mississippi Flyway. It’s also home to 1.4 million people and to many agricultural and industrial resources that drive Michigan’s economy.

Dow and The Conservation Fund created the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) to invest in efforts on the ground that make Saginaw Bay – and its people – better. Through grants and technical assistance, the WIN program is helping grow the region’s identity as a sustainable community. Dow’s leadership and commitment to sustainability also inspired others to join the charge – the WIN program now includes 12 corporate and foundation partners and has become a catalyst for hundreds of initiatives to improve the watershed and its communities.
 

“We understand that investors want to see great returns, and by connecting Dow with a range of people, resources, organizations and programs at the grassroots level, we’re making their investment go further and creating a real difference in all facets of the quality of life in the region, and in Saginaw Bay.”

Michael Kelly, Director, Great Lakes Office and Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, The Conservation Fund

DOW CorpsDow and The Conservation Fund's partnership helps remove dams to improve passage for spawning fish and recreational   kayakers and canoers. Photo by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District.

Results

Since 1998, WIN has invested more than $4.5 million in approximately 250 projects, leveraging an additional $9 million in support for these community efforts.

WIN grants have supported a wide range of locally driven projects. We’ve helped our partners improve the energy efficiency of a minor league baseball team’s stadium, plant community gardens, build trail systems, provide canoe and kayak launch facilities along the watershed’s major rivers, control erosion along tributary rivers to prevent pollution, and even remove dams to improve passage for spawning fish and recreational kayakers and canoers. One of WIN’s biggest ongoing projects involves the removal of a deteriorating dam along the Cass River in the city of Frankenmuth, Michigan’s top tourist destination.

“WIN’s open-minded, collaborative approach to providing funding is fantastic. With its entrepreneurial spirit, WIN is often the first organization to step in and provide grant money.”

Zachary Branigan, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, 2014 Saginaw Bay WIN grant recipient

Looking Forward

With nearly 8,700 square miles making up the Saginaw Bay Watershed, there is still much more work to be done. But the seemingly limitless creativity of the organizations, communities and individuals on the ground inspires us to keep going. We look forward to even more exciting projects in the future, working with our partners to build a more sustainable Saginaw Bay region.