Protecting Our Watershed: Mitigating Flood Hazards for a Resilient Future 

The health of the Milwaukee River and its interconnected streams is threatened by excessive phosphorus, sediment and bacteria stemming from runoff in both urban and rural areas. Ensuring the protection of productive farmland along or near creeks, streams and rivers is vital in preserving the watershed and enhancing our ability to withstand the challenges posed by severe weather conditions. 

Working Soils® Program 

The goal of the Working Soils® Program is to permanently protect privately held working land in the Milwaukee River watershed floodplain. We work with landowners to secure agricultural easements on vital parcels — an arrangement that allows landowners to retain ownership and the right to work the land. Participating landowners and operators work collaboratively with Natural Resources Conservation Services staff to implement an Agricultural Conservation Plan that enhances soil health and proactively mitigates future flooding.  

The Milwaukee River flows through a Working Soils protected property in Washington County, WI. Credit: Ivan LaBianca

Milwaukee River Watershed Conservation Partnership

The Milwaukee River Watershed Conservation Partnership (MRWCP) was established to foster collaboration and encourage investment in agricultural conservation practices that enhance soil vitality, keep waterways clean and embrace smart business solutions. MRWCP partners put into action cost-effective conservation practices which benefit local waterways and protect the region’s natural character. From 2016 to 2021, funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a U.S. Farm Bill initiative, allowed program participants to focus on specific activities and results.

From these collective efforts flowed actions to expand and strengthen public endorsement for conservation. The Conservation Fund worked alongside multiple local and national partners, including the Land Trust Alliance, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Fondy Food Center and Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to form the Making Allies partnership. That initiative is now actively safeguarding floodplains, mitigating flood risk, preserving agricultural lands, improving water quality, and delivering nutritious food — all while offering valuable support to local farmers. Learn more about the Making Allies partnership in the video below:

Land Trust Alliance: Making Allies

Credit: Land Trust Alliance

Working Soils® Program Goals 

  • Assist the agricultural community  
  • Evaluate the performance of conservation practices on soil health 
  • Support a vibrant farm economy by permanently protecting local farmland to ensure it remains available for production in the future


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