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Strategic Plan

The clean, clear water, healthy streams, and rich habitats of the Ausable River, its tributaries and its lakes are essential to the communities – human and wild – that call the watershed home. While its headwaters and significant sections of the East and West Branches benefit from various protections at the state level, the river, nonetheless, faces challenges. Many of the threats to water quality, stream stability, and native wildlife have roots in past industrial practices, others are the result of present day development and management practices.

None of these challenges, however, are insurmountable. Thanks to the creation of the Ausable River Association (AsRA) in 1998, the health of the river has been a topic of conversation, study, and action among residents, business owners, and visitors to the region. AsRA's staff expansion beginning in 2014 has increased the application of up-to-date scientific and technical knowledge to advance watershed issues, improved access to public funding resources, and created rising public enthusiasm and engagement to protect and restore the river, it's lakes, streams, and wetlands.

With careful planning, the scientific collection and assessment of data, and working side-by side with landowners, local, state, and federal government, NGOs, researchers, residents and other stakeholders, AsRA's programs identify and address many of the key threats. We protect the clean waters, natural hydrology, diverse ecology, and scenic beauty of the Ausable and we inspire and provide knowledge for others to cherish and protect our watershed.

AsRA’s Goals

Clean Water:

Clean waters – streams, lakes, wetlands, and aquifers – capable of supporting a full complement of human and ecosystem needs

Healthy Streams:

Shaded, cool waters, with ample floodplains and self-regulating flows sustaining ecological diversity and thriving communities

Biodiverse Habitats:

Habitats and ecosystems fostering native plant and animal species in and alongside streams, lakes, and wetlands

Public Enjoyment:

Responsible, low-impact recreational opportunities protective of Ausable waterways and adjacent lands

Engaged Communities:

Informed residents and visitors caring for the health of the watershed where they live, work, and play

A Voice for the River:

A strong, sustainable Ausable River Association working in partnership to achieve shared goals 

Priority Actions

Clean Water

Continue AsRA’s commitment to conducting long-term monitoring of water quality in lakes and streams; to pursuing research to identify and understand water quality threats throughout the watershed; and to finding solutions by working with communities and diverse partners. Increase the ability of the Science and Stewardship Director to focus on this work, by significantly decreasing his communications and marketing role with the hire of a communications manager.

Healthy Streams

Expand efforts to plan and implement natural channel design (NCD) restoration techniques that work with natural hydrology to restore self-regulating, flood-resilient, habitat rich Ausable streams. Continue to refine and grow implementation of the Climate Ready Culvert program.

Increase the ability of AsRA’s executive director, who is fully trained in NCD methods and leads these programs, in support of this goal by hiring an experienced part-time Finance & Operations Director.

Biodiverse Habitats

Establish a free-standing program that identifies and protects vulnerable species dependent on near/in-stream habitats. Combine invasive species and riparian buffer restoration programming under this goal and expand it to include identifying and understanding the occurrences of vulnerable species (primarily native wild brook trout but also e.g. spring salamanders, wood turtles, frog and fish species) that rely on Ausable waterways, floodplains, and wetlands. Hire a part-time science associate/wildlife or fisheries biologist to work with the river steward and science and stewardship director to lead field work, identify volunteer networks for partnering, and advance program goals.

Enjoying Ausable Streams

Encourage public access and low-impact recreational opportunities and uses of the river by promoting wise management of stream corridors, lakesides, and wetland areas by landowners and municipalities.

An Informed and Engaged Public

Rededicate the river steward position to education and stewardship activities that describe and support the value of the Ausable system, the threats facing it, and the role the community must play. Develop and expand field-based youth programs that expose students to hydrology, climate change, ecology, and biology and to methods for surveying streams, monitoring water quality, and creating biological inventories.

Fund and hire a communications manager to plan, design, and implement communications and marketing strategies that elevate the goals and programs of AsRA, increasing public awareness, and expanding AsRA’s member, donor, and volunteer base.

Sustainable Organizational Management

Expand membership and private giving to keep pace with the growth of state and federal funding. Create a board development committee to assist in outreach to non-members, members, and individual donors and to lead the preparation and implementation of a development plan.

Create a board communications and marketing committee to work with the new communications manager to develop an informed, strategic communications and marketing approach for AsRA.

Strengthen the leadership and management of AsRA with the hire of a part-time finance and operations director to oversee operational and administrative functions that support AsRA programs including: organizational bookkeeping; financial strategy and management; grants tracking, compliance, and administration; office management; and human resources.


The AsRA Board of Directors reviewed and approved this plan in December 2017. Implementation of many of the actions outlined in this document will occur over the next one to five years. Some, such as ongoing water quality monitoring, will continue indefinitely if they are supported by organizational planning, financial resources, and appropriately experienced staff. Table 5.1 presents timeframes for implementing the actions presented. Relevant partnerships and funding streams that sustain each action are noted. 

Our mission — is to help communities protect our streams and lakes.
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