Happier in a canoe than behind a desk, the Conservancy’s Green River Project Director Mike Hensley felt daunted by developing a business plan to guide his work over the next five years. Instead of becoming distracted by paperwork and meetings, Hensley approached it as a “soul searching” exercise.
He is pleased with the results.
“A lot of my struggle came down to defining the project area,” Hensley reflects. The team – consisting of Hensley, the Kentucky Chapter’s Director of Conservation, Jeff Sole, and colleagues from Virginia and Tennessee – did some deep thinking on the topic. Their conversations received a boost when the Conservancy invited more than 100 guests to weigh in on the watershed’s health and future at a Green River Summit last February.
In the end, the team concluded that the Conservancy should expand its focus to the entire Green River Basin because, in recent years, mussel sampling revealed that high levels of biodiversity extended much further downriver than previously thought. Historically, the Conservancy’s work focused on the upper Green River in a well-defined area stretching from Green River Lake Dam on the upstream end to Mammoth Cave National Park downstream.
Expanding the project’s focus also reflected the Green River’s role as a major tributary of the Ohio River, which flows into the Mississippi River system and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
Hensley adds, “By trying to positively affect the Green River Basin as a whole we can improve the overall water quality of these larger systems serving as ecological and economic drivers for a good portion of the country.”
With the project area defined, Hensley and his colleagues moved on to pondering the most significant risks to the basin’s ecological health and resulting priorities.
“These are big questions,” adds Hensley. “We remained realistic about what could be accomplished with available funding, limited staffing, a unique karst geology underlying the landscape, and the outlook and goals of stakeholders sharing the watershed.”
With the soul searching phase complete, Kentucky Chapter staff and key partners are reviewing a draft of the Green River Conservation Business Plan. Their input will inform the final document and associated maps and data. Then, according to Hensley, “the real work begins.”
Partnership In Action The Conservancy’s five-year plan to guide work in Kentucky’s Green River takes place as part of an ongoing partnership with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and will inform a basin-wide study the Corps is completing.