Saginaw Bay Conference, September 27


As part of the Foundation’s extended commitment to the Shiawassee River, we are proud to help sponsor the State of the Bay Conference on September 27.  The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) — of which the Cook Family Foundation is a long-time member — is convening the event.  To register go to

The Shiawassee River forms the southern border of the the Saginaw Bay watershed, the largest watershed in the State of Michigan. It covers 8,700 acres in all or part of 22 counties and is home to 1.4 million people.  The Shiawassee River connects to four other rivers in and around the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge to form the Saginaw River.  The health of the land and the streams and rivers that drain them determine the health of Saginaw Bay, historically important as a fishery and as home to diverse and migrating wildlife.

The State of the Bay Conference brings together people and organizations that work to conserve and restore Saginaw Bay and the lands that make up its watershed.  Attendees will have the chance to learn what communities throughout the watershed are doing to encourage public access, economic development, environmental education and watershed management.  After the conference, there will be an opportunity for a trip on the BaySail’s Appledore schooner.

Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) brings together foundations, governments, businesses, environmental organizations, and other partners to improve the quality of life in the area and develop the region’s identity as a sustainable community. Expertise is shared to develop and fund on-the-ground projects in the areas of agriculture and pollution prevention, wildlife stewardship, water resources, land use, and environmental sustainability.  The Cook Family Foundation is one of WIN’s 11 funding partners and has contributed financial support since 1999.  Review the activities, studies, and recent grants of WIN at their website 

Water quality and agricultural run-off has long been a focus of the Cook Family Foundation grants.  In addition to support for Saginaw Bay WIN, grants have been provided to the Friends of the Shiawassee River, Shiawassee Conservation District, The Nature Conservancy, and other local partners.  You can read about our most recent work in the Shiawassee River in our 2017 Newsletter (click here).

Saginaw Bay Watershed. No till field and barn. Photo credit: © Michael D-L Jordan

The most significant grants of the Foundation in the last few years have been to The Nature Conservancy to support their innovative work with the agricultural community in parts of Saginaw Bay.  This effort is powered by significant federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) authorized in the Farm Bill.  The project has helped farmers put in place conservation practices to reduce soil erosion and polluted run-off.  It brings new technology, in-field scientific assessments, and the opportunity to work with crop advisors and conservation districts.  The Cook Family Foundation has provided funding to conduct research into how agricultural providers and practitioners make decisions; the results will help conservation groups know how best to reach and work with farmers.  You can watch a video and learn more about the project from The Nature Conservancy (click here).

Where and how fast water flows is fundamental knowledge for farmers, developers, and conservationists trying to build a sustainable economy.  The most recent grant commitment from the Cook Family Foundation is to help The Nature Conservancy study how water on the land can be better managed by Drain Commissioners, the masters of water flow in Michigan. The Foundation is helping provide matching funds to a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) that will involve test projects in Saginaw and Monroe Counties.  The goal of the project is to recognize and incentivize the establishment of conservation practices that improve the function or reduce the maintenance cost of publicly managed drain systems.

The Shiawassee River gives its name to the County where the Cook Family Foundation works for change. The River also connects us to Saginaw Bay and the Great Lakes, and it gives us a connection and appreciation of nature. We know that if we protect nature, we have the basis for a sustainable regional economy, and will enhance the quality of life for the residents of our community.  But conservation cannot be a solo act and it takes a larger and long term view.  Our work with Saginaw Bay WIN and The Nature Conservancy give us both partners and perspective.

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