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Blue River Action Plan



Kansas City is home to amazing natural resources that provide a source of pride and sense of place to people throughout the nine-county metropolitan area. Water resources, creeks, streams, and rivers, have played a critical role in defining its development and character.

The Blue River flows 42 miles northeast from its rural, undeveloped headwaters in Johnson County, Kansas through underserved communities and post-industrial stretches in Jackson County, Mo. and, finally, into the Missouri River, the source of the city’s drinking water.

The Blue River watershed is the largest in the city, covering 270 square miles and acting as home to half a million people. It is one of 20 Urban Waters Federal Partnership locations across the United States.

Water quality is poor in the Blue River and its three major tributaries, which are 303(d) listed streams, meaning they do not meet federal standards. According to the US Geological Survey, water quality is influenced by urbanization, point-source discharges, illegal dumping, urban run-off, physical stream conditions, and complex water-quality processes. Following a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, Kansas City, Mo. is under a Federal Consent Decree for using combined sewers to illegally dump wastewater into the Blue River. Much of the river is invisible to its neighbors in disinvested communities on the eastern side of the city, who are faced with disproportionate social and environmental challenges.


The Blue River Action Plan summarizes and prioritizes decades of work to restore the health of the watershed, including the goals of four regional plans: Mid-America Regional Council’s MetroGreen Plan, KC Water’s Combined Sewer Overflow Plan, the Upper Blue River Watershed Plan, and Kansas City WildLands’ Conservation Opportunity Action Plan.

Heartland Conservation Alliance (HCA) and others are actively working to improve the health of this watershed by focusing resources in eight Action Areas that represent varying geographic areas and types of habitat. In each Action Area, this Plan outlines current and potential conservation projects of varying scale and type within the watershed.

Blue River Action Plan - Action Areas
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Total Area: 17,828 acres

Restoration Area: 3,000 acres

Habitat: Ephemeral Streams

Focal Species: Redbelly Snake

Total Area: 993 acres

Restoration Area: 40 acres

Habitat: Healthy riparian

corridor and floodplain

Focal Species: PawPaw 

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Total Area: 1,416 acres

 Restoration Area: 60 acres

Habitat: Bottomland forest and wetland

Focal Species: American Beaver

Total Area: 2,810 acres

Restoration Area: 10 acres

Habitat: Wetland

Focal Species: Monarch Butterfly

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Total Area: 1,738 acres
Restoration Area: 25 acres

Habitat: Upland Woodland

Focal Species: Prothonotary Warbler 

Total Area: 1,393 acres

Restoration Area: 35 acres

Habitat: Bottomland woodland

and wetland

Focal Species: Tri-color bats

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Total Area: 1,731 acres

Restoration Area: 65 acres

Habitat: Urban Forest

Focal Species: Ruby throated hummingbird

Total Area: 2,464 acres

Restoration Area: 65 acres

Habitat: Oxbow wetland

and riparian forest

Focal Species: Red-Eared Slider 

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 In each Action Area, we highlight a plant or animal that is native to this region, which relies on key habitats to thrive. By improving the health of the Action Area, we can protect these focal species and help them thrive.

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While each Action Area holds many types of habitat, the Blue River Action Plan focuses restoration and conservation on one keystone habitat that dominates each Area.


To get involved in your community, please reach out to us at

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