Member Highlight

Let's Trash Talk

 Micro plastics round table. Photo courtesy of AFF

Micro plastics round table. Photo courtesy of AFF

The Alice Ferguson Foundation held their 12th Annual Trash Summit on “Business Solutions for Plastic Pollution,” which united hundreds of community members, business leaders, nonprofit organizations, jurisdiction staff and public officials to discuss corporate entity’s influence on trash pollution prevention. Our host and Coalition member, Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF), aims to connect and educate youth with Mother Nature, the cultural heritage of their local watershed and teaches sustainable agriculture practices such as regenerative egg implementation. AFF found themselves in the trash business when their students noticed all the washed up trash while walking along the shoreline. From that moment, they set out to clean up the Potomac River and arranged necessary clean ups to remove the litter. 30 years later, AFF will celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Potomac watershed clean up this coming April!

The event had TONS of dialogue on solutions to keep our streams, rivers and creeks free of plastic throughout the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, through lively roundtable discussions, informative presentations and knowledgeable speakers. Many speakers shared their concerns, successes and work their organizations are doing to prevent garbage, plastics, and micro-plastics from entering our waterways. My favorite part of the conference was the panel, where key speakers from corporate entities like Busboys and Poets, Farmers Restaurant Group and Marriott International, spoke about how their company has committed to sustainability.

 Photo courtesy of AFF

Photo courtesy of AFF

Dan Simons, co-owner of Farmers Restaurant Group, talked about the successes and failures the company in D.C. has faced after committing to not serve or sell plastic bottles or bottled water to its customers. Farmers Restaurant Group prides themselves on being mission above profit and have kept millions of waste out of the waste supply chain by refusing to sell plastic straws, and instead opting for paper and hay straws.

Andy Shallal, the proprietor of Busboys and Poets, joked about how some of his customers actually believe that they “are too cheap to serve straws.” His main focus is stressing the importance of educating the customer about the companies ‘green’ initiatives and why they are implementing these practices.

Denise Naguib, who works for Marriott International, expressed just how huge Marriott’s global footprint truly is. Marriott, composed of 6,900 hotels in 122 countries, began a straw initiative this year to phase out the quarter of a billion stir sticks and straws used by a million and a half of people that come to their hotels every single day.

Thomas Sprehe from KCI Technologies Inc., a consulting engineering business, also spoke on the panel regarding their company’s responsiveness to their clients, by giving them solutions to their waste problems by means of science and engineering. KCI is co-responsible for creating the trash wheel that collects floating debris in the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and soon implementing the WasteShark, an aquatic drone that swims through the water collecting floatable plastics and other non-biodegradable materials from urban waterways. In addition to these devices, they also manage landfills and recycling centers.

 Scott Surovell. Photo courtesy of AFF

Scott Surovell. Photo courtesy of AFF

Following the panel, Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell spoke on his work to clean up waterways since being elected. Senator Surovell works tirelessly with constituents, and has organized daunting clean ups for creeks throughout Northern Virginia. At one site upstream of the Potomac, 180 shopping carts were pulled out of local creeks in just one year, in addition to plastics, bags, containers, tractor tires, bottles and guns. He shared how much of a shock this was to him and the surrounding communities. Pollution of creeks and streams are a recurring problem for the state, that they are still trying to solve. However, Senator Surovell has gained a lot of knowledge regarding everything trash, and was even crowned the Shopping Cart Warrior of Mount Vernon, Virginia. He hopes to engage younger generations to volunteer and get active to build awareness and promote civic activism throughout the community.  

The Summit also gave special recognition to corporate entities that have a commitment to sustainability. One in particular that stood out to me was MGM National Harbor. MGM, taking up a million square feet of space, collects every single bag of trash and sorts them back of house, so that materials that need to be recycled are recycled. Every bit of food waste that MGM accumulates is taken out and placed in their biodigester. I had no idea that a huge company like MGM would be doing this, and hearing about their dedication pleased me tremendously!

 Lori Arguelles. Photo courtesy of AFF

Lori Arguelles. Photo courtesy of AFF

The conference went over and above my expectations. The Trash Summit opened my eyes further to the universal problem surrounding trash, and left such a powerful mark on me. The businesses who spoke are models for their industry, and I am thankful for their hard work and dedication to help fix this problem. Additionally, there was no better way to end such an impactful conference than giving metal reusable straws to the attendees when one simply, traded in their name tag to be
re-purposed. This was the icing on the cake for me and a fabulous parting gift! I know that I am already looking forward to the next Summit and I highly recommend you experience it for yourself, too. Lori Arguelles, director and CEO of Alice Ferguson Foundation said it best, “There is only so much we can do as community activists, there are only so many laws that you can pass and policies that you can put in place, that, ultimately, without our business partners working in collaboration with our community activists and our nonprofit organizations, are we really gonna get there.”

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Preservation Maryland: Member Highlight

 Photo: Preservation Maryland

Photo: Preservation Maryland

Last month, the Coalition welcomed Preservation Maryland on board as one of our newest members. They are a nonprofit based in Baltimore, Maryland that is dedicated to preserving all of Maryland’s historical sites through advocacy, funding and outreach. We had the pleasure of speaking with Kimberly Brandt, director of Smart Growth Maryland, to find out more on what makes their organization so special.

Tell us about your organization and your mission.

Preservation Maryland is the state’s oldest, largest and most effective preservation organization. Founded in 1931 to protect the best of Maryland, the 87-year old organization has divided its work into several specific categories:

Advocacy: Speaking up and making the case for the policies, programs and funding that make preservation, open space conservation and community revitalization possible.

Outreach & Education: Working to support and empower preservation efforts statewide through coordination, training and direct engagement via our Six-to-Fix program.

Funding: Directly investing in preservation projects through our Heritage Grant Fund, property redevelopment efforts and by working to secure additional private philanthropy in our state’s historic resources.

We consistently work to be a resource for the individuals and grassroots organizations working to save places that matter to their communities. This work takes on many forms, including thousands of hours of technical assistance, capacity building, strategic visioning and establishment of effective partnerships

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

Preservation Maryland is excited about the new Smart Growth Maryland program, which will continue and build upon the work of 1000 Friends of Maryland. The 1000 Friends Board of Directors elected to consolidate with Preservation Maryland earlier this year.

Preservation Maryland was one of the founding organizational members of 1000 Friends of Maryland in 1994 and has been a partner through the years by advocating for the policies and programs that make redevelopment of historic communities and protection of open space a reality.

Preservationists have long made the argument that revitalization of existing communities – and their historic places – is smart growth. When existing communities are revitalized, sprawl development is limited. This symbiotic relationship has kept the smart growth and historic preservation communities advocating on each other’s behalf for many years. The launch of Smart Growth Maryland further solidifies this already strong relationship.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

Many Maryland cities and towns are struggling while forests and farms are lost to new, car- dependent developments. While minimizing the loss of rural land to development continues to be a priority, Smart Growth Maryland will also increase the focus on investment in established communities. Making it easier for developers to do the right thing remains a challenge that must be addressed. The consolidation of 1000 Friends of Maryland with Preservation Maryland – and the creation of Smart Growth Maryland – presents an exciting opportunity to work with our preservation, transportation and environmental protection partners to grow smarter in Maryland.     

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

Many coalition members have long been partners of 1000 Friends of Maryland. We are excited to be continuing these partnerships under the banner of Smart Growth Maryland and to be working to improve the quality of life in our cities and towns, expand transportation choices and protect and maintain Maryland’s natural areas and open spaces.

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

The Upper Susquehanna Forum Experience

It was a crisp fall day in the Upper Susquehanna watershed, but Choose Clean Water Coalition members were just getting warmed up. The State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta, hosted the Third Annual Upper Susquehanna Watershed Forum, “Connecting New York to the Chesapeake”, with nearly 100 advocates, clean water practitioners and agricultural experts coming together to share success stories and to build partnerships.

 Ostego Lake

Ostego Lake

Some of us, who arrived a day early, braved the cold, rainy weather and learned more about the problems and successes facing Otsego Lake – the initial source of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. The members met at SUNY Oneonta’s research and education facility on the shores of Otsego Lake, just outside of Cooperstown, New York, and were afforded a short, but magnificent ride on their research vessel once the rain and sleet had eased up.

The following day, we rolled up our sleeves and prepared ourselves for an outstanding conference. It was time to get down to business. Choose Clean Water was welcomed by the Dean of SUNY Oneonta, and also by Congressman John Faso (R-NY). We expressed Choose Clean Water Coalition’s purpose, efforts and victories. Claire Flynn outlined the opportunities for funding provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and their Chesapeake Stewardship Grants. Wendy Walsh announced all of the great work the Upper Susquehanna Coalition does throughout the upper watershed, and what they can provide to assist others in their endeavors.

Government presence was there throughout, with several local government representatives (elected and appointed) who participated in the symposium. Speakers from NY Department of Environmental Conservation spoke on their achievements in the upper watershed. Mary Gattis, Director of Local Government Programs and Coordinator of the Local Government Advisory of Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, galvanized local government officials to collaborate and work together towards common goals.

What was the juiciest talking-point-of-the-day do you ask? Well, that would be agriculture. The biggest topic of conversation for the forum was agriculture – and a lot of it. Jordan Clements with Otsego County Soil and Water, assembled an excellent panel with enlightening dialogue on the region’s dairy farms featuring Dairy Farms and Farmers as Stewards for Water Protection.

Jordan also put together a field trip, which took place towards the end of the day to a local dairy farm, ran by a young couple who are wonderful stewards of their land and water.

 College Camp

College Camp

We had a couple of excellent presentations highlighting local Coalition members and watersheds – from the Butternut Valley Alliance and the Friends of the Chemung River Watershed. Some of us then learned what Pecha Kuchas are – a timed lightening round of powerpoint presentations where the slides are timed to ensure that the speaker speeds things along. It was not, as at least one of us thought, a less visited ancient site in the Peruvian Andes. These presentations were very well done, quick, and highlighted local projects. We also learned a lot about conservation easements from David Diaz, with the Otsego Land Trust.

A few of us also went for a scenic hike on what SUNY Oneonta calls their College Camp – a beautiful 276 acre wooded parcel of land at the top of a large hill (or small mountain) connected to the main campus.

Partnerships were made and continued – some at the post-conference Happy Hour at a local brewery, which included local dairy products compliments of the American Dairy Association North East. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the work of the Coalition’s new State Outreach Lead for New York, Angela Hotaling with NY League of Conservation Voters, who coordinated all of the planning for this great event. Also a special thanks to Les Hasbargen, a professor at SUNY Oneonta who made the venue available to us.

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And before the day was over, there was a lot of discussion about what to do next year. None of the voices were about whether or not there would be a Fourth Annual Forum, but only about where and when it should be. One thing I know is that I’ll be there.

To simply put it – it was a great day.

Presentations:

New York’s TMDL and the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan

Upper Susquehanna Coalition

Aquatic Vegetation Species Program

From the Top of the Watershed to the Bottom of the Bay

Discovering the Butternut Watershed

Chesapeake Stewardship Grant Program

Otsego County Buffer Program

Citizen Science Stream Monitoring Program

Monitoring Otsego Lake

Discovering the Butternut Watershed via Physical Stream Assessment

Peter Marx is the federal affairs contractor for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Year of the Anacostia: Festival del Rio

Festival del Rio is an event designed to engage the Latino community through free bilingual and family-friendly events. This year they also celebrated the Year of the Anacostia. The event was a way for the Hispanic community to unite with the river and learn more about it.

Organizations like Anacostia Watershed Society, EcoLatinos, Anacostia Riverkeeper, Audubon Naturalist Society, Chesapeake Bay Program and more with similar objectives hosted this third annual celebration. They had government sponsors from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Photography by Taylor Montford

Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: Namati

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Last month, the Coalition had the pleasure of welcoming our first international member, Namati. Based out of Washington, D.C., Namati is a nonprofit organization committed to placing the law in the hands of the people. Namati situates grassroots legal advocates, also known as “community paralegals,” that work to protect citizens from multiple issues. These challenges span from preserving community land, citizen’s rights and health to exposing environmental injustice. They promote learning and collaboration with practitioners in grassroots organizations worldwide and work to advocate for policies and reforms. We spoke to Alayna Chuney, Environmental Justice Consultant for Namati, to learn more about their purpose.

Tell us about your organization and your mission.

Namati is a Sanskrit word that means “to shape something into a curve”. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice”. We call ourselves Namati because we’re dedicated to bending that curve.

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Namati is a global organization dedicated to legal empowerment. We focus on “community paralegals”, sometimes called barefoot lawyers or legal empowerment advocates, who demystify law and help people exercise their rights. Namati works with community paralegals in 8 countries and hosts the Global Legal Empowerment Network, made up of over 1500 groups from 130 countries.

Our mission is to build a global movement of grassroots legal advocates who give people the power to understand, use, and shape the law. These advocates form a dynamic, creative frontline that can squeeze justice out of even broken systems.

Legal empowerment advocates treat their clients as empowered citizens rather than victims requiring an expert service. Instead of “I will solve this problem for you,” our message is: “We will solve this together, and you will grow stronger in the process.”

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

This is Namati’s first attempt to support grassroots legal empowerment in the U.S. We have a huge respect for the environmental justice movement here, and we look forward to working with community activists and organizations that are passionate about the environmental justice movement. Namati seeks innovative ways to develop and manage environmental regulation so that they achieve better environmental compliance. We experiment with interventions at the policy level and with institutions and communities. Our program will focus on environmental justice communities in Maryland and D.C and our goal is to create a case mapping system that will allow organizations to effectively track environmental injustices and figure out the legal tools necessary to redress the issue. 

 What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

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Namati hopes to focus on environmental issues that impact low-income and minority communities. Our main focus right now is clean water and clean air, but we are realizing that safe housing and lead is a big issue in environmental justice communities and may be something in the future that we look at.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

Namati hopes to gain lasting relationships with members of the Coalition. There are a ton of resources that the Coalition provides and we would like to use those resources to help us fulfill our mission of fighting environmental injustices. Being a part of the coalition will also allow us to partner with like-minded organizations and to learn about important issues surrounding clean water.

 Taylor Montford is the communications intern for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Must Be Something In The Water

 The Choose Clean Water Steering Committee meets with members of Warm Springs Watershed Association in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

The Choose Clean Water Steering Committee meets with members of Warm Springs Watershed Association in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

“Without the water, there would be no town.” - Jeanne Mozier, Berkeley Springs resident and historian

While it may seem like we are constantly out of the office, the reality is our Coalition staff are usually stuck behind our desks during the year. Part of my job is to share the great work of our members, but rarely do I get to experience it first hand, which is why I was thrilled to be travelling to meet with some of our members in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia last week. While I knew we were going to be visiting the town and seeing member projects, I had no idea how much I would learn about not only our members but the power of water.

The History

The founding of Berkeley Springs can be traced back to the 1740s, when George Washington was sent to survey the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia for Lord Fairfax. After their discovery, the warm springs were said to have medicinal benefits, and as early as the 1750s large bath houses and hotels began to pop up around the springs. The water became a destination for those seeking treatment for everything from anxiety to diabetes, and was even frequented by Washington himself! To this day, people have come to depend on the springs for not only treating their ailments, but also for their drinking water. As we stood learning about the springs, a line of people began to form to fill their empty gallon jugs at the spring’s spigot. As I stopped to take a photo, the woman in line turned to me and said, “it is the best water in the world.”

Pushing Up Daises

 This rain garden is located at the bottom of Greenway Cemetery in Berkeley Springs. The project was made possible by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

This rain garden is located at the bottom of Greenway Cemetery in Berkeley Springs. The project was made possible by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

All of this said, it probably comes as no surprise that the people who live in Berkeley Springs really value keeping their water clean, which could be why there has been such a push for more green infrastructure in the town. The first such project we toured was installed at Greenway Cemetery. Located just across the street from Warm Springs Run, it is a huge plot with a very steep slope. Certain paths and roads through the cemetery would frequently flood and caused cars to become stuck throughout the property. In 2016, Warm Springs Watershed Association worked with a variety of partners to install a rain garden at the bottom of the hill that collects an estimated 100,000 gallons of stormwater runoff during an average rainfall. Funding for the project was provided by a $50,000 Small Watershed Grant administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (You know, funding that comes from the $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program?), with additional financial support from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the West Virginia Division of Forestry and Region Nine. Over the past five years, more than 100 additional trees have been planted in the cemetery and they recently installed an innovative hügelkultur-inspired project, which may sound like a delicious German pastry, but is actually a project that will help to reduce flooding downstream.

Greening Main Street

 This innovative project helped reduce flooding on one of the main streets in Berkeley Springs.

This innovative project helped reduce flooding on one of the main streets in Berkeley Springs.

The next project we visited was a series of bioretention cells located along the historic main street of town. Recognizing that it would be almost impossible to create bump outs along the road, which is also a federal highway, the city decided to dig down. They installed permeable pavers that collect water underground for the plants in the bioretention cells to soak up, reducing the amount of water that goes directly into stormdrains. Residents in the town have noticed that when it rains, the ends of the road still flood, while this section of the road with the projects stays dry and allows businesses to stay open. The hope is to eventually install more of these projects along the roadway to help keep even more water from flooding the area and flowing directly into the local stream.

They say the springs are restorative, and although I didn’t have the opportunity to jump in, I did leave Berkeley Springs feeling rejuvenated. Being surrounded by our members who care so deeply about these issues helped to remind me why we all do what we do, why we show up, and why we will continue to show up, each and every day for clean water. Must be something in the water.

Kristin Reilly is the senior communications manager for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Member Highlight: The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center

This month, the Coalition welcomed new member The Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center (CBEC), a Maryland-based organization that promotes restoration, education, conservation, and overall stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay Region. With tons of activities for the public, they hope to connect with you. We spoke to Courtney Leigh, director of communications and strategic initiatives, to learn more about the programs and mission of CBEC.

Tell us a little about your organization and mission. 

 Over 600 species of birds call CBEC home throughout the year!

Over 600 species of birds call CBEC home throughout the year!

The Wildfowl Trust of North America Inc. was founded in 1979, with the intent to protect wetlands for waterfowl while maintaining captive waterfowl collections for educational purposes. In 1981, the Trust purchased a 315-acre farm tract in Grasonville, Maryland on which it initially established Horsehead Wetlands Center and opened to the public in 1985. In 1998, the Trust purchased an additional 195 acres and placed the now 510-acre preserve under conservation easement.

In 2002, the Trust revamped its mission to address the issues of declining water quality, urban sprawl and habitat loss and set a goal to be recognized as a leader in environmental education and bay restoration. The site was renamed the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center to reflect the new focus of the mission.

The mission of the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center is to promote stewardship and sustainability through environmental education and habitat restoration.

                                                                                               

 Take a guided kayak tour! 

Take a guided kayak tour! 

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

I am thrilled that CBEC is expanding our Kayak Programs. CBEC believes that accessibility to the waters of the Bay will increase appreciation, knowledge, and stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay Ecosystem. For this reason, CBEC is hosting six ACA Instruction Programs for Kayak Paddling Skills and Assessments in the spring and summer to ensure paddlers have the opportunity to hone paddling technique and learn safety and rescue strategies. I love facilitating this program by developing the instruction courses, promoting the courses, and teaching the instruction courses.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?  

 Become a Maryland Master Naturalist! 

Become a Maryland Master Naturalist! 

In my new role at CBEC as Director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives, I hope to focus on engaging more donors to our contribution base that will allow CBEC to effectively serve as the premier environmental education organization in the Bay watershed and maintain our property as crucial habitat for the wildlife of the watershed, while also offering visitors a chance to eco-recreate!

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition? 

By being a member of the Coalition, I hope to be able to connect with other organizations to find symbiotic partnerships.  I also hope to be able to contribute to initiatives on topics of equity and communications.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern with Choose Clean Water

 

Member Highlight: Cacapon Institute

We had the opportunity to speak to Frank Rodger of Cacapon Institute to learn what makes this organization so wonderful. Not only were they awarded the Arbor Day Foundation’s Headwaters Award, but their continued work in educating the community and youth has made a big difference in their local West Virginia communities.

Tell us about Cacapon Institute, what makes you all unique, and your mission.

Since 1985, from the Cacapon River, to the Potomac, to the Chesapeake Bay, Cacapon Institute has protected rivers and watersheds using science and education.  The Institute is unique because we focus on hands-on education that engages youth and adults in real-world watershed conservation Best Management Practices (BMPs).  BMPs include tree plantings, and installing rain gardens and rain cistern. BMPs reduce non-point source stormwater runoff pollution at the source, before it can reach local streams.  We are a certified West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection laboratory. We do water testing regularly and, like many groups, we teach the importance of watershed protection.  What makes us unique is that, in addition to the instruction, we provide technical and material support so students, watershed associations, and civic organizations can engage directly in watershed protection and restoration.

Cacapon Institute has three hands-on BMP programs.  PHLOW, Potomac Headwaters Leaders of Watershed, began in 2008 teaching “Watershed 101” to students and engaging them in BMP projects at their schools.  Thousands of students have learned the causes of stormwater runoff pollution, solutions to pollutions, and been personally engaged in mitigating runoff pollution.  Students are learning by doing and leading by example to protect rivers and watershed suing science and education.

Cacapon Institute inherited Carla Hardy West Virginia Project CommuniTree in 2011 and we have grown “CTree” into West Virginia’s largest volunteer tree steward program for planting on public lands. We have provided technical and material resources, including more than five-thousand no-cost trees to our volunteers across the eight counties of West Virginia’s Potomac Basin. The Institute is the “urban forestry” lead for the West Virginia Chesapeake Bay Program. Urban forests are the trees we live with, the trees that grace our towns, parks, schools, neighborhoods, and roadsides.

Cacapon Institute’s newest program “Your Community BMP” is engaging private landowners in tree planting and BMPs. The Institute provides planning assistance, education, and material assistance to private homeowners and businesses to help them reduce their “footprint” and better manage their property to have a positive impact to protect local streams, the Potomac, and the Chesapeake Bay. Private landowners in turn contribute financially and invest their time and energy to make their properties more Bay friendly.

Cacapon Institute’s unique blend of arboriculture, conservation BMPs, education, and science combines to engage youth and adults across all walks of life and backgrounds from the Shenandoah Valley, through West Virginia, and into Western Maryland.  We believe that, with education and the requisite technical and material support, private citizens can have the greatest positive impact to protect and restore local waters, the Potomac, and Chesapeake Bay.

What does receiving the Headwaters Award mean to you all?

 Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute

Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Headwaters Award is the greatest honor ever bestowed on Cacapon Institute.  In 2008, Cacapon Institute won first place in the North American Adobe/Tech Soup “Show You Impact” design contest for “Environmental Impact.”  In recent years, the Institute has received the Chesapeake Bay Program’s “Forest Champion” and The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture’s “Green Leaf.”  West Virginia DEP recognized Cacapon Institute as a “State Champion for Partnership Building.”

In all our years, the most heartfelt recognition Cacapon Institute has received came from Finley’s Green Leap Forward. Elizabeth Finley Broaddus, an 18 year-old student at Highland School with plans to attend the College of William and Mary received the terrible news that she had a rare form of terminal cancer, Cholangiocarcinoma.  As she battled the incurable disease, Miss Broaddus set up Finley’s Green Leap Forward to “support local and global efforts that have a positive impact on the environment, moving us forward towards a healthy, sustainable planet.”  Shortly before passing, for Earth Day 2014, Miss Broaddus selected her first two “Green Leap” grantees, Cacapon Institute in West Virginia and The Green Belt Movement in Nairobi, Kenya.  Every day, we draw strength and inspiration from this heartwarming recognition from a powerful young lady.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future (500 words or less)?

 Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute 

Photo courtesy of Cacapon Institute 

We will continue to protect rivers and watershed using science and education.  We will to expand Carla Hardy West Virginia Project CommuniTree to reach ever more communities and organizations.  Your Community BMP will engage more individuals and strengthen community organizations interested in environmental protection.  Hands-on engagement is the best way to teach the science of watershed protection and educate the public on the importance of personal action to protect the environment.

PHLOW has been teaching school students, at the classroom level, since 2008.  Going forward we want to see Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences become systemic in West Virginia’s Potomac Basin.  As we continue to work with individual teachers and classrooms, we will reach further to engage entire schools and, eventually, we will engage county school boards to make environmental education part of regular curriculum.  Moving environmental education into the mainstream of county programing will ensure all our youth are engaged and learn the value of river and watershed protection.

For more information on Cacapon Institute, contact Frank Rodger.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water

 

 

Member Highlight: Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper is a well-known group to those of us in the Bay watershed. Championing clean water for the Mid-Susquehanna area, they pioneer education programs of many kinds - including the education of their "Little Keeper" sewage sniffing puppy Sussey. We spoke to Carol Parenzan, riverkeeper, to learn more about the organizations work and how her one woman team is changing the Susquehanna.

In one sentence describe your mission as a group:

Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® is the WATERKEEPER® Alliance-licensed voice advocating for clean water in the headwaters section of the Susquehanna River watershed, defined by the North and West Branches of the Susquehanna River, an approximate 11,000 square-mile area in North-central Pennsylvania.

Tell us a little about your work with Loyalsock Creek and what it took to help make it Pennsylvania’s River of the Year?

The Loyalsock Creek is a 64-mile-long treasure in a sparsely populated mountainous section of the Susquehanna River watershed, flowing southerly to the West Branch Susquehanna River. With the recognition of Pennsylvania’s 2018 River of the Year, this local legend will now receive state-wide focus, drawing visitors to the watershed for recreation while advancing economic development for the residents and businesses in the area.

To receive this honor, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), in partnership with Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds and Rivers (POWR), solicited nominations from organizations around the state in support of select watersheds. Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® Association, Inc., in partnership with Loyalsock Creek Watershed Association, submitted an application for Loyalsock Creek.

 Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

From many nominations, five waterways were selected, including Loyalsock Creek. For about four weeks, the public was invited to cast one vote per email address for their favorite waterway (river, stream, creek, lake). At the end of the voting period, Loyalsock Creek surged ahead, surpassing the other nominees from more populated areas of the state, and was formally recognized as the River of the Year.

This popularity contest for River of the Year has not been the creek’s only “challenge.” Logging stripped the mountains of its native natural resources, and its headwaters were impacted by coal-mining activity and now receive treatment for abandoned mine drainage (AMD) issues. The watershed sits in the heart of the Marcellus play and the area is home to active natural gas development including wells, access roads, and pipelines. In October 2016, an extreme weather event contributed to the rupture of a c.1937 gasoline pipeline, releasing an operator estimate of 50,000 gallons into the exceptional value trout stream, and causing wide-spread bank erosion and stabilization issues and road and bridge closures. And, in 2017, a 60,000-gallon flowback spill off an active natural gas well pad found its way into a tributary of the Loyalsock.

But the positives outweigh the negatives, as the Loyalsock Creek is home to the rare hellbender, one of the state’s most popular state parks – Worlds End State Park, the 60-mile Loyalsock Trail (and its breathtaking vistas), premier bird-watching spots, and historic covered bridges. For me as the Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®, it is that go-to spot when I need to regroup and re-energize. It reminds me of why I do the work I do.

With this 2018 recognition, Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® will work to create opportunities for community members to connect with the creek. In addition to a paddling adventure, other programs include a music and arts festival, a family science day along the creek, small business spotlights, a floating classroom, a wellness workshop, educational walks and talks, a historic covered bridges tour, an artist residency with elementary school students, a youth fishing day, and even river snorkeling to take a peek beneath the surface.

The overall goal is to then transfer this local recognition and watershed appreciation to the larger geographic region that defines the work of Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER®.  We all deserve swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters in Pennsylvania, on the Loyalsock Creek and throughout the watershed of the Mighty Susquehanna River.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

One of our current focus areas is environmental justice, working with communities that have been historically underserved, such as the coal-mining communities.

First, Shamokin, an economically depressed but once prosperous city in the watershed, is my family’s home – but not where I was born or raised – that was in the “Willy Wonka World” of Hershey (Pennsylvania). My family moved from Shamokin to Hershey before I was born but family took me back to Shamokin on a regular and consistent basis.

 Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Photo courtesy of Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

As a child growing up witnessing these two geographic and economic extremes , it was difficult to understand why the Shamokin area creeks ran red, the coal-waste mountains were high and black and supported little life, and my cousins living in Shamokin had vastly different opportunities than I did in Hershey. This realization is what pushed me down the path of environmental engineering. I wanted to build a change.

I believe that everyone deserves to be an active player in creating this change, including our prison population. Last summer we launched our Environmental Steward Prison Pilot Project, where for one week, I was in residency with six inmates in a remote section of the watershed. They were my partners for the week. And although I shared my knowledge with them about water quality, macroinvertebrates, and community leadership in environmental stewardship, they taught me – about the fear of water and the darkness of the woods, about not being heard or recognized, and about the will to be the difference. Two of the six “residents” had never placed their toes in freshwater. The concept was foreign to them. By the end of the week, they were relaxing on boulders in the river, writing in their nature journals, exploring environmental career options upon their imminent release, and preparing to head home to be community leaders and protect their precious water resources. We will be returning in August for another week of partnership. We are also exploring hosting a green jobs fair for all of 500 prisoners at this facility. The world needs them, and they need to be a critical component of our environmental movement. It’s a global second chance.

Our work also focuses on engaging our youth that reside in underserved communities throughout the watershed. We work with them through schools, summer camps, and youth organizations, looking for opportunities to give them experiences, such as kayaking, fishing, and environmental exploration, that they may not have otherwise. Last summer, for example, using the flume lab at Bucknell University, we worked with underserved youth to create a whitewater kayak course and then transferred that experiential knowledge to our own river and witnessed the impact of local bridge construction. Through a scholarship program, we will be taking a contingency of teenagers on our River of the Year paddle. We are looking forward to this day on the water with them.
 

Now that you have been appointed to the State’s Environmental Justice Advisory Board (EJAB), how will the work you do change? What new role will you be playing in local environmental work?

First, we are not Philadelphia. We are not Pittsburgh. We are an area that includes a significant poor, working white population. We are not the typical face of environmental justice, and that brings about its own set of challenges as our struggles are not always acknowledged. We’re working to change that.

But, my role for the present is that of a student. I have much to learn about the history of the Pennsylvania Environmental Justice movement and the Board’s vision for its future.

The Advisory Board meets in person four times a year. I have now attended two of these meetings and have walked away inspired and energized. My colleagues are my teachers. I welcome their instruction. And I am depending on their guidance.

 Photo of Sussey, the "Little Keeper"

Photo of Sussey, the "Little Keeper"

As a member of EJAB, it is not my role to be the voice of my communities but to assist them in finding their voices. For now, I am uncovering those potential voices and partnering with them to share the message and engage in change.

This appointment also influenced our recent office relocation. We have purposely placed ourselves in the environmental justice community of Sunbury, where approximately 24 percent of the population lives at or below poverty level. Our new digs puts us along the Susquehanna River at the confluence of the West and North Branches. We are marketing it as the “Gateway to the Headwaters of the Mighty Susquehanna.”

At this location, we encourage community members to visit with us. We have created a resource library and we host nature book club gatherings there as another open door. (Our first book was The Riverkeepers by John Cronin and Robert Kennedy Jr., the leader of the Waterkeeper movement.) This location also allows me (and my conservation canine “Little Keeper” Susquehanna, who is being trained to detect sewage leaks in the watershed) to take walks along the river throughout the day and engage in conversations with community residents and business leaders. Wonderful words are exchanged when gazing at the water.

But being in Sunbury in the heart of historically disproportionate opportunity also provides us the entry to engage in conversations about economic development and entrepreneurship. Part of my background includes entrepreneurial consulting and teaching business development skills through a global consortium of over 2,700 colleges and universities. I want to bring this knowledge home to our watershed and work with residents to create businesses that will support growth up and down the river. We also want to extend this entrepreneurial movement to the prisons. We are in the beginning stages of developing an eco-preneurship program for prisoners to offer “green” business planning guidance and mentorship.

We have much work to do.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

There is nothing stronger than partnership and collaboration. As water warriors, our collective words are more persuasive, our actions more noticeable, and our energy amplified. Together, we give voice to clean water and the Chesapeake Bay.

As an organization of one person, I rely on the strength of many, especially my Coalition colleagues. I could not begin to do this work on my own – from your providing legislative updates and lobbying opportunities, crafting letters of support, partnering for legal guidance, offering ongoing professional education and updates, and more. Did I mention encouragement? Yes, encouragement. Thank you for your encouragement!

I regret that I can’t be more active with the many programs spearheaded by the Coalition. It is difficult at times to be on conference calls (especially when I’m in a mountainous non-cell-service area) or to attend in-person gatherings in the Bay area due to the distance. But I think of you often and read the minutes and reports as they appear in my inbox.

As I grow more comfortable in my role as the Middle Susquehanna RIVERKEEPER® and as a member of the CCWC, I hope to mentor the next new water warrior in the group. We all live both upstream and downstream, and this includes the flow of knowledge.

And I do look forward to my time with all of the CCWC members, and I’ll be welcoming “you-ins” (that’s coal-cracker talk) to Pennsylvania in May for the annual conference. We’ll know if you’re native or not by the way you pronounce Lancaster or how you respond when we ask you to “outen the lights.” Till then, thank you! Safe travels to Pennsylvania.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water.

 

Member Highlight: Baltimore Tree Trust

This week we are pleased to highlight Baltimore Tree Trust - an urban forestry group located in one of the most metropolitan parts of Maryland. We spoke to Sheila McMenamin, director of programs at Baltimore Tree Trust, to learn more about what their goals are and how they intend to make Baltimore a greener city. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Baltimore Tree Trust (BTT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2009 to make Baltimore a greener and healthier place to live. Our mission is to restore Baltimore’s urban forest through increased tree planting, community engagement, and advocacy. Since our inception, BTT has planted over 4,000 trees on private property and in disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City.

 Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

The Tree Trust spearheads efforts to achieve Baltimore’s 40 percent urban tree canopy goal by methodically planting up neighborhoods that have few existing trees, while engaging community leaders and stakeholders in the planting and sustainable maintenance of trees.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

We are really excited to be kicking off our pilot workforce development program in the fall of 2018, called the Urban Roots Apprenticeship. This full-time, 6-week program will focus on developing our city’s green workforce--individuals who plant and maintain Baltimore’s tree canopy. The tree care industry is a growing workforce, and there are ample companies looking for skilled workers. We are excited to train individuals in a way that properly prepares them for a career in this industry.

 Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

Photo courtesy of Baltimore Tree Trust

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We are interested in getting more involved with local policy and urban planning, and seeing where we can be stronger advocates for tree planting and maintenance. If we can incorporate tree planting into early-stage planning for urban development projects, we can ensure that all neighborhoods have access to the countless benefits of a tree canopy.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

We are eager to be involved with a network of organizations and individuals who are passionate about our environment, but more so, how to bring that passion to all. There are so many potential ways in which we can intersect and support each other’s work, and we are excited to see what those possibilities are.

Mary Katherine Sullivan is an intern at Choose Clean Water.

Member Highlight: Civil War Trust

One of the joys of being a coalition of over 230 members is the opportunity to see how our collective mission can be shared among a diverse set of organizations.  One may not immediately guess that the Civil War Trust would be a member of the Coalition, but their work towards land preservation and safeguarding green spaces makes them a perfect fit. We spoke to Paul Coussan of the D.C. organization to get a better idea of how The Civil War Trust and the Choose Clean Water Coalition may have more in common than one might think. 

  Photo courtesy  of the Civil War Trust.

Photo courtesy of the Civil War Trust.

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Civil War Trust is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to the preservation of America’s hallowed battlegrounds.  Although primarily focused on the protection of Civil War battlefields, the Trust also seeks to save the battlefields connected to the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.  Through educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives, the Trust seeks to inform the public about the vital role these battlefields played in determining the course of our nation’s history. To date, the Trust has saved more than 47,000 acres of core battlefield in 25 states, including thousands of acres within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed – at Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Malvern Hill, Appomattox, Antietam, Monocacy, Cold Harbor and Manassas to name just a few.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

The Trust has long been at the forefront of creating online educational resources for the study of Civil War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields. We are constantly rolling out new resources – animated battle maps, battle apps for smart phones, videos and web content – to aid heritage tourists, educators and students about these wars. We also continue to preserve key battlefields from the first century of our nation’s history, at Revolutionary War sites throughout the Southern Campaign, at War of 1812 battlefields in New York, and in Civil War Battlefields throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, from Manassas, to Monocacy. Additionally, the Trust is working with the Culpepper, Virginia, community and the Commonwealth’s General Assembly to create a Brandy Station and Cedar Mountain State Park. In addition to interpretive trails and other outdoor activities, we hope to include kayaking along the Rappahannock River as a key recreational component of the park.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

While the Trust remains laser focused on our mission to preserve Civil War, War of 1812 and Revolutionary War Battlefields, we focus a great deal of our efforts on education and interpretation. We are constantly creating new platforms to educate about these wars and how they shaped and continue to shape the nation we are today. Through our new Generations programs, the Trust encourages families to visit battlefields together, and for adults to bring their children and grandchildren to explore a battlefield together.  The Trust is also exploring new ways to market these battlefields to encourage visitors young and old to explore these sites. America’s battlefields - when properly preserved, interpreted, and promoted — provide unparalleled opportunities to inspire new generations of American citizens. We are engaged in finding new ways to inspire more Americans to connect with, learn from, and experience firsthand the authentic places where history happened.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The Trust has a long history of working with partner groups across the spectrum, from historic preservation groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, to land groups like the Trust for Public Lands, to clean water groups like the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Through these partnerships, the Trust is able to help identify ways in which these organizations can work together to achieve similar goals – preserving our history, safeguarding our green spaces, protecting our environment. In its efforts to preserve historic open space for use as outdoor classrooms, the Trust seeks to build partnerships across the spectrum to preserve the open spaces where Americans fought and died to make the nation we are today, while ensuring these sites are accessible and open to the public to give everyone an opportunity to explore these outdoor classrooms.

For more information about the Civil War Trust, contact Paul Coussan

Member Highlight: ShoreRivers

In 2017, three groups from Maryland came together to form ShoreRivers -the Chester River Association (CRA), Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC), and Sassafras River Association (SRA). ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through community education, advocacy, and restoration of wetlands. Merging organizations can be tricky – however, these three have done an exceptional job of it. United, they are able to harness the collective power of their organizations and bring together more than 3,500 supporters who are passionate about improving their local rivers and streams. We spoke to Tim Junkins, communications director of ShoreRivers, to learn more about this newly formed organization.

So Tim, what brought your three specific groups together? What was the common ground?

All three groups come out of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and focus on agricultural pollution which is a huge issue in the area. We all concentrated in on rural areas as our hubs of work. This merger was actually a long time coming, when some of our major funders began to dry up, it was suggested that the time might be right to explore coming together in a more serious way.

Why are nonprofit mergers important to completing larger goals?

Smaller organizations coming together, pooling their resources, really creates a greater presence for these groups in the community – we especially wanted to have more standing in Annapolis. By becoming a larger group we are able to move from regional funding to national funding, opening up many more opportunities. Larger funding equals larger projects and the sum of all of us is greater than the individual parts.

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What has been the most difficult part of a merger and what has been the most rewarding part?

Well, people/groups are emotionally invested in particular constituents, as well as have pride in their organizations as individuals. These groups are often, reasonably so, worried about losing their distinct connections with the river communities. It’s challenging to bring together everyone in a way that highlights separate strengths. There is tremendous excitement building over the merger, the new name, and new logo – really makes ShoreRivers feel more complete. We also are focusing in on keeping our connections to local watersheds, fostering those relationships, as well as keeping River-keepers in each area.

If there was one piece of advice or a lesson learned on mergers from this experience, what would it be?

It’s very important to involve each group and treat everyone as an equal part – no matter how small or large the group is coming in. For example, Midshore Riverkeeper was significantly larger than Chester or Sassafras - however, as a part of ShoreRivers, we have to make sure to share in influence equally. This creates a healthy partnership, and likely a longer lasting one as well. Also taking things at a good pace, taking your time. This merger took 6-7 months to really get going. Create confidence, create trust between everyone.

Are there any events you all have coming up or extra facts that the community should know about?

Most of our big events just passed actually, we had a merger press release this past season! We do have a film festival going on this coming February, and then our next major event will be in April, after the holidays/winter. I also wanted to highlight that ShoreRivers will have 17 full time staff members and a new board of leaders combined from all of the groups – 15 people including 5 local farmers. Our new main office will be in Easton, with smaller offices in Chester and Sassafras.

For any more questions about ShoreRivers, feel free to explore their website or contact Tim Junkins.

 

 

Member Highlight: Lancaster County Conservancy

Our most recent member highlight goes to Lancaster County Conservancy (LCC), a Pennsylvania based group working towards cleaner water in the Lancaster region. With over 2,600 members, they work hard to ensure and secure a healthier future for the environment of Pennsylvania.The Conservancy is governed by an 18 person board of directors who have responsibility for the direction of the LCC, all chosen by the community. We spoke to Fritz Schroeder about what makes this organization so important and why they need your support. 

Tuquan-Glen-stream.jpg

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

The Lancaster County Conservancy’s mission is Saving Nature – Providing wild and forested lands and clean waterways for our community. The Conservancy was founded as a land trust in 1969 by local hunters and fisherman who were concerned about the loss of natural lands. Today the Conservancy owns over 5,000 acres, 40+ miles of trails, and 35+ miles of streams. In addition to land protection we have three departments that focus on: stewardship to ensure ecological function, management and care of the 5,000+ acres, education to instill a passion for nature that ensures the ongoing care of our wild lands for generations to come and Urban Greening, which focuses specifically on clean water infrastructure issues urban and suburban areas of Lancaster County.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

Lancaster Water Week presented by the Lancaster Conservancy is entering its 2nd year, June 1 – 9, 2018. This event focuses in on the way water connects us all - celebrating the unique waterways of Lancaster County, educating the public about the challenges we face and opportunities we can create, and activating people to get involved in their watershed community. We also have First Friday in Downtown Lancaster, which is the official kick off to Lancaster Water Week. This event celebrates art in the community, connecting local culture with local environmental issues.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We hope to continue our preservation of protected areas, while strengthening community involvement. Our Urban Greening Program and Best Management Practice education require continuous effort and growth to make a difference, and we look forward to expanding this into a greener Lancaster. The Lancaster County Conservancy is also expanding its outreach in 2018 to target a family and millennial audience.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The conference has been invaluable in growing our knowledge about Bay wide issues and we’ve met many wonderful professionals. We are more than excited to be hosting the conference once again here in the City of Lancaster in 2018 and can’t wait to share our community with new and old friends. 

For more info, contact Fritz Schroeder, director of urban greening.

Member Highlight: Rock Creek Conservancy

As the only organization solely dedicated to Rock Creek, Rock Creek Conservancy plays a huge role in protecting and improving the creek's health. Development around Rock Creek threatens the water quality that even a boarder of park land cannot fully control. Thanks to Rock Creek Conservancy, the community has become more educated and aware of how they affect this local oasis. We spoke to Katy Cain, the Conservancy's communication guru, about what makes this organization so incredible. 

rockcreek.jpg

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Unless you live in Washington, D.C., chances are you aren’t familiar with Rock Creek. The section of Rock Creek that you might know is Rock Creek Park, America’s first urban National Park, which is housed entirely within D.C. and taken care of by our partners at the National Park Service. People use the park daily to play, to commute, to learn, and to escape the non-stop motion of America’s most powerful city.  

Rock Creek Park by itself is more than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, but the actual creek is even bigger. It starts as a spring on an unassuming golf course in Laytonsville, MD, and winds 33 miles south, through Montgomery County, MD and Washington, D.C., to the Potomac River. The creek’s watershed is made up of 77.4 sq miles of primarily urban landscape, all of which impacts the health of the creek.

Rock Creek has been important to people for centuries, but such an old urban park comes with unique problems that will only get worse without our help. Heavy litter, invasive species, erosion, and stormwater pollution are just some of the things that put the health of the creek’s ecosystem at risk.

That’s where Rock Creek Conservancy comes in. The Conservancy, originally called “Friends of Rock Creek’s Environment (FORCE),” was founded in 2005 by a group of concerned citizens on a mission to protect Rock Creek and its park lands as a natural oasis for all people to appreciate and protect.  In order to ensure the health of Rock Creek, we take a system-wide approach, working throughout the entire Rock Creek watershed to address the challenges that the creek faces.

To realize our mission, we run four overarching programs: volunteering, youth education, restoration, and advocacy. We mobilize over 5,000 volunteers annually to restore Rock Creek, making up 42 percent of all volunteers who work in Rock Creek Park NPS. Our programs tap into the rich tapestry of people who reside in Washington D.C. and Maryland, so that together we can create a culture of environmental stewardship that lasts for generations. Through these programs we plant rain gardens, install rain barrels, remove invasive species, engage communities, pick up trash, and so much more.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

One project that has us excited is the Rock Creek Conservation Corps (RC3), which is a part of our youth education efforts. This past summer was our third year running RC3, which employs (yes, employs) students from District high schools to work on conservation projects throughout the Rock Creek watershed.

The 4-week program is intense, requiring RC3 crewmembers to work in teams to remove invasive plants, install stormwater management infrastructure, and maintain trails. But the crew members learn more than how to use tools and build berms; they develop essential leadership skills and engage with their communities both in person and through social media.

The past two years we have also included a Green Jobs Panel, which brought the crew members face-to-face with successful people who work in or around conservation. By meeting people who look like them at different stages in their careers, the crew members see that there are many legitimate options to continue making a difference beyond the work they do with RC3.

This year the program doubled from 20 to 40 students, and we have plans for it to expand to 60 in the summer of 2018. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for our crew members and for this program.  

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

Did you know that Rock Creek has a raw sewage problem? D.C.’s sewers are directly connected to drains and downspouts, which are in turn connected to the local water treatment plant and, in the case of overflows, Rock Creek and the Potomac River.

This means that when it rains heavily, the sewers can overflow, and D.C.’s favorite parks and waterways can end up full of raw sewage. As long as this issue persists, the creek will not be completely safe for humans and wildlife.

We are currently working to “Drain the Rain” with DC Water’s Downspout Disconnection Program, which will disconnect people’s downspouts from the sewer system. This will reduce the chances of an overflow event. A pilot project to assess the efficacy of this plan has just concluded, and we are hoping to focus more on this issue as we expand the project into phase two.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

We believe that local action can lead to global change, but we know that the only way to do that is to work with like-minded organizations and people. The Choose Clean Water Coalition helps to do that by pulling all of the talent in these smaller watershed groups together to work towards a common goal. By getting us all on the same page about important issues, we are able to communicate more effectively and ultimately affect a larger change in the world.

For more information on Rock Creek Conservancy, contact Katy Cain

Member Highlight: Lackawanna River Conservation Association

 Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

Photo: Lackawanna River Conservation Association 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) prides itself in years of river clean up and watershed protection, specifically focusing on the Lackawanna River. They envision a community of consciously planned neighborhoods, a healthy river, sustainable industry, and multi-generational environmental support. We were excited to hear back from the LRCA director Bernie McGurl on what makes this organization such an important part of our Coalition. 

Tell us about your organization and your mission: 

The Lackawanna River Conservation Association, known to members and friends as the LRCA, just celebrated its 30th anniversary as a community based watershed conservation organization. Our mission is to promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the Lackawanna River and its watershed resources. We accomplish our mission by involving the community with projects and activities that are mutually beneficial to the community and the river.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

We are conducting a “Water Quality Awareness” Public Outreach and Education Program (POEP) in 15 local municipalities in collaboration with the Lackawanna River Basin Sewer Authority. LRCA Staff and Volunteers attend community events, firemen’s picnics and festivals. We set up an outreach table under a popup canopy of festival tent and distribute water quality protection literature; How to booklets for installing rain barrels and rain gardens. We further engage the public in conversations about our river, its watershed and how we all can be better stewards of our local environment. These POEP events also provide us an opportunity to promote the establishment of a regional Stormwater Management Authority to consolidate MS4 responsibilities and build greater financial and management capacity into one central agency. We suggest in personal discussion taxpayer to taxpayer that centralized management of stormwater can save tax dollars and provide better service to local residents and businesses.Our response from the public and individual elected officials has been very supportive of the concept. We are still working to obtain a consensus among the 30 or so separate local municipalities to engender the intergovernmental agreements to bring a new stormwater agency into existence. We are optimistic that we will succeed in the long turn.

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

We announced a few weeks ago at our 30th Anniversary Celebration Dinner that we were initiating a Ten Year, One Million Dollar Watershed Conservation Fund Campaign beginning in 2018. The announcement was greeted with a rousing round of applause from a room filled with nearly 200 members, donors and sponsors. We are engaged in a determined effort to recruit and involve younger members of our community to become involved with our mission as members, volunteers and donors, The goal of our Fund Campaign it to establish a financial foundation to transition our staff leadership and retain new younger leadership with a more secure funding base to support family sustaining salaries for new staff that is competitive with other regional not for profit conservation agencies.When we created the LRCA in 1987 we developed a master plan to restore our river that had been damaged by 150 years of coal mining and industrialization. We have engendered a remarkable recovery of water and habitat quality along our river in the past 30 years. However, there is still a long list of unmet needs in our watershed for mine land and mine drainage reclamation, improvements to our ageing water and sewer infrastructure and conservation protection and acquisition of critical watershed lands. Our new fund campaign will help build our organization’s capacity to continue addressing these needs and our mission over the next 30 years.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The LRCA has been a member of the Clean Water Coalition for the past seven years. The Coalition continues to offer a way to engage with other local community based stakeholders across the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Coalition provides opportunities to share information, educate others and become educated ourselves on a wide range of water resource issues. Membership in the Coalition provides opportunities to network with individuals and organizations working with common values to address our civic responsibilities for water resource conservation in non-ideological ways. We believe the our membership in the Coalition provides us with a collective, moderate, responsible and respected voice on clean water issues that can be heard clearly and distinctly in Washington and in our state capitols. 

For more information on the Lackawanna River Conservation Association, contact Bernie McGurl.

Member Highlight: FracTracker Alliance

Oil and gas development is a major issue across the country and something the Coalition has prioritized in our work. With issues like pipeline development and fracking in the news almost everyday, it is important now more than ever for the Coalition to be kept up-to-date on the threats we face. This is why we are excited to welcome FracTracker Alliance to the Choose Clean Water Coalition! Read on to learn how their expertise and tools may be able to help you in your future work!

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

FracTracker Alliance studies, maps, and communicates the risks of oil and gas development to protect our planet and support the renewable energy transformation. We got our start as a project of the University of Pittsburgh in 2010. Now a registered 501(c)3, FracTracker has offices in Camp Hill, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, DC; Cleveland, OH; Ithaca, NY; and Oakland, CA.

As our tagline – insights empowering action – suggests, our work in communities aids local groups with information critical to their fights against the impacts of extreme energy extraction. We examine impacts and risks related to oil and gas wells, injection wells, pipelines, sand mines, landfills, refineries, and many other types of energy infrastructure. More recently, we have begun to investigate the data and opportunities that surround renewable energy. Learn more at fractracker.org.

What is one of your current projects you are the most excited about?

This spring we released a major update to our free mobile FracTracker app for tracking oil and gas development activities and associated impacts. We have been working on the update for some time, and I’m very excited to see it get off the ground. Oil and gas infrastructure - from wells to pipelines to refineries - has a variety of ways of affecting the communities and environment that surround it. The app facilitates the documentation and sharing of these experiences with others, serving as a tracking tool for reporters, residents, researchers, and groups concerned about the deleterious effects of this industry. In addition to an improved oil and gas map showing active wells and pipelines across the country, we have added an activity feed and a profile feature into the mobile app. 

In the next few months we will be working with a variety of partners to crowdsource oil and gas infrastructure and impacts using the app. In Maryland, for example, we are partnering with a local non-profit this fall to help residents document health concerns. With National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) we hope to work with volunteers to document oil and gas pipeline risks and impacts along the Appalachian Trail, similar to work we did with NPCA in 2016 in Mesa Verde National Park. You can learn more about the app on our website: fractracker.org/apps

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

FracTracker has covered oil and gas pipeline and pipeline rights-of-way issues, but we think the topic deserves even more of our attention. We hope to collaborate with more regional organizations to provide mapping and analyses that will benefit their advocacy and policy objectives. We also plan to look into ways we can highlight renewable energy opportunities so people better understand that there are safer, cleaner, and accessible alternatives to fossil fuels. Our mobile app may be a helpful tool in many of these exercises.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

The Coalition is packed with talented, committed organizations doing impressive work to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In some cases, we may be able to supplement their work with the technical resources we provide, but we can also share and disseminate their successes or findings through guest blog posts and other means. Working in partnership, we know much can be accomplished. Through the Coalition, we can broaden our relationships, assist other groups, and aggregate knowledge to inform and inspire many.

For more information on the FracTracker Alliance, contact Sam Rubright.

Member Highlight: Upstream Alliance

 Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

We all love getting out on the water and enjoying this incredible Chesapeake Bay watershed that we are working so hard to protect, so why not have an organization dedicated to doing just that! Meet the Upstream Alliance, and their Program Director Erica Baugh. The name may sound familiar, and that's because environmental education is in her blood. Don Baugh, president and founder of the Upstream Alliance, spent 38 years directing environmental education programs at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. We asked Erica to tell us a little more about the organization and how they hope to work with Choose Clean Water in the future.

Tell us about your organization and your mission:

Upstream Alliance is a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting people to nature. We dream of a healthy relationship between people and the environment, where people understand and care for nature, making the world a healthier place for all inhabitants. Upstream Alliance’s mission is to provide significant outdoor environmental education experiences to prepare the next generation to be leaders and stewards of a sustainable environment.

What is one of your current projects that you are the most excited about?

One of our current programs, Conservation Expeditions, has recently been gaining a lot of traction and has successfully been expanding to our target audience. This expedition centered program is based on an existing network of distinguished Chesapeake Bay conservation leaders. The network will grow to include emerging leaders and ecosystems beyond the Chesapeake Bay region. Conservation Expeditions provide first-person experiences in an outdoor setting, as well as professional development and networking opportunities. We hope they will lead to advances in environmental education, and policy initiatives to help preserve the Bay and other coastal ecosystems.

Within the network, participants will become increasingly engaged over time. This will be achieved with emerging leaders growing and developing through professional relationships, eventually becoming distinguished leaders able to mentor and coach new leaders.

We have begun by seeking emerging leaders from environmental and conservation groups, philanthropic organizations, government agencies, and private corporations. We anticipate focusing our audience over time, as well as broadening the geographic locales where we work. We will pursue ethnic and racial diversity—traditionally a challenge in environmental work. 

Upstream Alliance led three highly successful spring trips:

1)      April 21-23, Delaware River, Theme: Celebrating the Clean Water Act on Earth Day Weekend (28 participants)

2)      May 5-7, Potomac River, Theme: Political Leadership, Looking Back and Forward (27 participants)

3)      June 9-11, Delaware Bay, Theme: Horseshoe Crabs (31 participants)

What issue area do you hope to focus on more of in the future?

 Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Photo Credit: Upstream Alliance

Upstream Alliance is gearing up to put a significant amount of energy into the Superintendents’ Environmental Education Collaborative (SEEC). SEEC was developed to take advantage of the interest in environmental education fostered by many school systems, and by the federal government’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Upstream Alliance launched the collaborative to help school superintendents advance environmental education and leverage opportunities provided by ESSA.

The purpose of SEEC is to create model environmental education programs that can be replicated across the nation. School superintendents learn about grant opportunities through ESSA, best practices for environmental education, and strategies for implementing plans. Superintendents network with each other through conference calls, webinars, and short wilderness outings during the annual conference of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

At the last conference in March 2017, 93 education leaders attended an immersion field trip and 60 superintendents attended a conference session that SEEC sponsored. These education leaders learned about model programs, partnerships and opportunities to advance environmental education in school systems. During the conference, 19 superintendents agreed to be state champions, leading and disseminating information to their respective states. In the next year, Upstream Alliance hopes to gain interest and action from additional superintendents that are invested in advancing environmental education in their community.

What do you hope to gain from being a member of the Coalition?

Upstream Alliance is delighted to be a member of the Clean Water Coalition in order to help support clean and healthy waterways. We see tremendous value in collaboration around shared goals. The Clean Water Coalition does a great job of uniting and advocating for healthy water through coordinated messaging. We appreciate the information dispersed on how we can participate, collaborate, and support the restoration of Chesapeake Bay waterways.

For more information on the Upstream Alliance, please contact Erica Baugh.

Member Highlight: Ducks Unlimited

Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing wetland and waterfowl habitats.

Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13.8 million acres thanks to nearly $3.5 billion in contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent.

DU got its start nearly 80 years ago during the Dust Bowl era, when North America’s drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows. Determined not to sit idly by as the continent’s waterfowl dwindled beyond recovery, a small group of sportsmen joined together to form an organization that became known as Ducks Unlimited. Its mission: habitat conservation.

The benefits of that habitat conservation work stretch beyond waterfowl. More than 900 species of wildlife live in freshwater and saltwater wetlands. Also, more than one-third of species on the endangered species list rely in some parts on wetlands.

The impacts to people of wetland conservation are immense. Wetlands improve the overall health of our environment by recharging and purifying groundwater, moderating floods and reducing soil erosion. Wetlands soak up contaminants caused by rainwater runoff, keeping waters clear for recreation and drinking.

Unfortunately, the United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands, and tens of thousands of wetland acres continue to be lost—at an accelerating rate—each year.

In the Chesapeake Bay watershed, DU is focusing on protecting and restoring wetlands that offer the best opportunities for improving the overall health of the bay.

DU is able to deliver its work through a series of partnerships with private individuals, landowners, agencies, scientific communities and other entities, such as the Choose Clean Water Coalition. Ducks Unlimited is a grassroots, volunteer-based organization. Its members are conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts who live primarily throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Its conservation programs have always had a strong biological foundation. That science and research tradition continues today with hundreds of studies to address the habitat needs of waterfowl. Although a great deal of work has been done and many important questions answered, there is still much to learn about how the birds respond to landscape, habitat and environmental changes.

DU has embraced an approach of constant monitoring and evaluation which allows for continual refinement of its habitat programs. In the end, such an approach ensures that each and every dollar invested in conservation programs is used as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Ducks Unlimited Canada, Ducks Unlimited de Mexico and Wetlands America Trust are committed to making DU's vision of abundant wetlands a reality through the "Rescue Our Wetlands: Banding Together for Waterfowl" campaign. The $2 billion continental campaign was launched in 2015 and is more than halfway toward reaching its goal.