Member Highlight

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. 

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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. 

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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.