Over the past month, Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) had the opportunity to meet representatives from over 60 watershed organizations through a series of regional watershed group workshops held across the state. This effort, funded through a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) Growing Greener grant, is intended to identify organizational capacity needs of local watershed groups and provide opportunities for shared learning and networking as well as targeted technical assistance. Through the regional gatherings we heard from a wide-range of participants, including staff and board members of watershed and conservation groups, county conservation district watershed specialists, PA DEP and PA DCNR specialists, and regional and national non-profit environmental organizations.
Participants learned about member and volunteer recruitment opportunities from leaders such as Mary-Ellen Olcese and Paco Ollervides from the River Network, Melinda Hughes from Nature Abounds, Marla Papernick from PEC, and Erin Frederick and Rebecca Kennedy representing the Pennsylvania Master Watershed Steward program. New water resource monitoring and modeling tools were summarized by experts from the Stroud Water Research Center including John Jackson and Matt Ehrhart. Debra Frawley and PEC staff members Frank Maguire and Paul Racette introduced participants to the Water Resource PA on-line mapping tool being developed by PEC. An update on the resources available via the Pennsylvania Organization of Watersheds and River (POWR) was provided by PEC Vice President Janet Sweeny. Diane Wilson from PA DEP and Kelly Rossiter from PA DCNR shared watershed program funding opportunities with the groups as well.
The workshop for the SE watershed groups was held on April 14 at the Upper Merion Township building. Attendees included representatives from 20 watershed and conservation organizations, municipal environmental advisory councils, local universities and research centers, and each of the county conservation district watershed specialists. In keeping with our other regional workshops, both organizational capacity and technical resources information was shared.
Travelling around the state and hearing from the many watershed organizations about their unique challenges and concerns was valuable in numerous ways. PEC gained a better understanding of shared concerns about organizational sustainability, member recruitment and fundraising. We also heard about the need for training in using on-line GIS tools and stream quality monitoring program development. We learned that watershed groups need access to skilled volunteers and water quality monitoring equipment and are interested in data sharing forums. Our next steps include scheduling the Northwest Region watershed workshop and then planning a state-wide watershed conference for the spring of 2017.
We hope to continue these regional meetings and look forward to connecting groups with each other and to the network of organizations currently providing capacity building training, resources, and tools. Our goal is to increase the ability of the hundreds of watershed organizations in Pennsylvania to continue their great work well into the future.
Authored by Susan Myerov; for more information please contact Susan at (firstname.lastname@example.org).