A Statewide Voice for Pennsylvania Watersheds and Rivers

A Statewide Voice for Pennsylvania Watersheds and Rivers

by Tim Schaeffer, Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds & Rivers

The Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network and Fund (GLAHNF) recently added a new Advisory Panel Member, Tim Schaeffer, from the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds & Rivers (POWR). We’re excited to have Tim on board and look forward to working with him and adding his knowledge and experience to our Advisory Panel! Welcome Tim and thank you for volunteering your time and expertise.

Within the past few years, a statewide voice has emerged for watersheds and rivers in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds & Rivers (POWR) is committed to the protection, sound management, and enhancement of the Commonwealth’s rivers and watershed systems and to the empowerment of local, grassroots organizations with the same commitment. The systems we are dedicated to protecting include the Lake Erie and Genesee River Watersheds.

Local and regional organizations, as well as elected officials, agency personnel, individuals, and non-profit and for-profit corporations, now look to POWR as the statewide arm of Pennsylvania’s watershed protection movement.

POWR serves as a source of information and networking assistance through a number of programs. The following list highlights some of the services we currently provide to Pennsylvanians:

· Organize numerous conferences and events that bring groups and individuals together to learn about and discuss watershed-related topics;

· Oversee a statewide River Sojourn program that helps people learn about river resources through hands-on experiences;

· Maintain a website (www.pawatersheds.org) of watershed information, including an on-line directory of watershed organizations throughout Pennsylvania; and

· Coordinate the Keystone Watershed Network among Pennsylvania’s volunteer watershed monitoring community.

In addition, we publish three newsletters, Watershed Weekly, Monitoring Matters, and Main Stream, each with a slightly different focus. Visit our website to sign up to receive any of them.

POWR is also increasingly looked to as a player in state- and federal-level public policy discussions, providing a voice for Pennsylvania’s watersheds and rivers and the groups and individuals working to protect and enhance them. POWR’s staff and board combine an understanding of the biophysical and social sciences, public policy, and law to provide a credible voice for watershed and river conservation. Rooted in an ecosystem approach to natural resource management, POWR plans to continue to expand its efforts to monitor and advocate for science-based public policies.

In the coming months, a major part of POWR’s public policy agenda will be working to ensure the future of Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener Program. Signed into law in 1999, Growing Greener was designed to provide $650 million over five years for watershed-based restoration, protection, planning, and open space preservation. Statewide, Growing Greener grant recipients have helped create or restore 4,261 acres of wetlands; complete 188 miles of stream buffer restoration; build 171 miles of stream improvements; plug 1,242 oil and gas wells; initiate 184 environmental education projects; complete 156 assessment, restoration, and protection plans; and organize 61 watershed groups. To date, 22 projects in Erie County alone have received a total of $1.09 million in Growing Greener funds.

Demand for the program has exceeded supply. Almost 800 grants have been awarded out of over 2,180 applications, and deserving projects remain unfunded. The entire Growing Greener program will expire on June 30, 2004.

As POWR works with other statewide organizations to make the case for the future of Growing Greener, we will be relying heavily on local watershed groups to convey the need for continued funding. Indeed, we are convinced that the future of Growing Greener will depend on local groups and individuals meeting with their state representatives and senators to stress the benefits that local watershed protection provides to environmental quality and community well-being.

As POWR’s Science and Policy Director, I am delighted to have been asked to join the GLAHNF Advisory Panel and look forward to helping to ensure that Great Lakes issues receive the attention they deserve in Harrisburg and throughout the Commonwealth.

For more information about POWR or to receive one of the newsletters listed above, please contact Tim at the contacts listed below. To learn how you or your group can get involved with statewide policy efforts such as making the case for Growing Greener, please contact me personally at the same telephone number or tschaeffer@pawatersheds.org.

Tim Schaeffer
GLAHNF Advisory Panel Member
Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers
E-mail: tschaeffer@pawatersheds.org
Website: www.pawatersheds.org



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