Top 10 reasons you should support the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association in Raise the Region 2021
My first experience with Raise the Region last year proved to be intimidating.
Hundreds of area nonprofits all “compete” for donations during a 30-hour blitz. While being around so many similar-minded individuals during some of the in-person programming offered some positive camaraderie and networking opportunities, it also highlighted a major moral issue.
How does anyone decide which nonprofit to support? There are so many worthy causes, inspiring stories and reasons to provide real support to groups making a difference in our community.
I can honestly say that we stretched every dollar of donation to its maximum, and plan to continue this effort as the work in the following 10 areas continues to expand and new initiatives begin. When I say "we" I mean the team of dedicated board members that have been instrumental in helping our association to achieve so much in a challenging year.
Why should someone donate to the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association during Raise the Region 2021? Here are 10 important reasons to consider:
1. Settlement with Talen leads to new clean-water protections and Montour Preserve stability.
After a year of negotiations, we were able to announce on March 2 an important settlement deal with Talen Energy. Among the various water quality measures included in that deal are surface water testing, a hard deadline for a synthetically sealed ash basin, water pumping and treatment measures and well testing. We also were able to help add new stability to the future of the Montour Preserve, a 640-acre nature preserve with a massive lake that serves a wide diversity of ecosystems.
The settlement is just the first step in what will be much more work in the coming years. We have started talked about the next steps in the Montour Preserve ownership and will soon be involved in a water sampling plan that will span three decades.
2. Other efforts in the works to protect water resources in Clinton and Bradford counties.
Our association has been closely following a water quality concern in Clinton County involving a slaughterhouse, meeting with residents of the region and providing feedback via a letter to the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to help preserve resources.
We also shared a story from upper Bradford County involving a study that shows potential connections between foal health and fracking practices in the region. Both of these stories are ongoing situations that will require more time and attention moving forward.
3. Approval and development of our HERYN Program.
HERYN (Helping Engage our River’s Youth with Nature) is a new program designed to get kids out of their homes and back in nature. These program days, thanks in large part to an R3 Grant via the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, offer hands-on instruction in kayaking and fishing with a goal of sparking a lifetime appreciation for our natural resources.
Registration for our first six program days – slated for late June – is currently open and spots are limited.
In addition to HERYN, we are also bringing back our popular Floating Classroom sessions aboard the Hiawatha Paddleboat in Williamsport this summer.
4. Creation and regular updates via our online blog.
In the midst of a pandemic where live events were no longer realistic, we focused on making our website a new hub of information and engagement. Central to that effort has been our blog feed, which has more than 130 posts in the past year on topics ranging from microplastics and environmental impacts to the importance of connecting people with our outdoor resources.
The blog has become a go-to location for individuals and various media outlets who have published our content as syndicated material … expanding our reach exponentially and allowing us to better educate and engage people throughout the greater watershed.
5. Creation and promotion of a weekly podcast.
Developed with the belief that sharing the stories of those passionate about our river-based resources will inspire others to step up, we began a weekly podcast interview series back in August and it has taken off since then.
These podcasts include stories from real people make a real difference in our region. Educators, business owners, biologists, camp directors, environmental nonprofit executives, politicians, technology and social media influences, a SCUBA instructor, a falconer, a water specialist, a veterinarian and even a musician. There are more than eight hours of podcast content already on our site, with plenty more interviews in the works.
6. Creation of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association stewards program.
Knowing that our effectiveness increases if we find committed volunteers in important geographic regions of the watershed, we have started to build this program of devoted individuals who share updates from their region, provide resources within their communities and share our updates with their neighbors.
It is a priority to build this team much more in the coming year in certain areas of our watershed – with the goal of developing a family of committed volunteers focused on our river.
7. Incorporation and expansion of the Water Reporter app.
We developed a stronger link with the Water Reporter app – basically Instagram for anglers to share their catches via geographically-pinged photos on an interactive map on our website. Our goal is to grow this usage to include other water-based activities and discoveries that will allow us to better find issues and watch trends in water quality concerns.
8. Development and expansion of our Susquehanna Survey system.
In 2020, we developed an online survey that gave us a new way to engage people and collect important data that has helped us identify various issues and loop in new contacts with important resources.
We have modified the survey to collect additional data and are working to increase participation throughout the greater watershed.
9. Continued research and education on important current event threats.
Just last week, we announced our support in a new effort targeting the US Fish and Wildlife Service about the lack of endangered/threatened protections for the Eastern Hellbender. We will continue to be very active in the developments of this case.
In late June, we helped amplify the audience for an important study out of Susquehanna University that looked at a concerning increase in microplastics among smallmouth bass studied at the Freshwater Research Institute. In the past couple weeks, new studies show an even bigger proliferation of microplastics in our waterways.
We are working on investigative research into this growing issue, along with others, including amplified sedimentation and erosion concern throughout the watershed.
10. Creative engagement opportunities expanded.
Beyond our podcast, blog and social media improvements, we have tried to creatively work around the restrictions of the pandemic to better engage a larger audience. Our recent Songs of the Susquehanna project included 46 original songs about the environmental, recreational and therapeutic aspects of the river, along with important threats and history.
We also developed a series of educational videos including experiments families could do at home to learn more about pollution, the water cycle and watersheds. We also did a few paddling tours of cool features within our waterways and are excited to expand this library in the coming year.
Beyond all this, we continue to look for new ways to connect with people and inspire the next generation of stewards that help protect our aquatic resources. If you have ideas to share, email Riverkeeper John Zaktansky at firstname.lastname@example.org
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.