Andrew Bechdel hired as Regional Director by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association in West Branch
Andrew Bechdel has been hired by the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association as a part-time Regional Director for the West Branch region of the watershed.
“We cover an 11,000-square-mile watershed and to better represent communities in different regions of that area, we are excited to be able to hire people like Andrew to help us expand our efforts and to amplify the voice of the people and the needs of the river basin,” said Riverkeeper John Zaktansky.
“Andrew has a passion for the outdoors, an enthusiasm to educate and engage people and we are excited about him helping both us and the local communities raise an awareness and truly make a difference in both protecting and promoting our clean-water resources.”
“The spider spinning its web, the kingfisher flying down the stream, and then me pulling a brook trout out of the water. Just exploring it all from this single place, being patient, taking in this theater of nature happening in front of me instead of needing to pound out mile after mile,” he said. “I realized the importance of slowing down and being observant and appreciating what was around me.”
When it comes to transferring that awareness to others, Bechdel feels it is important to give them freedom to explore it at their own pace.
“You can’t force people to care, but they connect more with someone who is sharing from their heart from a place of passion,” he said. “I have done a lot of these programs with kids, and the exploration goes hand-in-glove with them, for them to explore the world around them in their own terms. It is important to give them space to without too much direction and to experience it all.”
Bechdel admits that the western part of the Susquehanna’s watershed is diverse, with a number of unique challenges.
“I live in Bellefonte near State College and there are some world-class trout streams in Spring Creek and Penns Creek, but they are also under pressure from expansion,” he said. “Then to the north on the Allegheny plateau, you have the Moshannon Creek which has been impacted by abandoned coal mines with sections that are completely dead.
“Thankfully, with treatment systems, we are seeing improvement and in some areas, streams that 50 to 100 years ago did not have brook trout are now seeing them again. So we go from these suburban areas around State College and Bellefonte to these AMD areas and then to some really remote regions where people are using well water and there is concern with fracking nearby.”
With so many issues to tackle, it starts small, and Bechdel suggests researching the issues and volunteering your time toward local groups that are making an impact.
“Get to know your local watershed associations and conservation district people and reach out to us at the Riverkeeper association. If you notice a water quality issue, whether it is a well water or a local stream concern, let us know,” he said. “Also, consider stepping up as a volunteer. Groups like those with the Moshannon Creek are looking for help with passive treatment systems. Help spread information about water concerns, there can be a real lack of knowledge about issues even in our own backyard. Get the word out through social media, community forums and other ways. It can be incredibly important.”
The Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Association provides a blog feed with hundreds of stories about important water quality topics, from microplastics and PFAS to salinity and mercury and other pollutant concerns. That can be a good place to start looking for information, as can the association’s Sentinel program, which Bechdel will be helping enhance.
“I am really excited to help this effort grow. It allows volunteers to watch over specific parts of the watershed, to get the word out, to do assessments about areas they really care about,” he said. “If you are interested, contact us. We need committed help and you can really make a difference and be a core part of our work moving forward.”
You can contact Bechdel directly via email at MSRKAWestBranch@gmail.com
The association is looking to add a part-time Regional Director in the upper North Branch of the Susquehanna River. For more information, click here.
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.