In September of 2020, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded funding to Chesapeake Conservancy and the Precision Conservation Partnership for a major farm-based environmental restoration initiative in central Pennsylvania.
The funding is provided through the NFWF’s Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction program. Sixteen partners comprise the Precision Conservation Partnership, and have strong connectivity to share and transfer knowledge within the region, accelerating community buy-in and restoration engagement through an innovative, hyper-local focused approach.
“Implementing best management practices upstream is priority number one for a healthy Chesapeake Bay. It’s an enormous task and in previous years may have seemed overwhelming,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said.
“Today, thanks to the power of technology, and together with our partners, we can practice precision conservation—getting the right practices in the right places at the right scale. Precision conservation allows partners to be results-oriented and restore the places that will have the most impact on the health of the local streams, rivers, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. This work is an important element of the future of the conservation movement,” he added.
The three-year project will pair restoration with local partners in six central Pennsylvania counties bringing new funding to the region, resulting in full-farm restoration on 25-30 farms where the greatest benefits to water quality can be realized.
“This strategy focuses on improving local waterways to support wildlife and recreation so that in 10 years or so, we can all join the communities who are leading these efforts to celebrate the de-listing of the stream,” said Carly Dean, Chesapeake Conservancy Program Manager.
“Every individual and organization in the Precision Conservation Partnership contributes their unique strengths to help improve, monitor and de-list agriculturally-impaired streams. By using mapping data to identify priorities and sharing farmers stories about how restoration improved farm operations, we aim to build a queue of high-quality, shovel ready projects. We think this will set the Partnership up to tip more projects to effectively super charge restoration in the region,” Dean continued.
This project has the potential to serve as a national model for coordinating on-the-ground implementation with high-resolution mapping to improve the health of streams such that they can be removed from Pennsylvania’s impaired streams list—a designation of poor stream quality assigned by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
“The Penns Valley Conservation Association (PVCA) is excited to be a part of the NFWF grant recently awarded to the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Precision Conservation Partnership,” said Tom Doman, Chair, PVCA Board of Directors.
“Through this partnership, PVCA can leverage our strengths and apply them to where they can be most effective. This grant will allow our organization and its many partners to focus on reaching the right landowners with the appropriate practices and implement conservation measures where they matter most. In this way we can make significant progress towards de-listing of Pennsylvania’s impaired streams. This collaborative approach aligns well with PVCA’s focus on improving the water quality of Penns Creek and enhancing wildlife habitat as well as supporting the local farm economy in Penns Valley of Central Pennsylvania,” he explained.
Lysle Sherwin, Watershed Committee member and independent contractor (Seven Willows LLC) assisted Conservancy staff in developing the NFWF application.
“Community-based, membership supported organizations such as PVCA are critical to successful resource stewardship initiatives,” noted Sherwin. “In addition to Chesapeake Conservancy and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service ‘Partners Program,’ USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, PA DEP ‘Growing Greener,’ PA DCNR, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, Coldwater Heritage Partnership, and Annenberg Foundation are among the many financial and technical assistance sources.”
The Chesapeake Conservancy’s NFWF project complements the Chesapeake Bay Foundation proposal also funded by a NFWF grant seeking to increase capacity of trained landscaping professionals to implement projects and offer landowners incentives for forest buffers. Combined efforts will restore 67 acres of riparian buffer in Centre County. The two organizations are listed as partners on both projects and will coordinate activities to be synergistic.
“As a founding member of the Precision Conservation Partnership, CBF is committed to its collaborative, data-driven approach to restoration so that local organizations can focus on getting restoration practices in the ground at the right place, the right scale, at the right time, and make sure they are working,” said Shannon Gority, CBF’s Executive Director in Pennsylvania. “We are fortunate to work in tandem again on the Conservancy’s latest and greatest project, and as partners on the NFWF grant we will receive to support the planting of a total of 360 acres of buffers locally in Centre, and seven other priority Pennsylvania counties.”
“Partnerships are the key to ensuring that we leave a better legacy for water quality, wildlife habitat, recreation, and our way of life for future generations. We look forward to working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the members of the Precision Conservation Partnership and thank NFWF for the funding to make our work possible. Together we can do hard things,” concluded Dunn.
Featured photo is by Adrienne Gemberling/Chesapeake Conservancy. It shows local restoration partners gathered around a Precision Conservation map to plan their outreach strategy for the Halfmoon Valley Farm Tour in 2019.