Announcing Pennsylvania’s First Master Watershed Steward Program
Many states throughout the nation offer Master Watershed Steward volunteer programs through their land grant university extension services; these programs train citizen volunteers in the basics of water resource stewardship.
Now Penn State Extension, with the help of the Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley and other local environmental groups, are launching PA’s first Master Watershed Steward Program in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Pennsylvania’s first Master Watershed Steward Program is currently being piloted in the Lehigh and Northampton counties as a collaborative effort between Penn State Extension, the Watershed Coalition of the Lehigh Valley, the Northampton County Conservation District, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Nurture Nature Center and the Wildlands Conservancy.
Other states throughout the nation have established “Master Watershed Steward” programs through their land grant colleges. These programs, modeled after the volunteer Master Gardener program, train citizens in a formal way about the basics of watershed resource stewardship and create an energized, educated group of citizens with structured volunteer opportunities available to them to educate the community about water resources.
Organizers hope to mirror the success of the Master Gardener program; last year alone, nearly 2,000 Master Gardeners across Pennsylvania collectively contributed 119,306 hours as educators, reaching 4.3 million Pennsylvania residents with their helpful advice. These volunteer hours have an estimated dollar value of $2.5 million.
The Lehigh Valley Master Watershed Stewards are receiving 40 hours of training on numerous topics, including water quality, stream health, native plants, recreational resources, and groundwater.
Once they complete the training program, to become a certified Master Watershed Steward, these trainees will need to fulfill 50 hours of volunteer service. In subsequent years, they can maintain their Master Watershed Steward status by giving at least 20 additional volunteer hours and attending at least 8 hours of update training annually.
Example projects include:
-- Organizing educational and informational workshops for students, the public, municipal officials, addressing topics such as rain barrels, wildlife, pollution prevention, stormwater management, and invasive plant control;
-- Organizing and executing stream clean ups;
-- Designing and installing demonstration rain gardens;
-- Monitoring streams for bacteria; and
-- Carrying out stream bank restoration projects.
The first Master Watershed Steward class has 19 trainees. They come from a variety of backgrounds, including engineers, students, educators, nurses and social workers with a wide range of ages, from 15 to 65. Many are new faces to watershed conservation work in the Lehigh Valley.
‘This is encouraging news as many of the over 400 watershed associations in the Commonwealth are struggling to recruit and retain new volunteers. This program hopes to offer a solution by providing training to ordinary community members without formal natural resource educational background, ultimately, strengthening local capacity for management and protection of watersheds, streams, and rivers across the Commonwealth.
If you are interested in learning more about this program, contact Erin Frederick.
(Written By: Erin Frederick, Program Assistant, Penn State Extension, 610-391-9340, reprinted from Penn State Extension's Watershed Winds newsletter.)
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