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Grant Funds River Conservation Work
Grant Funds River Conservation Work

September 16, 2016

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded $562,000 to the Chesapeake Conservancy for a major restoration and conservation initiative in the Susquehanna River watershed. The work will involve a partnership between the Conservancy, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Bloomsburg University, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Susquehanna University.

A portion of the funds will support a new position for a project technical coordinator, who will be based at Susquehanna University and work to engage partners, including Susquehanna University faculty and students, in restoration and monitoring work.

The three-year initiative, for which matching funds are being sought, will pilot a new approach to restoration on agricultural land—"precision conservation"—with local partners in Pennsylvania's Centre and Clinton counties to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution. The grant will enable local partners to use high-resolution data to identify parcel-scale opportunities for riparian buffer restoration. The objective is to improve the quality of water that flows into the Susquehanna River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay. It is hoped that the effort will be replicated in other counties.

"We are very grateful to NFWF for funding this joint proposal. We're excited to work with our partners in Centre and Clinton counties to showcase the power of new technology and data to help guide efficient decision-making in the use of limited restoration funding and to measure progress toward our common goals," said Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn.

Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said "this project will demonstrate new tools that allow for limited conservation resources to better target the places, with the practices and the people, who can do the best job for local and regional water quality."

The Susquehanna River provides more than half of the fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay and drinking water to more than six million people. Earlier this year, it was again named among the most endangered rivers by the nonprofit group American Rivers.

"We are most appreciative of the chance to work with the Chesapeake Conservancy, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Bloomsburg University, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and Susquehanna University in an effort that hinges on important partnerships and working locally to get the job done to improve water quality," said PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adam Dunn. "We here at DCNR support this effort to develop tools and deploy technology to help deliver programs and funding in the most efficient manner, and we are proud that our Bureau of Forestry's service foresters and others can offer their technical skills and knowledge of local communities and issues in this effort."

To help ensure the health of the river, Susquehanna University's Freshwater Research Initiative (FRI) launched in 2014 with funding from the R.K. Mellon Foundation. In its first two years, the FRI has developed a number of collaborative research and data collection programs that inform the public and impact policymaking.

"The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, DCNR and Bloomsburg University have already been among our partners on research projects," said Linda McMillin, Susquehanna's provost and co-chief operating officer. "We're excited about these new relationships with the Chesapeake Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation that will extend our reach. A core FRI operating principle is that well-coordinated, comprehensive projects that leverage the expertise, experience and existing knowledge of stakeholders have the greatest chance of ensuring the health of the Susquehanna River."

With 687 miles of river and more than 49,000 miles of tributaries, the Susquehanna is the longest river on the American East Coast that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the 16th largest river in the country and the longest in the continental United States without commercial boat traffic.

"Susquehanna University faculty and students, along with the university's research partners, have been steadfast in their work to improve the health of the river, its many tributaries and the wildlife that lives in and around them," Susquehanna University President L. Jay Lemons said. 

"It's hard to imagine a Susquehanna University in which the connection between students, campus and the river doesn't exist, so we are a key stakeholder in the health of this river from which we draw our name. We are very happy to be working with partners equally committed to the river's good health."

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