Chesapeake Conservancy Releases Vision Document for Susquehanna River Conservation
Annapolis, MD – The Chesapeake Conservancy recently released Envision the Susquehanna: A Vision for the Susquehanna Watershed in partnership with the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Susquehanna River Heartland Coalition for Environmental Studies, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
This “Vision Document” maps out the recommendations of the Envision the Susquehanna (ETS) initiative, a coalition among many partners across the watershed to identify local conservation priorities and develop locally supported recommendations for future action.
Launched in 2013, ETS has encouraged individuals, community leaders, and organizations to describe their vision for the Susquehanna River watershed. Using interviews, surveys, and workshops to solicit input from the Susquehanna River community, the ETS team developed a shared vision for the river and its watershed.
“This Vision document is a tremendous milestone for the citizens and communities in the Susquehanna Watershed. It represents the input of more than 1,000 individuals and organizations collected through three years of community engagement and data analysis, all of which is focused toward a common vision for the future of the river,” Chesapeake Conservancy President and CEO Joel Dunn said. “The community vision builds upon existing partner-driven conservation initiatives and will improve the health of the Susquehanna River to the benefit of everyone who lives, works, and plays in the watershed.”
The creation of the Vision document required four phases to gather and analyze information. Data collection was carried out in 19 of the 22 counties that are contiguous to the Susquehanna River in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. This work included Interviews with 63 key land use stakeholders, reviews of 36 open space, greenway, and comprehensive plans, a phone survey of 965 residents, and input from more than 250 practitioners and community members through workshops and meetings in 17 communities.
In addition to this focused research, the information in this Vision document was also informed by other activities carried out by ETS Advisory Council members. These include direct input from nearly 40 members of the Council, informed directly by partners’ engagement in a variety of community-based efforts.
Using this information, the ETS partnership has the divided the Susquehanna into three watershed sections and will focus projects on five themes, which include:
- American Indian Heritage and History
- Recreation and Public Access
- Working Lands
- Stormwater and Flooding
- Wildlife Habitat
The ETS partnership has cited a number of steps following the completion of the document, designed to engage the public and potential future partners by raising awareness of environmental issues in the Susquehanna River watershed, developing and delivering better data for evidence-based decision-making, and increasing funding for conservation efforts.
One example of how the Conservancy and its partners plan to address cross-sector goals identified in the Vision is through a three-year project in Clinton and Centre counties with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The project aims to pilot a new approach to conservation combining technology with working lands restoration activities on the ground to help local partners in Pennsylvania best leverage public and private dollars to manage stormwater runoff, improving water quality and wildlife habitat.
The partnership is led by the Conservancy and includes Susquehanna University, Bloomsburg University, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The goal of the project is to create a model to use throughout the Susquehanna River watershed.
“It is impossible to separate Susquehanna University from the river that shares our name,” said Susquehanna University President L. Jay Lemons. “We are committed to ensuring the good health of the river through our work with the Chesapeake Conservancy and we look forward to working with the Conservancy and its many partners to secure a robust future for the Susquehanna River.”
Envision the Susquehanna: A Vision for the Susquehanna River Watershed can be viewed at https://chesapeakeconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/ETS-Vision_3.22.17_online_optv2.pdf