Phoenixville, Pa., APRIL 3, 2014 – The William Penn Foundation has granted $357,000 over three years to the French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust to promote land conservation practices crucial for water quality, primarily in the French Creek in north central Chester County.
“Since its inception, French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust has focused on preserving and protecting the natural resources of northern Chester County,” said Andy Pitz, Executive Director of the Trust. “It is gratifying that the William Penn Foundation has included us in this very robust program to protect drinking water in our region.”
The grant is part of a $35 million multi-year initiative by the William Penn Foundation to protect and restore critical sources of drinking water for 15 million people, many in major cities including New York (NY), Philadelphia (PA), Camden (NJ), and Wilmington (DE). The total set of grants fund an unprecedented collaboration of leading conservation organizations who will align their work to protect land, restore streams, test innovative approaches in ecologically significant places, and monitor results over time.
The Trust will undertake a four-part program: land protection with willing landowners; hosting an annual gathering to acquaint landowners with steps they can take to enhance water quality through responsible land stewardship; working with interested municipalities on new conservation initiatives and promoting best practices with residents; and a new volunteer program with Green Valleys Association, National Lands Trust and Pennsylvania Audubon that will encourage residents to monitor watershed conditions and practices.
Combined, the array of funded projects will permanently protect more than 30,000 acres with significant waterways, implement more than 40 restoration projects that will improve local water quality, pilot new incentives for landowners and businesses, provide replicable models for other locations in the watershed, and develop long-term water quality data for the watershed at an unprecedented scale.
The Delaware River watershed covers more than 13,500-square miles spanning New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. In addition to being a major source of drinking water, the watershed supports an array of water-related economic enterprises valued at $25 billion per year, as well as hemispherically significant habitat. Poorly planned development, deforestation, chemical runoff from farms, and storm water runoff in cities severely threaten the health of the watershed.
“Healthy landscapes with working farms and forests in the Delaware River watershed produce abundant food and fiber and support vibrant rural economies.They also provide clean water, clean air, and valuable wildlife habitat that benefit their own communities and urban neighbors,” said Jason Weller, Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.“This partnership highlights how a cooperative approach for applying conservation activities on private and public land is essential for everyone in the watershed—whether they live in urban or rural areas.”
"EPA values collaborative initiatives like this that help organizations build greater capacity and leverage critical resources needed to tackle the next generation of water protection issues," said EPA Region 3 Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "This new initiative will support efforts led by other active partners, such as the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, in advancing science, research and restoration work to protect the entire bay and river watershed.Building healthy and resilient watersheds is essential to protecting our nation's water resources, and ensuring a sustainable future for the communities that depend on them."
"The Delaware River Watershed is a critical resource for communities in New Jersey, New York, and the entire region," said EPA Region 2 Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "Every day, millions of people depend upon the watershed as a source of drinking water, for agricultural uses, and for recreation. Preventing pollution from entering the Delaware River and its watershed is the single most effective strategy to ensure that the watershed is protected."
Laura Sparks, Chief Philanthropy Officer of the William Penn Foundation, explained that monitoring data will enable WPF and other foundations to make more informed, evidence-based decisions going forward. Sparks continued, “We are eager to use the data collected to inform real-time adjustments, analyze the potential of these projects across the watershed, and magnify those results to catalyze widespread action grounded in high-quality science."
As a result of the planning work, the initiative features eight “clusters” of sub-watersheds, constituting approximately 25 percent of the total Delaware River Basin across four states, where analysis has shown that investment in targeted efforts to protect or improve water quality in specific streams and rivers could deliver significant returns. Restoration and preservation efforts in these sub-watersheds not only contribute directly to the water quality in the Delaware Basin, but will also serve as incubators for cultivating a wide range of effective approaches for expanding investment across the watershed, and ultimately in other river basins across the country.
French and Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust is within the Schuylkill Highlands Cluster designated by the Foundation.
Andrew Johnson, Senior Program Officer for Watershed Protection at the William Penn Foundation, stated, “We look forward to making this work and data available to the public and hope to identify new evidence-based methods for avoiding or mitigating key stressors threatening water quality in major metropolitan areas, specifically urban storm water runoff, agricultural pollution, loss of forests in essential headwater areas, and aquifer depletion.”