From Seattle to Niagara — Lessons in Watershed Management

Last month, Abby Ertel, Huron Pines Community Program Lead, had the privilege of attending the Healthy Watershed Conference in Seattle. She represented Huron Pines as one of only 25 recipients of the Healthy Watersheds Consortium Grant¹, a competitive grant aimed at accelerating “strategic protection of healthy, freshwater ecosystems and their watersheds.” The program is unique because it focuses on the proactive protection of high-quality watersheds—often the source for clean and available drinking water, forest resources and wildlife habitat.

The conference was an excellent opportunity for Huron Pines to come together with people from across the country who are changing the face of watershed conservation through innovative funding, large-scale land protection, creative community engagement strategies and groundbreaking policy changes. Fully understanding the places we are trying to protect means understanding the people connected to those places. “We must take the time to have a dialogue about what’s important to the collective ‘us’—leaders, kids, educators, land managers and economic experts—when it comes to safe, healthy water, forests and communities,” Ertel said.

One grantee that is already putting some of these ideas into action is Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper based in Buffalo, NY. They are using their $300,000 grant to make sure there is a person who can travel to, and be a consistent resource, in all of the 70 communities in the Niagara River Watershed. Working alongside local leaders to understand the long-term environmental, economic and social benefits of proactive water and land protection, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper has the goal of developing a Source Water Protection Fund in New York to ensure consistent funding for watershed protection at the state level.

Western Rivers Conservancy, another Healthy Watersheds Consortium grantee, is ensuring the health of watersheds out west through innovative financing, community partnerships and large-scale land protection. Western Rivers Conservancy and the Yurok Tribe have established a partnership to acquire over 47,000 acres of land surrounding Northern California’s Blue Creek. This cooperative agreement not only protects important spawning habitat for Chinook, coho and steelhead, it also involves returning appropriated land to the Yurok Tribe for restoration and land management and it led to the creation of a salmon sanctuary at Blue Creek. A project of this scale required a different approach to financing that included tapping into the federal New Markets Tax Credits Program and plans to pay back initial loan costs through the sale of carbon offsets and sustainable forestry.

With new inspiration and motivation from the Seattle conference, Huron Pines is energized to meet our own goals to protect and restore 10,000 acres of priority lands, reconnect 50 high-quality trout stream miles and raise $100,000 for a long-term conservation fund. Look for Huron Pines to be in your community and supporting the Great Lakes Basin in tandem with our fellow Great Lakes Healthy Watersheds Consortium grantees—Huron River Watershed Council (MI), Chagrin River Watershed Partners (OH) and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper (NY)—to ensure leaders at all levels are making clean water, land conservation and consistent watershed protection funding a priority.

Northern Michigan Aerial Services
Photo: Laurent Fady – PetoskeyDrones


¹Huron Pines received a $180,000 Healthy Watersheds Consortium grant in 2017 to be invested over the course of four years to increase the capacity and readiness of Huron Pines and the communities where we work, to engage in and move forward long-term strategic planning for large-scale natural resources protection. The Healthy Watersheds Consortium grant is supported by a partnership of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.