Friday, January 28, 2022

Sign Up Now For Penn State Master Watershed Steward Training Around The State

By Alexandra McLaughlin,
Penn State News

Anyone interested in protecting water quality in local watersheds can benefit from a Penn State Extension program that will offer training around the state this spring.

The Master Watershed Steward Program provides residents with extensive coursework in water and natural resources. In return for the training, participants volunteer to educate the community about watershed stewardship based on university research and recommendations.

Penn State Extension will offer 13 training classes for new volunteers across the state in spring 2022. 

The training is aimed at residents in the following counties or groups of counties: Allegheny, Armstrong/Indiana/Westmoreland, Berks/Schuylkill, Cameron/Elk/McKean/Potter, Chester/Delaware, Cumberland/Franklin/Adams, Dauphin/Lebanon/Lancaster, Erie/Crawford/Warren, Monroe, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Susquehanna and York.

Sessions will occur virtually via Zoom at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, from March 10 to June 9 for most counties. 

The Chester/Delaware program will start the course Feb. 24, the Berks/Schuylkill program will start the training March 3, and the Philadelphia program will start the course March 6.

Instructors will schedule in-person, outdoor field experiences locally with COVID-19 safety measures in place. In exchange for 40 hours of instruction, candidates must agree to contribute 50 hours of volunteer service their first year, followed by 20 hours per year thereafter.

Everything from flushing a toilet to spreading road salt eventually can impact water supplies, according to Erin Frederick, Master Watershed Steward statewide coordinator for Penn State Extension.

“A lot of people are interested in the environment,” Frederick said. “They want to help, but they don’t know how, or they feel they don’t have the background to do it.”

Frederick said the training will provide volunteers with knowledge on a range of environmental topics.

“With climate change, we’re seeing more intense storm events and issues with stormwater management,” she said, adding that development in Pennsylvania has resulted in impervious surfaces. These are hard surfaces such as streets, sidewalks and rooftops that prevent the absorption of water into the soil.

“Anything that falls on an impervious surface will get washed away at a much faster rate, so when the water enters our streams and rivers, you’re seeing more flooding and erosion,” Frederick said.

Volunteers tackle these kinds of issues through organizing stream cleanups, designing demonstration rain gardens, monitoring streams for bacteria, holding educational events, planting riparian buffers, and working with municipal officials to plant native meadows.

Frederick explained that local program coordinators pull together volunteer opportunities in an easy-to-view format. Volunteers choose what to do based on their interests.

“If they would like to stay home and write educational articles, that’s helping us teach people more about the environment,” Frederick said. “Or if they’d rather get their hands dirty and plant trees, we have all sorts of opportunities. No matter what you want to do, there’s a place for you here.”

New Master Watershed Steward volunteers will join a robust community. 

In 2021, there were 770 volunteers in 28 counties in Pennsylvania. These volunteers contributed almost 80,000 volunteer hours, valued at nearly $2.3 million. 

In that time, they educated more than 280,000 people about water stewardship through teaching in 55 schools and at 71 community events.

In addition, the volunteers monitored water quality along 90 streams, installed 17 rain gardens, planted 12,582 trees, and disbursed 372 rain barrels.

“There’s no shortage of work that needs to be done to protect the environment,” Frederick said, noting that water quality threats impair several thousand miles of streams across the state, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

“We all have a stake in water quality,” she said. “If people want to make a difference, we can help them do that.”

Those interested in becoming a Master Watershed Steward can visit the program’s website to learn more and to fill out the application.

(Reprinted from Penn State News.)

Related Articles:

-- Penn State Master Watershed Steward Program - A Look Back On 2021’s Accomplishments  

-- Master Watershed Steward Program Receives Healing The Planet Grant From The GIANT Company 

-- Still Time To Sign Up!  PA Master Naturalist Spring Training Courses In Allegheny, Chester, Dauphin, Montour, Philadelphia, Washington Counties 

[Posted: January 28, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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