Thursday, September 22, 2022

Master Watershed Stewards Program Expands Across Pennsylvania Wilds

By Travis Wingard, Master Watershed Steward Coordinator Cameron, Elk, Potter, McKean Counties

Responding to a demand for a Master Watershed Steward Program across the Pennsylvania Wilds, Penn State Extension’s Agronomy & Natural Resources, county offices, and the state MWS program have decided to add an additional 8 counties to the list of counties included in the MWS program. 

This expansion is a collaboration between the Master Watershed Steward program, the PA Organization for Waterways and Rivers (POWR), and the PA Environmental Council (PEC).

Opened in the Spring of 2021, the Cameron/Elk/McKean/Potter MWS program was created to help protect the headwaters of three of the six major watersheds in the state (the Ohio, Susquehanna, and Genesee basins). 

The program has passed along critical updates, information, and education related to watersheds; assisted conservation districts, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy (WPC), and Penn State Extension’s Water Team in projects and events; and formed partnerships with organizations throughout the region. 

The program has since attracted stewards from surrounding counties who have not hesitated to travel across the region-- as well as the state-- to learn, connect, and volunteer in the Pennsylvania Wilds.

The additional counties—which include Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, and Tioga—join the first 4 counties to form the Master Watershed Stewards of the PA Wilds Region. 

Since watersheds know no county borders, prospective stewards from counties outside of the expansion area who want to do volunteer work in the PA Wilds are encouraged to apply.

Much of how the program runs in the PA Wilds will remain consistent with rest of the state, though the expansion counties will be handled just a little different from the rest of the MWS programs:

-- Trainings for the PA Wilds program will be entirely online. Due to the size of the region, it would be difficult to hold in-person trainings that are a fair distance for everyone. Since trainings will be online, trainees will receive weekly instruction from experts from across the state and be exposed to a wide range of water-related ideas, concepts, and practices that may differ from their home area.

-- In-person workshops will be held across the region. These workshops will be optional and spaced out in a way that guarantees that anyone training in the PA Wilds will be able to attend at least one of these events with little difficulty. These workshops will also be open to current stewards as continuing education hours. The purpose of these workshops is to expose trainees and stewards to local organizations, industries, and people involved in the conservation of their home waterways, as well as meet some of their fellow trainees and stewards.

-- Stewards will continue to have access to local Extension office staffs, as well as regionally placed MWS “kits.”  Stewards are encouraged to form strong connections with their local conservation districts and watershed organizations, but will have access to the statewide program, the PA Wilds coordinator, fellow stewards, and the resources necessary to make an impact in their communities. Kits (currently in development) will include publications, activities, games, and display items.

Much like planting seeds (or live stakes) for the future, the MWS program has the same end goal for each of the expansion counties: to develop their own program with their own dedicated coordinator. 

This is how the rest of the MWS programs in the state, as well as Extension’s Master Gardener program operates, and will be a great opportunity for passionate volunteers to help mold a MWS program close to home with projects that affect their counties directly.

Next Training March

The next training session for the PA Wilds Region will begin in early March, though there will be multiple information sessions through the Fall and Winter of 2022. 

The first of these information sessions is scheduled for late October. In-person, regional workshops will be held later in the training season (early May through mid-June).

Click Here to learn more about the Cameron/Elk/McKean/Potter MWS program.

Click Here to apply to join our program.

Prospective stewards are encouraged to apply early and should feel free to contact Travis Wingard--, Coordinator for the MWS Program of the PA Wilds Region, with any questions, suggestions, or interest related to the program.

[To learn more about this program in your county, visit Penn State Extension’s Master Watershed Steward Program webpage.]

(Photo: Fall 2021 training at Chapman State Park - Linda Rankin, McKean County and Bonnie Simpson, Potter County.)

(Reprinted from the latest Penn State Extension Watershed Winds newsletterClick Here to sign up for your own copy (bottom of page).)

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-- Master Watershed Stewards Complete 5th Annual Storm Drain Art Contest In York

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-- Volunteers Worked Together To Remove 600 Pounds Of Trash From Lake Erie Watershed

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[Posted: September 22, 2022]  PA Environment Digest

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