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UDC not a joiner—for now

August 14, 2012

After considerable debate, the Upper Delaware Council (UDC) rejected an opportunity to join the steering committee of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) at its monthly meeting on August 2. It did, however, authorize UDC executive director Laurie Ramie to participate in conference calls as an observer for a trial period of six months.

At the UDC’s meeting on July 5, discussion about the opportunity was tabled. Members again were provided with a copy of the CDRW’s draft governance document to review. The document describes the CDRW’s proposed mission “to unite organizations and enhance their capacity to effectively advocate for protecting and restoring the Delaware River Basin by coordinating communications, messages and actions and fostering accountability for success at the federal, state and local levels.”

The CDRW proposes to function primarily by conference calls, a listserv and a web page, in addition to an annual meeting. It will be composed of regional, state, local and national non-governmental organizations committed to seeking an improved Delaware River Watershed policy and protection. A steering committee composed of no more than 16 local, regional and national organizations will guide its efforts.
UDC members heard from Cinda Waldbuesser, the PA regional representative of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), about her group’s decision to join the CDRW. “Our organization was founded in 1919 by the first director of the National Park Service (NPS), who thought the national parks needed a voice outside of the federal government to look out for their best interest,” she said. “We’re an advocacy group and also a watchdog group. We’ve been called the park service’s best friend and most ardent critic.

“We see this coalition as being very beneficial to raise the profile of the Delaware River. It’s in its very beginning, which is a good time to be involved because you can have a say on how it is developed. Members can choose to sign on to letters or not.” Waldbuesser cited the success of a similar organization to which NPCA belongs, the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

UDC members argued both in favor of and against accepting the invitation to serve on the steering committee, which so far is composed of organizations such as American Rivers, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, New Jersey Audubon, Friends of the Upper Delaware, Delaware Highlands Conservancy, Delaware Riverkeeper and more.