UPPER DELAWARE REGION — On Wednesday, September 20, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced a total of nearly $11.5 million in grants funding environmental conservation and …
UPPER DELAWARE REGION — On Wednesday, September 20, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced a total of nearly $11.5 million in grants funding environmental conservation and activism in the Upper Delaware river.
NFWF awarded the grants through two separate programs, awarding $1.96 million through the Delaware River Restoration Fund, funded by the William Penn Foundation, and awarding $9.52 million through the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The latter fund provided grants to two projects in the Catskills region in its current round of funding. Sullivan County received $500,000 to develop a Neversink Watershed Management Plan, to hold a citizen science event and to develop a walking trail along the O&W Rail Trail in the Neversink Watershed. Catskill Mountainkeeper received $75,000 to combat the wooly adelgid (an invasive that affects hemlock forests) and to maintain mountain trout habitat at a public access site in the Beaverkill Valley.
Other grants supported environmental education and outreach, funded the removal of dam and passage barriers for fish and aided best management practices for water quality, among other projects.
The grant were “dedicated to improving the Delaware River Watershed, for the fish, wildlife and the people who call it home,” said Amanda Bassow, director of NFWF’s northeastern regional office.
Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) provided pre-recorded remarks for the grant presentation, and was touted together with Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) as legislative partners in the conservation effort.
Delgado appeared “live” (in the virtual sense) at a conference the following week, on Wednesday, September 29, opening the ninth annual Delaware River Watershed Forum, speaking about a new initiative, the Delaware River Congressional Caucus.
According to Jeff Skelding, the executive director of the Friends of the Upper Delaware River, Delgado had been interested in forming the caucus for years. Early in Delgado’s tenure, he expressed independent interest in such an effort, said Skelding, asking if there already was such a caucus, and if he could found one if one did not already exist.
This past April, Delgado joined with Pennsylvania Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) to do just that, forming the Delaware River Congressional Caucus. Since then, the caucus has expanded to include 13 bipartisan members from four states, and Delgado said they were working on recruiting more.
“I think we got some good momentum here,” said Delgado, adding that it was important to highlight areas in which people in Congress were coming together with ingenuity and for service in these divisive times.
In a follow up question-and-answer period, Skelding asked Delgado about a particular area of potential service.
The matching requirements were strict for grant programs like the Delaware River Restoration Fund and the Delaware Watershed Conservation Fund, said Skelding, usually one to one. (The nearly $11.5 million in grants provided by those two funds in their most recent round of funding was matched by over $13.5 million from the grantee organizations, for a total of around $25 million in environmental funding.) Could the caucus put that issue on its agenda?
He would love to figure out how to be an advocate in that area, said Delgado.
State representatives from the Upper Delaware region have also drawn attention to the issue of matching requirements.
Speaking at the Upper Delaware Council’s River Valley award ceremony on Sunday, September 12, Sen. Mike Martucci highlighted New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund as a potential mechanism for organizations to meet matching requirement. The fund provides state funding for capital projects that protect the environment, funding which can be used to meet matching requirements for federal grants.
The fund can also provide such funding on a consistent basis for the protection of specific regions, through the insertion of line items in the state budget, said Martucci. Martucci, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) are working to secure $1 million in funding through that process and dedicate to the Upper Delaware River.
In other conservation news, NYLCV recently released its 2021 State Environmental Scorecard, rating New York state representatives based on their support for a number of environmental initiatives. “This year’s scorecard examined 15 bills in the Senate that addressed issues of environmental justice, public health, clean water, clean energy, and transportation emissions,” read a NYLCV press release announcing the scorecard.
Martucci received a score of 69 percent, while Gunther received a score of 87 percent. Both supported legislation providing community solar to disadvantaged communities; protecting families and firefighters from toxic, flame-retardant chemicals and aligning New York State with the global 30x30 initiative, setting a goal of conserving 30 percent of the state’s land by 2030. Martucci voted for a wetlands protection act that Gunther voted against, while Gunther voted for an act prohibiting homeowners’ associations from restricting residents’ ability to install solar generating systems on their homes, an act that Martucci voted against.
NYLCV also highlighted how “New York served as a role model for other states to follow with its pro-environment budget,” which included a re-authorized $3 billion Environmental Bond Act, a fully-funded Environmental Protection Fund, and $500 million for clean water.
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