As a child, I felt a bond with my notebook and the natural landscapes around me, particularly wildlife. Exploring the natural world was my playtime and writing down those observations became a type of “diary.”
National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and renowned conservationist Jane Goodall were just a few of my teachers. In college I couldn’t decide on one major that would satisfy my varied interests, so, I combined science and humanities, convinced that strong communication about environmental issues is crucial in implementing change. Without making conservation accessible, how will people gain understanding? And more importantly, how will they know how to help? Without this bridge of communication, sustainable change is unlikely.
For this blog, I’ll be using my combined science and humanities skills to share with you how the Service is piloting a comprehensive landscape conservation approach in the 7.2-million-acre Connecticut River watershed, which runs through four New England states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
This will include my own experiences interviewing Service managers, partners and others who live and work in the watershed, as well as key efforts to target the right conservation in the right places. In a larger sense, I will be documenting how climate change, habitat fragmentation, spread of invasive species and other widespread threats impact wildlife, habitats and the people who live in the watershed.
Contributing a Little to Something Big
In early October, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was in the midst of a federal government shutdown, the Source to Sea cleanup went on as it has for the past 17 years.
Sponsored by the Connecticut River Watershed Council, Source to Sea enlists thousands of volunteers in local communities to clean up trash – by foot or by boat – along the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River watershed, which runs through four New England states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.
The public’s willingness to help conserve and “own” this resource is critical, says Andy French, project leader at Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge—the only refuge in the country that includes an entire watershed as its borders.
When it comes to promoting and enhancing large landscapes like the Connecticut River watershed, French says no contribution is too small to make a difference.
“Taking the time to help – regardless of how much or how little – inspires investment in the community and gives individuals a sense of ownership and pride for their area,” he says. “Contributing a little adds up to something big.”
In 2013, more than 2,200 Source to Sea volunteers pulled more than 45 tons of trash from more than 138 miles of riverbanks and waterways. They pull out everything from recyclables, fishing equipment and food waste to tires, televisions and refrigerators.
“Source to Sea gets folks to the river. And when they get there, it opens their eyes,” says Andrew Fisk, Executive Director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council. Fisk noted the cleanup is often people’s first experience with the river and with volunteering. With 80 percent of the country’s population residing in urban areas, he says finding a way to reach new audiences and connect them with nature is increasingly critical to the future of conservation.
Helping for an hour may seem small, but it adds up. There are 2.4 million people living in the watershed, French says. If all of those people donated one hour of volunteer time, it could accomplish as much as approximately 1,200 full-time workers.
The result? Cleaner water, safer riverbanks and healthier wildlife thanks to the sponsors, businesses, watershed organizations, scouting troops, school groups, faith organizations, municipalities, and community members who make the event possible.
Conserving the nature of America, and the treasured lands and waters of the Northeast, takes all of us.
For more information about the cleanup, visit http://www.ctriver.org or contact River Steward Jacqueline Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-704-0057.