The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2018 recipients of its second round of Environmental Science, Education and Outreach grants in the Merrimack Valley Watershed region of New Hampshire and Massachusetts. In this round of grants, the MCP awarded grants totaling $15,000 to four projects that will help fund environmental science, education, and outreach activities related directly to the Merrimack River or its watershed. Funds can be used for activities such as youth or public environmental educational activities, development of outreach and educational materials, river cleanups, water quality testing and monitoring activities, and other science, education, and outreach efforts.
In 2010, the Merrimack was identified by the US Forest Service as the most threatened watershed in the nation in terms of projected loss of private forest land over the next 20 years. The two-state region of the Merrimack Watershed spans a total of 2.1 million acres and 3,275 square miles of which 54% is in NH and 46% in Massachusetts. The Merrimack River starts in Franklin, NH and flows through eight of NH’s largest cities, then continues into Massachusetts to its mouth at Newburyport.
Launched in 2012, the Merrimack Conservation Partnership is a collaborative effort of more than twenty private organizations and public agencies working on land conservation in the Merrimack Valley Watershed. The partners share a vision of conserving (on a strictly willing-seller/donor basis) the region’s most ecologically significant forests and the key connections between them for wildlife passage and human recreation.
Applicant: Nashua River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $3,213
Estimated Total Project Costs: $4,541.65
The future of our waterways depends on “river ambassadors”, specifically our youth, to be knowledgeable and communicative stewards. During February 2019 Vacation Week, NRWA staff will lead the “Nashua River Ambassador Program” for ages 8-12 at Nashua Public Library. As junior naturalists, students will explore the Nashua River through scientific investigation and art activities. As “river ambassadors” they will use their discoveries to create artwork that inspires others to protect the Merrimack and Nashua Rivers. Artwork will include posters, sculptures made of natural and recycled materials, and an accordion style book placed on display for library visitor viewing. Combining nature-based projects with stewardship activities not only enables urban children to understand where their drinking water originates, but also empowers them to participate in local environmental protection.
Applicant: Ipswich River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $2,357
Estimated Total Project Costs: $11,500
This project proposes to conduct biological monitoring using macroinvertebrates as indicators of aquatic life health in the Parker-Ipswich-Essex watershed region. This will contribute high-quality data to understand impacts to aquatic life from threats to water quality. Sampling will be performed according to our MassDEP approved quality assurance project plan covering existing sites, with the addition of new sites in the PIE-River partnership region. Monitoring will be performed with trained citizen science volunteers under the supervision of IRWA staff. We will publicize findings through reports, outreach materials and activities that reinforce the need for practices beneficial to water quality such as water conservation and stream restoration. Specific outreach activities will include newsletter and e-news articles, website blogs, social media posts and presentations, such as at the annual PIE-Rivers conference. These materials will be incorporated as appropriate into our existing youth education and municipal outreach programs.
Applicant: Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, Inc., Lowell, MA
MCP Grant Award: $4,715
Total Project Costs: $12,979
The TREES (Teens Representing Excellence in Environmental Stewardship) program will build upon our Concord River Alewife Restoration project, funded by the Merrimack Conservation Partnership in 2017, by offering a bi-weekly after-school environmental education program to engage youth in projects that enhance the water quality of the Merrimack River. Activities will include visits to land trust properties, field visits with environmental professionals, participation in citizen science activities including fish monitoring and water quality testing, sharing data with River Schools within the SuAsCo watershed, and hosting a watershed-wide youth conference in March 2018. TREES helps inspire the next generation of river stewards to care about the city’s most vital natural resources, our rivers; work toward improving water quality; share knowledge with their peers; and potentially choose a career in the field.
Applicant: Town of Hopkinton, Hopkinton, NH
MCP Grant Award: $4,715
Total Project Costs: $16,410
This community outreach/education project seeks to reduce the environmental damage from plastic bags entering the Contoocook River, the Merrimack River, and the Atlantic Ocean. The Hopkinton Recycling Committee will coordinate this six-phase project in conjunction with the Hopkinton School District, Chamber of Commerce, town government, faith communities, and service groups including Rotary and the Lions club. We will facilitate changes in personal shopping behavior using educational materials about the environmental impacts of plastics, social media and signage visibility, and community presentations. This project is designed to be a model for Outreach in each of the 16 riverfront towns in the Contoocook River Watershed – and eventually all of the riverfront towns in the Merrimack Watershed – to offer our model community project for reducing plastic bags.