Merrimack Conservation Partnership Announces its 2019 Environmental Science, Education and Outreach Grant Awards

The Merrimack Conservation Partnership (MCP) announced the 2019 recipients of its third 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 five 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 clean ups, 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 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: Ipswich River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $1,812
Estimated Total Project Costs: $35,986

Summary:
Ipswich River Watershed Association, in collaboration with other watershed groups, will implement a monitoring program to address a lack of water quality testing for bacterial pathogens in freshwater and estuarine sites in the Parker, Ipswich, and Essex watershed region. They will select sites and train and equip volunteers in the use of sampling and analytical equipment acquired through a MassDEP Grant for bacteria testing. Volunteers will be recruited through the existing RiverWatch citizen science water quality monitoring program, as well as through volunteers from regional watershed groups. Sampling will take place over the spring and summer of 2020, followed by outreach and reporting.

Applicant:  Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust, Inc., Lowell, MA
MCP Grant Award: $3,623
Total Project Costs: $9,179

Summary:
“Eyes on the Watershed” will offer a diversity of programming throughout the year to provide more in-depth training and citizen science opportunities to the Lowell, MA community, as well as to members of other surrounding towns. The program series of 8 – 10 educational programs, each offering skill-building opportunities for up to 30 participants, will increase citizen science engagement in the Merrimack River Watershed. Participants will be encouraged to share their knowledge in their home communities. Youth in the after-school program will have the opportunity to participate and then spread their knowledge as mentors to younger students and through presentations at community events, including a youth conference.

Applicant: Merrimack River Watershed Council
MCP Grant Award: $3,623
Estimated Total Project Costs: $10,058

Summary:
The “Moving Forward on the Merrimack” Project will bring together stakeholders, including elected officials, environmental agencies, and community organizations, on a 4-day kayak trip down the length of the Merrimack River. Voyagers will participate in an unforgettable educational program specific to each portion of the river, learning about the Merrimack’s strengths and challenges, and brainstorming solutions while on the river and at stops along the way. Participants will be educated about water quality issues, including pollution, stormwater runoff, water testing, and river ecology. Members of the public will be invited to join segments of the voyage, engaging them in the process of pursuing solutions to issues and creating a new army of river stewards. Planning will begin in January 2020, with the voyage taking place in summer 2020. Follow up with government officials will take place in fall 2020 and continue as needed.

Applicant:  Nashua River Watershed Association
MCP Grant Award: $2,319
Estimated Total Project Costs: $4,501

Summary:
During February 2020 Vacation Week, staff will lead the Nashua River Model Builders Program to provide 20 children ages 9-14 from Nashua’s diverse communities the opportunity to learn about how rivers function in an urban setting and the role of water as a critical human resource which also sustains a biodiverse community of plants and animals. Children will explore the river’s urban landscape, river formation, watershed functionality, and the ways in which humans have used and changed the river for industry and recreation. Then they will work together to design and build a large 3-D urban riverscape, incorporating human and wildlife components, and engineer solutions to pollution challenges. The 60” X 16” river model with accompanying informational poster will be available for viewing in the Nashua Library Children’s Room for at least one month.

Applicant: Society for the Protection of NH Forests
MCP Grant Award: $3,623
Estimated Total Project Costs: $125,091

Summary:
The Merrimack: River at Risk, a new documentary created by the Forest Society in collaboration with creative partner, Jerry Monkman of EcoPhotography, will tell the Merrimack River’s story and why it and its water quality are so critical to the health and economic vitality of the region. Increasing public awareness will accelerate conservation solutions through collaboration between conservation partners and diverse community constituencies. The film will serve as a resource to conservation partners and community groups in their efforts to generate conservation and protection of the Merrimack Valley Watershed. Distribution plans include both private and public showings as well as participation in local and regional film festivals. In addition to the 50-minute documentary, the project will include up to 8 short segments focused on specific uses or issues with the river targeted for social media and online audiences and an online study guide for teachers. The film is projected to be completed in December 2019, with the release planned for spring 2020.

For more information about the MCP, please contact Brian Hotz at (603) 224-9945 or bhotz@forestsociety.org. Information is also available at http://merrimackconservationpartnership.org.

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