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It’s been a very eventful year at Umpqua Watersheds, and the close of 2012 finds our ship afloat and on course, and even using the winds of change to fill its sails. Here’s a nutshell of our adventures over the last year:
Umpqua Watersheds’ Conservation Program continues to partner with Oregon Wild and Environment Oregon to champion the Crater Lake Wilderness campaign. We were recently awarded a Patagonia grant to help us with that effort, and have contracted with ECONorthwest economists to research the direct and indirect economic benefits of wilderness. A report on their preliminary findings was presented by economist Kristin Lee during a “summit” organized by the Wild on Wilderness (WOW) committee on January 27 at the new Umpqua Business Center.
In addition to our important and ongoing conservation work, we have increased our emphasis on our education and restoration programs. We continue to believe that getting the public (especially young people) directly involved in understanding and restoring ecosystems will be the key to maintaining a healthy environment that ultimately sustains a healthy economy.
With that outcome in mind, our Education Program recently hired a new VISTA/Americorp member, Roland Wang, who brings with him a Master’s Degree in Water Resources from the University of Wisconsin. He will help to build upon the great programs for K-12 students developed by his predecessor, Mike Rooney. Hundreds of area kids benefitted from our Education Program’s activities in 2012.
Our Restoration Program is breaking new ground in a collaborative effort to develop the Elk Creek Watershed Action Plan for the 54,000 acre watershed in the Tiller Ranger District. Umpqua Watersheds is working closely with the Umpqua National Forest, South Umpqua Rural Community Partnership, Lomakatsi Restoration Project, Phoenix School, Oregon Youth Conservation Corp, Umpqua Community College, Umpqua Bio-alternatives Cooperative and others to find ways to use the low value products of restoration forestry to produce high value, locally made products.
We are excited about an innovative new project that combines elements of education, restoration and conservation. Our new Director of Operations, Kasey Hovik, was instrumental in securing a federal Title II RAC grant to hire and train a crew of six youth (17-24) to do biological surveys. They will then be supervised and paid through a partnership with Phoenix School and Oregon Youth Conservation Corp to work on the Elk Creek Project under the guidance of Umpqua National Forest and Umpqua Community College mentors.
Despite a highly professional staff and great effort by a hard-working Board of Directors, we’ve discovered that grants for staff and overhead have diminished dramatically, and the stress of not having a reliable funding stream to meet monthly payrolls weighed continually on our Board members, who often were among the largest financial donors to UW. We knew that we needed to adopt a new model more aligned to this new reality.
But while grants to sustain organizations are becoming rarer, grants for innovative projects (such as the ones mentioned above) are still available, especially if they are collaborative, provide opportunities for youth, and restore degraded habitats -- arenas in which we have strong programs and recent successes. We believe Umpqua Watersheds is strategically positioned to build on our success in getting grants that are restricted to such projects. But they WON’T pay the rent, utility bills or an office manager’s paycheck. That’s why your contribution is so critical to our organization.
We need our local members to cover our office and a manager so that our volunteer Board can continue its success in managing programs and funding projects. If you want an all-volunteer staff to send out bi-monthly “Watershed Moments” emails and a quarterly newsletter, make a donation in the double digits. If you also want someone to pick up the phone when you call our office during limited hours, and a VISTA member to help with education projects, make a three digit donation. If you want a full-time professional staff of 2 or 3 and an additional Americorp member to make more dramatic strides in acting locally while partnering with regional and national organizations, go to four digits. It’s that simple.
While the past year has been one of success and change for our organization, we are confident that the careful strategic planning we’ve done, and the energy and dedication of our Board and volunteers will bring our current projects to productive conclusions and allow us to take advantage of the opportunities we see before us. But we need everyone’s help -- if you can’t give as much money as you’d like, please think about volunteering at the next event or donating items to the auction at our Annual Banquet on March 9th. If you want to discuss any other ways you can help, please contact us and we will meet with you at your convenience. Or make a point to stop by the office -- we want to hear from you!
We are all Umpqua Watersheds!
We ask you to please consider joining us as a yearly Major Donor, so that together we can respond to the momentous opportunities and challenges in the “100 Valleys of the Umpqua”. Your donation of $250 at the Partner level; $500 at the Steward level; or $1,000 (or more if possible) at the Defender level, will help to ensure the future of our watershed. We appreciate your support of UW in the past and would like to take this opportunity to thank you in advance, for your donation in support of our collective future!