Isabel “Izzy” Snee and Mariah Saunders have joined the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) team as conservation coordinators, working to accelerate progress toward bringing impaired streams back to health in parts of four Pennsylvania counties.
The work by Snee and Saunders continues momentum created by Pequea Creek and Halfmoon Creek Watershed Implementation Plans coordinated by CBF. Their goals during the new five-year Pequea and Halfmoon Creeks Watershed Renewal Project are to reduce pollution and restore the health of streams in both watersheds that are impaired by nonpoint source runoff, like certain agricultural activities.
“The renewal project represents an evolution in CBF’s work to reduce pollution to Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams. Using our plans as a guide, this project will accelerate implementing key practices to bring streams back to health, improve wildlife habitat critical to critters like the brook trout, and enhance local appreciation of our local waters,” said Harry Campbell, CBF Science Policy and Advocacy Director in Pennsylvania.
“Izzy and Mariah bring valuable experience to taking the renewal project to the next level,” Campbell added. “We are excited to have them working with farmers, landowners, and partners in Pequea and Halfmoon to get the plans implemented.”
The Pequea Creek watershed is in Lancaster and Chester counties. Halfmoon Creek watershed is in Centre and Huntingdon counties.
“Engaging with the community is the foundation of conservation,” Snee said. “It’s getting them interested and giving them the motivation as to why they should care. A lot of people already have that, they just don’t know what they can do in a practical sense. I’m looking forward to engaging with farmers, our partners in the Pequea Creek watershed, and hearing other ideas.”
“Building relationships within the Halfmoon Creek watershed represents a wide breadth of opportunities,” Saunders added. “The entire implementation plan and its success will rely heavily on partnerships constructed there.”
The basis for the renewal project is two innovative watershed management plans already completed by CBF, that combine emerging high-resolution watershed data and modeling with extensive local collaboration. The project will also offer a series of hands-on farmer-to-farmer conservation field days to teach and engage farmers through hands-on experiences.
Of the 240 miles of streams in the Pequea Creek watershed, the near-term priority is restoration of 41 miles that do not meet water quality standards for aquatic life. Under the Pequea plan, funding will be used to keep soils and nutrients on the land with such practices as cover crops, no-till agriculture, riparian buffers, streambank fencing, streambank stabilization, and other practices.
Also in the Pequea watershed, access and use of non-motorized cover crop and no-till equipment will be available for use by Plain Sect farmers.
Snee, from Washington, D.C., joined CBF having served as a horticultural conservationist, engaging in field research collection, collaboration with botanic institutions, conservation agencies, and landowners, tours and lectures at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA.
She worked for the Quivira Coalition in Montana in conservation agriculture and was a sustainable agricultural operator and cattle specialist with the renowned Warren Wilson College Farm in Asheville, N.C. She also interned at the Smithsonian Gardens in Maryland.
Snee has a bachelor of science degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology and a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture from Warren Wilson College.
The goals for the Halfmoon Creek watershed are to reduce sediment, preserve critical landscapes, restore degraded landscapes, and foster stewardship of the watershed. Of the 32 miles of streams, a priority is restoring roughly 10 miles of headwaters in the Bald Eagle Region.
Saunders is from Annapolis, Md., and was recently at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center serving as a teaching assistant in Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture, and education intern.
She holds a bachelor of arts degree in Environmental Studies and Classical Civilizations from Wesleyan University. Her undergraduate thesis was on fostering cultural engagement and environmental stewardship through Place-Based Education in the Chesapeake Bay, earning her high honors from the Bailey College of the Environment.
Funding acquired by Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), is moving the five-year project forward. The senators requested $2.18 million for the Pequea Creek watershed restoration plan. Senator Casey sought an additional $1.06 million for the Halfmoon Creek watershed plan. The plans also are eligible for federal funding through the Clean Water Act and other sources.
Funding vital for development of both plans was made possible by the Richard King Mellon Foundation.