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  • Kate Munning

The Land Conservancy of New Jersey is leading new wave of progress for clean water protection

The Land Conservancy of New Jersey is a leading partner to protect clean water as a member of the ground-breaking Delaware River Watershed Initiative (DRWI) supported by the William Penn Foundation.

The William Penn Foundation announced more than $42 million in new funding for the DRWI, which is among the country’s largest non-governmental conservation efforts to protect and restore clean water. The DRWI is a first-of-its-kind collaboration involving 65 non-governmental organizations working together to protect and restore the Delaware River and its tributaries, which provide drinking water for 15 million people in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware.

At a time when the federal government is redefining its role in environmental protection, leadership by public agencies and nonprofit organizations at the state and local levels is more important than ever to keep our water clean. Federal policies over the past several decades such as the Clean Water Act have successfully reduced pollution in waterways nationwide, yet recent rollbacks of protections, and budget cuts for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, threaten to slow or reverse progress. The DRWI’s bottom-up approach represents a strategic path forward for the Delaware River basin. It is a nationally significant model that demonstrates the power of an organized, independent approach that encourages partnership between communities and the philanthropic sector.

The Land Conservancy has protected over 1,000 acres of land in the Delaware Watershed as part of this exciting initiative, including land in the Upper Musconetcong, Paulins Kill, and Lopatcong watersheds. “Protection of drinking water is a priority for The Land Conservancy of New Jersey,” stated Barbara Heskins Davis Vice President of Programs for The Land Conservancy. “Preservation of land in the Delaware River Watershed in northern New Jersey has greatly accelerated due to the financial support and backing of the William Penn Foundation. With their support, we have been able to provide much needed dollars to close the gap on projects to protect key watershed lands in Sussex and Warren Counties.”

At its 2014 launch, the DRWI catalyzed local and regional groups to accelerate conservation efforts. The DRWI stands out as a basin-scale program driven by non-profits and guided by research. In just over three years DRWI partners have strategically initiated projects that will protect 19,604 acres and restore an additional 8,331 acres, and monitored and sampled water quality at more than 500 sites across four states.

This additional $42 million, three-year investment builds on initial successes to protect and restore an estimated 43,484 additional acres and continue science-driven, data-informed efforts to secure clean, abundant water in the basin. The Initiative provides a replicable model that can be used to improve water health across the country.

“By design, The Delaware River Watershed Initiative aligns the work of 65 organizations in the watershed to accelerate conservation,” said Andrew Johnson, program director for Watershed Protection at the William Penn Foundation. “The Initiative is rooted in the strength of these organizations individually and in their ability to collaborate using science to target the most important places for conservation. Together they are protecting and restoring those places, measuring the impact of their efforts on local streams, and learning collectively to improve their work.”

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