3/25/2014 1:59:00 PM Commentary: The rewards of working with a nonprofit for the Verde River watershed
Anna Schrenk My Turn
Two years ago my husband and I left our sailing life to move to the Verde Valley, where I became the program coordinator for a watershed-scale restoration project. My love of plants, rivers and the arid Southwest is what attracted me to the job and ultimately landed me back to life on land in this beautiful valley.
During my 15 years of working on restoration projects, my experience was always with our federal agencies and tribes, never with a nonprofit organization. I knew that the opportunity to work for Friends of Verde River Greenway (FVRG), the lead organization of this large project, was going to be challenging. Never did I imagine the rewards working with a wide array of partners that make up the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition (VWRC) would bring me.
FVRG and VWRC are both participating in Arizona Gives Day on April 9, a day for Arizonans to come together to show support for the state's nonprofits in 24 hours. (Visit http://azgives.razoo.com).
VWRC emulates collaboration, cooperation and communication, all of which are the anchors for a successful community partnership. It is rare to see a partnership where over 20 local and international nonprofit organizations, federal and state agencies, local and international corporations, municipalities and a tribal nation are all working together to fulfill common goals. The participation goes beyond this coalition of 20-plus; it includes over 190 private landowners who also see the need for cross-boundary cooperation to fulfill the same goals.
During the last two years, VWRC has been hard at work, implementing the goals of the Verde River Cooperative Invasive Plant Management Plan. The goals of this five-year plan, which were developed by a multi-stakeholder group, are being fulfilled by leaps and bounds. VWRC has reduced the populations of non-native invasive plants in our riparian areas to the tune of 1,500 acres per year. FVRG supports our local economy by supporting local businesses. FVRG uses 92 percent of our annual funding for on-the-ground restoration work.
VWRC has provided job skill training and seasonal employment opportunities to 40 veterans and Conservation Corps members that are VWRC's on-the-ground work force. Many of these veterans and young adults have gained fulltime employment in the Verde Valley because of this experience or have been inspired to further their education in the fields of conservation and science. VWRC partners are educating youth and the local Verde Valley community about the economic and social value of a healthy river system. The list of accomplishments that VWRC partners have completed goes well beyond these examples.
The VWRC partnership is a like flagship vessel, if you will, navigating through a watershed unique in the southwest for its natural beauty, free-flowing waters, rich natural and cultural resources and recreation opportunities. Non-native invasive plants are threatening the health and sustainability of the Verde's treasures. Controlling these invasives will not be without is challenges, squalls and rough waters.
I feel the partnership is prepared to handle these bumps in the river, but it will required the continued support from the larger Verde Valley Community. Become a VWRC Partner today.
Anna Schrenk is the program coordinator for Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition (VWRC)