Report details benefits of grant program to Potomac Highlands rivers and communities

March 17, 2016

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(Washington, DC) – The rivers and communities of the Potomac Highlands region across Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia have realized a wide variety of benefits from an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant program, according to a report released today by American Rivers.

The report details the results of seven projects, measuring benefits including acres of land protected, number of trees planted, and numbers of threatened and endangered species aided by habitat preservation and restoration. In total, the projects protected or restored more than 5,000 acres of sensitive lands, planted more than 65,000 trees, and helped more than 50 rare, threatened, or endangered fish and wildlife species. Other significant benefits include community engagement, public education, and mobilization of hundreds of volunteers for environmental restoration projects.

Under a cooperative agreement with EPA, American Rivers implemented the four-year environmental grant program which invested $1.67 million and leveraged an additional $3.59 million to support local economies, clean water, and quality of life improvements in the Potomac Highlands, and to protect the Highlands’ valuable ecosystems. The region hosts some of the most diverse and globally important natural resources on Earth.

“This effort underscores the power of collaboration. Strong partnerships can stretch a dollar and make a lasting difference for rivers and communities,” said Jessie Thomas-Blate with American Rivers. “More than 30 agencies, groups, and private citizens came together through this initiative to protect and restore the headwaters of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay watersheds. That says a lot about the potential of the program and the chance for even more success in the future. Given sufficient resources, this program could serve as a model for strategic conservation work throughout the country.”

The Highlands region is the headwaters of the Potomac River, which flows through the nation’s capital. The region’s streams and forests provide rich habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants, as well as increasingly popular recreation and tourism destination. Many of the region’s streams have been damaged by harmful logging, mining, dams, and other development, but opportunities abound for river restoration and revitalization. Protecting and restoring these small streams and wetlands is critical for delivering cleaner water downstream, flood protection, nutrient retention, and healthy wildlife habitat.

The seven projects detailed in the report are:

  1. Preserving Red Spruce in Monongahela National Forest — The Gandy Ranch Project (West Virginia)
  2. Saving Healthy Land and Preserving Agricultural Heritage — The Shenandoah Valley Priority Lands Project (Virginia)
  3. Building Conservation Hubs and Corridors — The Cacapon Legacy Project (West Virginia)
  4. Protecting Drinking Water for a Major City — The Marsh Creek Project (Pennsylvania)
  5. Revitalizing Connections between Parks and People along the South River — The Waynesboro Riverfront Parks Project (Virginia)
  6. Restoring Non-Native Forest Corridors — The Mower Tract Ecological Restoration Project (West Virginia)
  7. Helping the Community Help Themselves — The Frostburg Grows Project (Maryland)

About American Rivers

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 250,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at AmericanRivers.org, Facebook.com/AmericanRivers, and Twitter.com/AmericanRivers.