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Initiative 4. Develop and Deploy Delivery Mechanisms for Accelerating Conservation in Priority Watersheds

Conference attendees emphasized the importance of focusing efforts in priority watersheds, where nutrient loads are high, local impairments exist, and local efforts are underway and can be built upon. To succeed in this prioritization effort, delivery mechanisms need to be developed and supported, including technical assistance in developing watershed plans which identify the right practices to be implemented in the right places, investment in partnership development and partnership management infrastructure, and the cultivation of and support for local leadership through watershed leadership training.

The importance of focusing efforts on priority watersheds was emphasized throughout the conference. Criteria for prioritization of watersheds discussed included those where nutrient loads are high, local impairments exist, and local efforts are underway. Conservation efforts will be focused in high priority, high opportunity watersheds, and the delivery mechanisms for achieving collaborative success in those watersheds will be built. These mechanisms include technical assistance in developing watershed plans which identify the right practices to be implemented in the right places, investment in partnership development and partnership management infrastructure, and the cultivation of and support for local leadership.

Where success stories exist in Pennsylvania, they are almost always locally led. This initiative seeks to transform local success stories from the pilot nature they are now to the standard operating procedure for achieving water quality goals in the Commonwealth. Partners who have worked successfully at watershed/regional scales will be brought together to share lessons learned, identify barriers and recommendations for overcoming them, and develop a collective toolbox to help those working on the ground in watersheds.

Priority watersheds identified will be focus areas for building a peer-to-peer collaborative support structure for watershed based efforts. Existing training initiatives and programs (such as the Pennsylvania Rural-Urban Leadership Program (RULE)) may be leveraged to develop a watershed leadership academy to train and build a network of local watershed leaders able to sustain long-lasting watershed partnerships in priority watersheds.

This initiativeĀ  embraces the three-pronged approach to accelerating conservation implementation by creating local partnerships that first deploy the necessary education, outreach, and technical assistance to implement practices, and only turn to enforcement where non-compliers are given the opportunity but do not respond to these local partnership strategies. It enhances and accelerates the implementation of conservation where it is needed the most, and deploys a smart strategy of delivering a variety of leveraged program dollars to implement priority practices in priority places in an efficient, cost effective manner.