PHILADELPHIA, PA — The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW), staffed by New Jersey Audubon and executed in partnership with National Wildlife Federation, held its 10th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum in Philadelphia, PA, on Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4.
Over 275 people attended, bringing together organizations and individuals spanning the four Delaware River Watershed states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New York, to collaborate and build capacity for environmental conservation. The Delaware River Watershed provides drinking water to 13.3 million people (about 4% of the U.S. population) in four states, including all 1.6 million Philadelphians.
“A decade of positive impact in the Delaware River Watershed is an incredible milestone and throughout the Coalition’s history, we have many accomplishments to celebrate,” said Kelly Knutson, Director, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. “In 2012, the Coalition was formed with the mission to obtain national and federal recognition for the Delaware River Watershed. Today, we’re a collective of over 180 nonprofits, and together we advocate to advance sound conservation and clean water policy. As we envision the next ten years, we look forward to working with all our partners to continue to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, reduce flood damage, increase public access and more.”
“CDRW has much to be proud of on its 10th anniversary. Thanks in large part to the Coalition’s efforts, the Delaware River watershed has significantly advanced its position on the national stage over the past decade,” said Stuart Clarke, Watershed Protection Program Director, William Penn Foundation. “The William Penn Foundation is proud to partner with the Coalition in its work, and we look forward to examining together how to best extend CDRW’s record of achievement in confrontation with the key 21st century challenges of climate change and equitable sustainability.”
The Forum focused on how to mobilize around important issues and policies that impact the watershed to ensure a healthy river for future generations. A particular emphasis at this year’s Forum was placed on Environmental Justice (EJ) as a core component of our collective watershed work. We explored efforts to advance equitable outdoor access and environmental justice in the Watershed and nationally, and shared tools to assist organizations in making informed decisions about EJ pursuits.
“Ignoring or denying the unpleasant parts of conservation history may appease a few but is also an insult to the many embracing this historic moment of recognition, reconciliation, and accountability,” said Marcus Sibley, National Wildlife Federation’s NY/NJ/CT Conservation Partnerships Director. “We must be intentional and committed to our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) efforts in the Watershed, and digging deeper with attendees during the 2022 CDRW Forum Environmental Justice Plenary was truly encouraging.”
“The Delaware River Watershed Forum’s focus on environmental justice was a great opportunity to showcase the power of EPA’s EJScreen 2.1, which gives the public the ability to identify areas overburdened by pollution, and to highlight potentially overburdened populations both in the watershed, and across the nation,” said Matthew Lee, Environmental Protection Specialist for the Office of Environmental Justice and External Civil Rights at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “EPA looks forward to any opportunity to work with our partners to highlight the broad capabilities of EJScreen 2.1.”
“Addressing outdoor equity barriers that exist for millions of people in our country is a critical piece of environmental justice. Everyone should have access to the transformative benefits of nature and should feel welcome and safe in outdoor spaces,” said Stephanie Maez, Executive Director of the Outdoor Foundation. “We were honored to be part of this year’s Delaware River Watershed Forum where deep discussions on outdoor equity and other EJ issues took place. And we look forward to continuing to support the critical actions that follow these conversations.”
Additional topics included current on-the-ground conservation and restoration projects within the watershed; addressing infrastructure and stormwater challenges in the basin; federal programs that fund conservation and restoration projects; 50 years of the Clean Water Act; and addressing forever chemicals — aka perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our waterways.
“The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed has been a vital partner for advancing conservation in this region,” said Scott Kahan, Acting Deputy Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region, who delivered the Forum’s keynote address on federal investments in the watershed. “While we have made tremendous progress toward shared conservation goals through more than $40 million in federal investments to date, moving forward, we need to prioritize communities that have not been afforded equal access to nature. That’s why we are increasingly investing in projects that focus on working with communities to open doors to natural spaces and their associated benefits. Engaging all watershed residents in environmental stewardship that is fair, inclusive, and reflects their needs is the right thing to do.”
“Addressing “forever-chemicals” — aka perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) —in the Delaware River is critical to maintaining a healthy drinking-water supply for the more than 13.3 million people that rely on the Delaware River Watershed,” said Eileen Murphy, VP Government Relations, New Jersey Audubon. “I am pleased to take part in the 10th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum to explore what states and the federal government are doing to reduce their presence in commercial products and limit their levels in water.”