|COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION CASE STUDY|
|Friends of the Rappahannock (F.O.R.)|
|Locally-Led Cooperative Conservation in the Rappahannock River Watershed|
|Project Summary: Conservation and protection of the Rappahannock River and its watershed through locally-led partnerships promoting L.I.D practices, agricultural BMP’s and conservation easements.|
|Let the River Run Free! Key partnerships led to cooperative conservation efforts that resulted in removal of the Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River. Anadromous fish species now have access to several hundred miles of historic spawning river and streams for the first time since prior to the Civil War. F.O.R. file photo.|
Resource ChallengeThe Rappahannock River and its tributaries lie in one of the fastest growing regions in the eastern United States. Cooperative conservation,voluntary local ownership in the wellbeing of the river and its ecosystem, is critical to protecting the river and its sensitive riparian habitats--clean water, a healthy and diverse aquatic and riparian ecosystem and open spaces for the enjoyment of wildlife and area citizens.
Examples of Key Partners
The key to cooperative conservation is informed local ownership of the wellbeing of the
River and its abundant natural resources. Examples of the many participants who are cooperating in the protection of the
River and its natural resources follow:
Friends of the Rappahannock (F.O.R.) is the lead NGO, providing sound information, expertise and relationship building through its education, outreach and advocacy efforts. Like a wise carpenter, F.O.R. emphasizes the finer tools of education, dialog and consensus-based action in advancing its objectives and contributing to real cooperative conservation successes in the watershed.
- Ag BMP's: F.O.R. works closely with area conservation districts and farmers in the upper watershed to foster voluntary riparian restoration efforts and best management practices (BMPs). BMPs are practices that farmers and other land managers can use to reduce polluted runoff. In addition to providing volunteers, in the spirit of a barn raising, F.O.R. also provides cost-share funds to help fill gaps in USDA assistance programs.
- Incentive-Based L.I.D. Code Changes: F.O.R. works in collaboration with the Fredericksburg Area Builders Association to advance incentive-based code changes that encourage Low Impact Development (L.I.D.) practices when development does occur. L.I.D. involves attempting to replicate the pre-development iability of the land to absorb rain water through cost-effective practices such as biofilters and rain gardens to reduce polluted runoff. After several years of education and trust building, both organizations testified before the Stafford County Board of Supervisors in favor of the same code changes. As a result,
County became one of the first localities in the nation to adopt such changes. Builders are now incorporating real L.I.D. practices in their applications. F.O.R. is working with other local governments to accomplish similar changes.
- Riparian Easement: F.O.R. is collaborating with the City of
Fredericksburg , the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and The Nature Conservancy in pursuit of a permanent conservation easement on over 4,000 acres of land owned by the City along the
River . County governments in whose jurisdiction the land lies are also being involved to encourage ownership involvement of this major resource, perhaps as easement co holders.
River : F.O.R. worked for years with a number of partners in a major effort that led to the successful removal with full community support of the Embrey Dam on the
River to restore fish passage for the first time since before the Civil War. The main stem of the
River is now the longest free flowing river in the eastern
United States , from source to mouth. F.O.R.'s role was to serve as a resource to other stakeholders, providing sound information and providing answers to all questions, allowing local stakeholders to reach a position of support for dam removal for their own reasons. Key partners included the City of
Fredericksburg which owned the dam,
County , in whose jurisdiction the dam was located, area citizens from many walks of life, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Senator John Warner, State Senator
Edd Houck and other area legislators, American Rivers and others. The dam breach was a major celebration of cooperative conservation. F.O.R. is now working with artisans, area businesses and the City of
Fredericksburg on a demonstration project, "Recycling From the River FOR the River." Crib dam materials and sediment from behind the dam are being converted into valuable products to be sold back into the community, combined with membership recruiting, with proceeds used to help fund F.O.R.'s programs.
- Education: F.O.R. works to connect future citizens and leaders by developing a close working relationship with area schools through its highly acclaimed "At the River's Edge" education program. The program was upgraded to fit
Virginia 's Standards of Learning requirements, and educators regard the program as helping them meet those requirements. It is anticipated that over 4,000 area school children will participate in the program at F.O.R.'s unique outdoor facility along the river in 2005. F.O.R. also reaches out to the minority community through a working partnership with the
Center . Area businesses help make the program more accessible through financial sponsorships. F.O.R. is currently jointly developing a high school curriculum for college-bound students in partnership with Haymount, a local development company incorporating state-of-the art L.I.D. practices. Student groups themselves are key partners, taking on leadership roles in river cleanup.
- Rappahannock River Water Trail: Facilitated by matching grants from the National Park Service's Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, F.O.R. is establishing a Rappahannock River Water Trail to better connect citizens to the Rappahannock River watershed and its rich heritage in enjoyable and educational ways, while encouraging conservation stewardship. A unique river atlas and other educational resources will also help celebrate Jamestown's 400th anniversary and Captain John Smith's early exploration of the Rappahannock River.
- Basin Commission: The
River and its tributaries flow through 16 local jurisdictions. The Rappahannock River Basin Commission brings local supervisors and state legislators together in a common forum to increase awareness and foster basin wide planning and action. This forum has helped change the view of many localities of the river from being a potential barrier to development to an asset that they recognize as deserving protection as part of their larger missions. F.O.R. and other stakeholders participate in this important process.
F.O.R. received the CF Industries National Watershed several years ago for its partnership successes. More information on the many exciting partnerships that lead to true cooperative conservation can be found at http://www.riverfriends.org.
Results and Accomplishments
F.O.R. takes great pride in the role its staff and volunteers have taken in achieving true local ownership and action by a variety of cooperators and partners conserning the stewardship of the Rappahannock River and its watershed and applauds those partners for their beneficial actions. Success could not be achieved without their willing involvement.
- The mainstem of the Rappahannock River is now the longest free flowing river in the eastern United States.
- Farmers are making progress in reducing runoff and restoring and protecting riparian habitat.
- L.I.D. practices are becoming the way of doing business when development occurs in the watershed.
- Our watershed's future will be in good hands with thousands of area school children and educators participating in F.O.R.'s riverside "At the River's Edge" education program.
It's not rocket science. It's having the patience to work with other stakeholders, serve as a resource of good information, understand what their objectives are and finding mutually beneficial partnerships through innovative approaches where partners take action to protect the river and the watershed for their own reasons. F.O.R. seeks to recruit volunteer leadership that represents a cross-section of the community. In concert with high quality staff combine sond science with great people skills, this facilitates development of positions and approaches that are more likely to be accepted by those F.O.R. reaches out to.