Penn State Extension announces the launch of the Master Watershed Steward (MWS) Program in Adams and Franklin counties. The MWS program, which began in Lehigh County in 2013, is now active in 30 counties in Pennsylvania with more than 500 volunteers active across the state.
Holly Smith, who has been coordinating the MWS Program in Cumberland County since its launch in 2019, will also coordinate the program in Adams and Franklin counties. “The three counties will be combined into one program, but stewards can stay within their home county for volunteer projects if they choose,” Smith said. “Each county has its own set of program partners, as well as its own individual challenges and opportunities. Our efforts are very place-based. We work with local audiences and partners, and strive to assess and improve water quality and native habitat in our neighborhoods.”
The MWS program also helps implement Countywide Action Plans, which aim to meet pollution reduction goals outlined in Pennsylvania’s Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan. These efforts will ultimately improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Master Watershed Steward Program, recruits community volunteers with an interest in water quality and natural resource conservation. The volunteers are formally trained in classroom and hands-on settings in environmental resources, stewardship, and education, and are then engaged in watershed education, research, and restoration projects.
To become a certified MWS, a 40-hour training program and 50 hours of volunteer service is required the first year. Certification is maintained in subsequent years by contributing a minimum of 20 volunteer hours and 10 hours of continuing education annually.
Examples of Steward projects include installing rain and pollinator gardens, participating in streamside or community habitat enhancement projects/plantings, conducting stream clean-ups, organizing educational workshops about conservation landscaping or homeowner stormwater management, writing newsletter articles, developing educational materials, and working with schools to provide meaningful watershed educational in-class and field experiences.
The next 12-session training program for the three counties will begin in March 2022. Classes will likely be conducted at rotating locations among the Extension offices and partner organizations, and may have a live- streaming option. The curriculum also aims to have three hands-on Saturday field trips.
For more information about the MWS Program or to request an application for the 2022 training program, email coordinator Holly Smith at email@example.com. Information sessions will be held in late 2021 and early 2022 for those wishing to learn more. Applications are due by February 11, 2022.