Collaborating, Elevating, and Advocating at the 6th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum
By Rita Yelda, Outreach & Communications Manager, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed
There’s strength in numbers and power in working together. This is what we believe at the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, and why we invite all 131 of our member organizations to our annual Delaware River Watershed Forum. Going on its 6th year, the Forum took place on September 25-26 in Cape May, NJ. Over 240 attendees joined us to share information, build new relationships, and coordinate to drive a collective vision to protect and steward the Delaware River Basin’s natural resources. Topics emphasized this year included Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and National Wildlife Federation’s 4theDelaware campaign.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In line with the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s 2018 Policy Priority, the Forum delved into strategizing how to reach diverse audiences to ensure all underrepresented, underserved, and overburdened communities share equitable access to clean water. The Coalition’s Project Coordinator, Katharina Miguel, led a breakfast roundtable, “Partnering with Underserved Communities for Environmental Justice,” to get the conversation going. Facilitated discussions continued to highlight the need for diversity, signifying a future with clean water, healthy habitats, and strong communities requires leadership, coordination among diverse partners, and a holistic approach.
The “Breaking the Green Ceiling” breakout session focused on identifying the challenges to diversifying the conservation movement and investigated how incorporating inclusive practices is critical for recruiting and retaining people of color in our organizations. Remodeling organizations to be diverse and inclusive is not only a moral obligation, but it is critical to the success of the conservation movement.
The “Building an Inclusive Watershed” breakout session was interactive and equipped participants with a greater understanding of how to build authentic relationships and uplift the voices of underserved and overburdened communities, while addressing barriers to inclusive engagement within the conservation movement. The Coalition recognizes that indigenous peoples and people of color have always been important environmental leaders at the local and global level, yet their voices and narratives have historically been hidden by the mainstream environmental movement.
As the Coalition commits to building an inclusive watershed, we seek to strengthen community relationships and create opportunities for engagement that reflect the full spectrum of needs and experiences across the Delaware River Basin. To join CDRW’s DEI Workgroup, contact Katharina.firstname.lastname@example.org.
4theDelaware is a campaign to urge the governors of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware to pledge to work together to protect the waters of the Delaware River Basin. These four states share the river, and they share the responsibility for continuing the progress being made to improve its health. Recent attacks on bedrock federal environmental regulations mean we must look to our governors to work together and protect the vital natural resource that is the Delaware River.
Forum attendees perused the 4theDelaware information table during the duration of the two day event and were provided additional campaign details via the 4theDelaware infographic in the Forum’s program. 4theDelaware also hosted “Call to Action—Tell Your Governors Why Watershed Protection Matters to You!” - a session in which attendees took a fun, interactive ‘trip’ around the basin states. Postcards were signed to the Governor of each basin state, photos were taken to spread the word on social media, and stories were shared as to why we need enhanced statewide leadership to continue advancing restoration efforts.
A facilitated discussion that focused on the 4theDelaware campaign titled, "Building State Leadership 4 the Delaware," portrayed the need for a coordinated, comprehensive plan to restore and conserve the Delaware River. The panelists discussed activities happening in each of the basin states, such as local campaigns and days of action, and explored how to leverage these activities to further drive the campaign.
The 6th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum gave attendees refreshing perspectives and fostered new relationships. Coalition members and supporters gathered to strategize how to advance connections with diverse stakeholders, policymakers, business leaders, and the 15 million residents that rely on the Delaware River Basin for clean drinking water.
It’s important that the conversations and energy generated at the Forum don't end there! On our website, you’ll find presentations, photos, and the conference wrap up report to continue spreading information about the important topics covered. Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Forum to share, connect, and learn as we together build a better future for people and wildlife that call the basin home.