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Upper Merced River Watershed Council Receives Grant

The Upper Merced River Watershed Council’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that its application to the Bureau of Reclamation’s 2021 WaterSmart Cooperative Watershed Management Program Phase 1 Grant was chosen for funding.

The WaterSMART Grant Program provides up to $100,000 to eligible watershed groups to support capacity building and group development activities that empower local communities to engage with pressing watershed issues. The 2-year grant will enable the Council to engage federal partners and community stakeholders to rejuvenate the organization which struggled to recover after a fire destroyed the Council’s office in 2012.

The Council envisions positioning itself as a community convener and clearinghouse of information regarding restoration and stewardship activities in the Wild and Scenic Merced River corridor and surrounding watershed. The final deliverable will be a watershed plan that summarizes the outcomes of the stakeholder engagement work and identifies a strategy for implementing its recommendations.

Board chair and founding member of the Council Holly Warner says, “We started the Council in 2001 to protect and enhance the Upper Merced River Watershed through education, stewardship, and community-based projects. Over 20 years later, this grant will allow us to hear from the community about the watershed’s unique needs of today.” Warner says, “Before the fire that destroyed our offices in 2012, we had several staff, a robust group of volunteers, and a slate of grants allowing us to conduct invasive plant removal, water quality monitoring, and education programs in the schools. With this WaterSmart grant, we’re looking forward to reigniting our efforts. We also see this planning process as an opportunity to see what new initiatives and causes our stakeholders want to see the Council focus on in the present and future, like wildfire risk reduction, targeted climate change adaptation measures, and the Merced River Trail.”

The scope of the work for the grant will be twofold. The first phase involves outreach to stakeholders and agencies to learn about the ongoing activities and needs in the watershed. This information will then form the basis of a new collaborative work plan for the watershed to be released in the second phase of the grant.

In the coming months the Watershed Council, led by Mariposa consultant and grant project manager Kristina Rylands, will engage a diverse array of stakeholders, including the National Park Service, US Forest Service, tribes including the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation, state and local agencies, UC Merced, and community groups. The goal is to understand the activities and projects currently underway in the watershed, identify where there might be gaps, and determine how the Watershed Council might play a support role in the future.

When completed, the collaborative watershed work plan will present a snapshot for the community of the goals and prioritized projects and activities across various agencies and organizations in the watershed. These projects might include community/school education, responsible recreation and stewardship, equitable accessibility, and potentially measures to mitigate the increased pressures of visitation on Yosemite National Park.

The Upper Merced River Watershed Council is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Since 2001, it has served as an umbrella organization to initiate, encourage, and support projects that protect and enhance the Merced River Watershed—from the headwaters of the Merced Wild and Scenic River in Yosemite National Park to Lake McClure. The Council does not own or manage any land or water.

To learn more about the Upper Merced River Watershed Council and how you can get involved, follow the Council’s Facebook page and Instagram at Upper_Merced_River or visit www.merced-river.org. For questions or comments, email mercedwatershed@gmail.com.

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