State officials from New York and Pennsylvania joined conservation leaders from the National Wildlife Federation and Friends of the Upper Delaware River today to discuss working together to protect the Delaware River watershed. On the banks of the East Branch of the Upper Delaware River, elected officials, state agency personnel, outdoor enthusiasts, and conservation groups collectively highlighted the importance of the Upper Delaware River watershed to the region’s wildlife, drinking water supply and recreational economy. Dignitaries participated in a drift boat float to experience the river first-hand.
“The Upper Delaware River is a special place and a highly regarded fishery in New York,” said State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Through Governor Andrew Cuomo’s support and leadership, New York State is committed to protecting the Delaware River as a treasured natural resource, wildlife habitat and a vital clean water supply that the region can benefit from now and for our future generations to enjoy.”
Governor Cuomo was represented at the Summit by Kathy Moser, Deputy Commissioner of Natural Resources for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. She was joined by representatives from the National Park Service, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection, the Upper Delaware Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Delaware County (NY) Department of Watershed Affairs, and the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. Participants highlighted the importance of working together to protect the Delaware River as a national treasure.
“It’s fitting that we come together where the Delaware River begins, as today we can see a new beginning to conserving America’s founding waterway,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The headwaters in New York provide vitality for wild trout, bald eagles, and countless species of wildlife who depend on the river for life. They also provide the perfect backdrop for these leaders to map how we will restore fish and wildlife habitat, enhance the recreation economy that sustains the region and protect our drinking water.”
The National Wildlife Federation, working with its state conservation partners, launched the “4theDelaware” campaign earlier this year to work with the leaders of the four states through which the river flows – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware – to enhance restoration and protection efforts. The Federation is partnering with local organizations like Friends of the Upper Delaware River to build grassroots support to accomplish this goal.
“Investing in the protection and restoration of the Upper Delaware River is critical to the economic health of this region. Tourism is the lifeblood of these communities and the river is the centerpiece.” said Jeff Skelding, Executive Director of Friends of the Upper Delaware River. “I’m proud to be here with local, state, and national leaders who work every day to protect the river and the regional economy it supports. The time for strong watershed wide leadership and collaboration to protect the entire river has never been more urgent and it’s fitting that we kick off this effort at the top of the watershed.”
Supporting the State’s growing sport fishing industry with an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity each year, the Delaware River is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi. Attendees said that the Upper Delaware River area is estimated to support a $400 million recreational economy, generated by tourism and second home investments, and to supply more than 8 million New Yorkers with clean drinking water. Further downstream, it supplies more than 50 percent of Philadelphia’s drinking water. In total, more than 15 million people get their drinking water from this source.
“The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed is thrilled to be working with partners on the 4theDelaware campaign. It’s critical that each state works to protect the valuable natural resources of the Delaware River Basin. By working together and prioritizing the Delaware, governors can ensure that both the health of the river and the economic values provided by the river are secured,” stated Kelly Mooij, Co-Chair of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed. “Last month, legislation passed which awarded $5 million dollars to the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program. The Delaware River Basin is a nationally significant resource and deserving of the federal recognition and funding,” she added.
The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program will provide funding and technical assistance to on-the-ground restoration and conservation projects within the four watershed states. March 2018 was the first time that federal funding had been dedicated solely for the Delaware River Basin.
The Summit coincided with the Friends of the Upper Delaware River’s One Bug Banquet, an annual event that brings 250 people together to celebrate the arrival of Spring and the fly-fishing, paddling and tourist season along with it.