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Clark University Announces New Blackstone Watershed Program

The George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University is pleased to announce the initiation of the Blackstone Watershed Program. This program will help convene stakeholders throughout the bi-state Blackstone Watershed and offer technical assistance, outreach and educational materials, and networking to advance the goals of the 2021 Blackstone River Watershed Needs Assessment Report from the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program (NBEP). The two-year outreach of NBEP to communities, nonprofits, and others working in the watershed highlighted the need to create a new position that would help enhance collaboration throughout the region. The new Program will work with partners to improve social and ecological health of the watershed and is supported by a grant from NBEP through its host the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), together with additional watershed research and management grants overseen by George Perkins Marsh Institute Director Robert Johnston.

CovinoTo oversee the new program, Stefanie Covino will join the George Perkins Marsh Institute as the inaugural Blackstone Watershed Program Manager. Previously the Conservation Planner with the City of Worcester and an alumna of Clark University, Stefanie brings a wealth of experience in watershed planning, networking and management, and has deep familiarity with issues and organizations across the watershed. During her time at Mass Audubon, Stefanie co-led the Resilient Taunton Watershed Network (RTWN) and looks to use that experience to build the new Blackstone Collaborative. By hosting monthly meetings with diverse stakeholders, the Collaborative will offer targeted outreach, connect priority projects with funding opportunities, and build regional engagement in order to grow the knowledge, tools, and capacity required to address the goals described in the Needs Assessment Report.

“I’m really looking forward to getting people together and helping them identify strategies, find money, and complete projects that will lift up the environment, economy, and people of this unique region.’”

The Blackstone River and its watershed have been vital to the ecological, social, and economic health of the region for centuries. Along with the Taunton River, the Blackstone provides freshwater to the Narragansett Bay downstream and supports ecological health through large intact forests and cold-water fisheries as well as thriving commercial and recreational benefits such as fishing, kayaking, and biking. Local efforts since 1970 have succeeded in reducing pollution from legacy industrial sites, large wastewater treatment plants, and new development, removing waterways from the impaired water list, opening upstream fish habitat, and fostering collaboration among diverse stakeholders. Local river advocates have devoted tireless efforts to address the watershed’s industrial past and ongoing urbanization. Despite this progress, work is still required to assure a healthier and more resilient watershed over the coming years. In her role as Blackstone Watershed Program Manager, Stefanie will lead cooperative efforts to create a thriving and sustainable Blackstone Collaborative that will support restoration activities, develop communication and messaging, educate decision-makers, and promote new programs and policy for the benefit of all that work, live, and recreate in the watershed.

To learn more or get involved, join us at the upcoming seminar and information session, The Future of the Blackstone Watershed: Improving Collaboration to Enhance Socio-Ecological Goals (And How You Can Help). Stefanie will lead the seminar on Thursday, September 30th from 12:15-1:15 at the Sackler Science Center S122 at Clark University. All are welcome to attend. Clark University asks visitors to be vaccinated and wear masks while inside university buildings.

Learn more by reaching out to: Blackstone Watershed Program Manager Stefanie Covino, scovino@clarku.edu, George Perkins Marsh Institute Director Robert Johnston, rjohnston@clarku.edu, or Narragansett Bay Program Director Mike Gerel, mike.gerel@nbep.org.