WASHINGTON -- CF Industries recently gave national awards honoring exceptional examples of voluntary watershed protection programs from across the country. Job loss spurred one winner, and the desire to protect a pristine watershed spurred another. But all five winners of the 1997 National Watershed Awards clearly demonstrate how multi-faceted working partnerships produce results.
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) presented the awards and commended the recipients for their ingenuity and commitment in developing voluntary watershed programs.
"The accomplishments of these innovative projects are truly remarkable," added Robert F. Luizzi, president of award founder CF Industries, Inc. Luizzi pointed out that the judges made four community awards this year instead of three. "The applications were of exceptionally high quality -- these winners represent them well."
Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort took corporate honors for improving Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon watershed, the resort's home and source of much of the Salt Lake Valley's drinking water.
Community awards went to Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative (MI), Heron Lake Watershed Restoration Association (MN), Columbia-Pacific Resource Conservation & Development Council (WA), and Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Foundation (LA).
CF Industries, one of North America's largest interregional cooperatives, established the awards last year in response to a recommendation by the National Forum on Nonpoint Source Pollution that innovative, nonregulatory approaches to improving water quality be recognized. The awards emphasize local partnerships that demonstrate successful economic incentives, voluntary initiatives, and education. The Conservation Fund administers the awards program.
Columbia-Pacific RC&D responded to dramatic downturns in southwest Washington's timber industry by developing an unprecedented union apprenticeship program for restoring watersheds. In becoming the largest employer of dislocated timber workers as watershed restorationists, the RC&D is laying the foundation for a new industry in watershed restoration.
Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Initiative has melded 103 diverse organizations through partnership agreements to protect the pristine Lake Michigan bay from the hazards of being one of Michigan's fastest-growing areas. Partners voluntarily contribute staff and funding for more than 100 projects. The Initiative now focuses primarily on increasing community awareness about water resources.
Nearly four dozen partners in the Heron Lake Watershed Restoration Association are working to restore the lake and its watershed, now in row crops, to its original international stature as a waterbird migration and production area. Using bottom-up community involvement, the association overcame many conflicts to establish an economic/ecological balance in the 473-square-mile southwest Minnesota watershed.
Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Foundation's major goal is to re-open the lake -- closed by pollution in the mid '70s -- for recreation by the year 2000. Created in 1989 by the state legislature, the program uses member dues, contributions, fundraisers, and federal grants to fund more than 40 projects and to clean up and restore the 4,700-square mile basin, its rivers, and bayous.
Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort cleaned up the mine tailings that once covered its majestic site atop Little Cottonwood Canyon, built its buildings and ski slopes around trees and vegetation and on barren areas, and used abandoned mine tunnels inside a mountain to house a unique reservoir.
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