POLK COUNTY — Luckiamute Watershed Council started a fundraising campaign, Business Circle, a few months ago, and found that not many people know what a watershed is — or how LWC works to preserve it.
“But they use the watershed,” said LWC president Patrick Melendy. “They go hunting. They go fishing. They go hiking.”
The purpose of Business Circle is to get sponsors for the LWC programs to restore the watershed, but they found that they had to educate along with making the pitch.
LWC is a volunteer group with a mission “to engage and assist landowners and communities in the voluntary protection, restoration and enhancement of the Luckiamute and Ash Creek watersheds.”
The Luckiamute River watershed covers 315-square miles, stretching from Willamette Valley in the east, the crest of the Coast Range to the west, Green Mountain and Mary’s River to the south, and the Rickreall Creek Watershed to the north. Ash Creek Watershed is a 36-square-mile sub-watershed that lies between the Rickreall Creek and Luckiamute River watersheds. Ash Creek starts in Dallas, travels through Monmouth and Independence, and drains into the Willamette River.
Melendy and executive director Kristen Larson said LWC has been increasing its education outreach through bird walks and the “Love Your Watershed” series.
“The thinking behind those, our strategy, besides that people enjoy them — we hope, or find them interesting — is the more the people learn about the watershed and feel connected to it, the more they are motivated to take personal action or support an organization, like ours or another one,” Larson said.
For those inclined to support LWC, Larson said opportunities abound to help, including serving on the board, giving a donation, becoming a partner on a project to protect water resources, or volunteering on projects.
Larson said LWC isn’t a regulatory agency or an environmentalist group. She said LWC often works with farmers and logging companies on project to protect water and restore fish habitat.
“The fact that we do work together with those groups and work on their property and have partnership with them is, I hope, a way to show that we are just here to find win-wins and not wag our finger at people,” Larson said.
This fall, the LWC will work with a private landowner, two logging companies and another nonprofit to place logs in a three-mile stretch of Pedee Creek to restore fish habitat.
“This is the whole spectrum of landowner types and landowner uses working along almost three miles to do this large-scale project,” Larson said. “Everybody’s chipping in something, and we got a grant to match those. It’s kind the ideal scenario.”
She said on the education front, they have partnerships with businesses throughout the watershed to host “Love Your Watershed” series talks.
“We’ve had a great response, I mean 60, 65 people showing up at Valkyrie on Tuesday to hear about beavers,” Larson said. “We’re trying to work with small businesses on a weeknight when they might not otherwise pack the house. That’s been fun working with them and they are pretty excited about that.”
In January, LWC will host a drinking water forum. Larson said in the summer of 2018 when the city of Salem issued warnings about its drinking water, people in Polk County who were not connected to that system were concerned. She said that means people don’t know where their water comes from.
“That’s an easy one we can help educate people about,” she said. “We’ll learn too, what people’s questions are, what their concerns are.”
For more information about LWC, go to www.luckiamutelwc.org.