Year in Review

by Rick Savage, CarWA President

The Carolina Wetlands Association was a year old on June 18, 2016 and CarWA got two big birthday presents:  A fun annual meeting on June 26 and a letter from the IRS acknowledging that the Carolina Wetlands Association is a 501(c)(3) charitable, educational and scientific nonprofit organization.

So what is the state of the Carolina Wetlands Association after one year?  Amazing accomplishments with amazing people is the only way I can think of describing it succinctly.

First, our Program Committee lead by Amin Davis, and with Laura England, started the Wetland Treasures of the Carolinas project.  The wetlands were selected by the Committee in consultation with experts from the Natural Heritage programs in North and South Carolina. Significant help was received from Michael Schafale, Alison Weakley, and Alvin Braswell.  Many volunteer hours were put in by Laura and Amin to make this project happen!  In May, 2016, National Wetlands Month, our Wetland Treasures were announced: Francis Beidler Forest in Harleyville, SC; Phelps Lake in Washington County, NC; Mason Farm in Orange County, NC; Antioch Bay in Hoke County, NC; and Green Swamp in Brunswick County, NC.   Stratford Kay and the rest of the Program Committee also developed a general brochure which has been used at several events to publicize CarWA.  The committee’s Museum Task Force worked with the NC Natural Science Museum and CarWA has presented on wetlands research in NC and the starting of CarWA.  Alvin Braswell, Stratford Kay, Grace Lawrence, and Amin Davis have led this effort and will continue to do so as several more presentations are being planned.

The Science Committee, co-chaired by Ginny Baker Daniel and Robert Truesdale, have developed Wetlands 101 for the website. This information explains wetlands, why they are important, and the different types of wetlands is the Carolinas.  Heather Pattie, Katie Luciano, Amy James, and Ginny have led this effort.  The Science Committee is also investigating citizen science possibilities and cataloging wetlands research being conducted in NC and SC. CarWA has also been in communication with the Triangle Greenways Council and the Science Committee will lead efforts to survey some of their sites for wetlands.

The Regional Coordinators Stakeholder Engagement Committee has had one meeting and are planning a second one soon.  This committee will be important to coordinate activities to across both states, and to understand regional/local wetland issues, and to identify regional/local conservation/environmental organization that we can partner with.  They will also be creating a database of wetland land owners that we may work with in help manage their wetland.  This committee is being led by Carrie Caviness and Lindsey Smart.

The Policy Committee, led by Steve Rebach and John Dorney, is also just getting started.  This committee is tracking federal, state and local legislation related to wetlands and will focus on educating legislators about the importance of wetlands.

The Advisory Committee, led by Grace Lawrence and Lundie Spence, assists the Board of Directors with special tasks and gives advice and comments on Board actions.  This committee recently recommended that CarWA develop a business plan to help guide the organization into the next few years.

The Development Committee, let by Kim Matthews and Rick Savage, have worked to maintain the CarWA web site and Facebook page.  Kim has done a masterful job taking the major responsibility of handling this work and especially making our newsletter a success.  More than 200 people are on our email distribution list and they have heard about us through various media.  There was an article in the Cape Fear’s Going Green about CarWA and our wetlands treasures project.  We also have 200 people following us on Facebookincluding several devoted followers from Europe.

Lastly, The Finance Committee, led by Kristie Gianopulos, had done a good job establishing our bank account and managing carefully managing our limited funds this first year. With our new nonprofit status and the hopeful awarding of grants, this committee will be playing major role on tracking expenditure and determining how the money is to be used!  There is a Grants Task Force, led by Steve Rebach and John Dorney and assisted by Amy James, Chad Guthrie, Carrie Caviness, Amin Davis, and Kristie.  They are exploring government and non-government grant opportunities.

I want to thank Board of Directors officers for all they have done: Vice President, Steve Rebach; Secretary, John Dorney; and Treasurer, Kristie Gianopulos.  John’s minutes are very thorough and are available on ourwebsite.   Steve has written a narrative about CarWA to be used with grant applications.  Kristie had taken very good care of our money, and has been our unofficial graphic designer. She developed our logo, designed posters used at public events, and designed our new t-shirts!  I also want to welcome Kristine Cherry, our newest board member, who has vast experience in running a nonprofit and promises to give SC another major voice in CarWA.

The structure and foundation of CarWA is sound and in good hands and the leadership is in place to evolve the organization into a sustainable and vibrant future.  So given our accomplishments, what is next?

The first item is that we must have plans for our future.  The Development Committee has started a Marketing Plan and launched a successful fund raising campaign to raise $850 necessary for our 501(c)(3) application.  The marketing plan needs to be refined to help spread CarWA’s message in all areas of media.  We are in need of a Public Information person to help with these efforts. If you have any of that experience, please consider volunteering!

The second (and third) items are the development of a Business Plan and a Strategic Plan.  They may be separate documents or they may be combined.  We will start the process with 2-3 Board members drafting the plan and then the rest of the Board will review and provide comments!  We will discuss this item at our next Board meeting later this month.

The fourth item is creating informal partnerships with other organizations such that we can help each other with common issues.  We have become an affiliate with the NC Conservation Network and we have been invited to become an affiliate with the NC Wildlife Federation.    We are also considering becoming affiliated with the SC Wildlife Federation and SC Conservation Coalition.

We have committed to close partnerships with The Triangle Greenways Council (NC) and the River Guardian Foundation especially on future grant opportunities.  And we are talking with the NC Natural Science Museum about doing presentations and exhibits on wetlands.  More recently, the Spruill Farms (NC) expressed interest in becoming an affiliate of CarWA.  They also would like us to do a site visit and inventory of their wetlands. These relationships promise to be beneficial as we are being recognized as having the best pool of wetland talent, both in science and policy, and our expertise is being sought.

We also have been in contact with other organizations including the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Nature Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the NC Coastal Federation, the Town of Cary (NC), and the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center (Raleigh, NC).  What we need to do is develop more of these relationships with communities, organizations, and museums throughout the Carolinas.  I encourage everyone (especially those outside of the Triangle Area) to work with the Regional Coordinators Committee to establish these kinds of relationships.

The fifth item is to develop a relationship with Duke University to allow students to do projects for CarWA. Project ideas include how to communicate our message to legislators, landowners and others on the values of wetlands and who benefits from wetlands by conducting a social network analysis or using survey tools.  We also expect that students could help with wetland site assessments.

Eventually, the Carolina Wetlands Association must obtain grants, carry out projects to further our mission, and potentially have a paid staff.  We will be encouraging the use of wetland science to influence wetland policy and management practices to local and state officials and to landowners and communities who depend on their wetland resources.  Our supporters and dedicated volunteers have made the organization what is it and what it will be.  Please continue to show your support and volunteer your time by serving on a committee or helping with a special event or program.  Volunteers are critical to the success of this organization and we definitely need more participation so we can do more!

Thanks to you all for all you do!