As most of you know the Carolina Wetlands Association (CarWA) was born in June 2015 when we were incorporated and elected our first members of the Board of Directors. In almost 9 months, we have made amazing progress to accomplishing many of our initial objectives. So I felt it was time to reflect on our accomplishments and what remains to be done and the direction of our organization.
CarWA was formed because the legislative agenda in North and South Carolina changed and adopted a position of decreasing regulation. This resulted in relaxing or eliminating much of the policies and rules that had been established to compliment the Clean Water Act and tailored to meet the needs of the citizens of the Carolinas. With this reduction in wetland protection, one of the primary wetland values, that of clean water for the citizens of the Carolinas, was in danger and the need for the Carolina Wetlands Association was evident.
In order to put the structure in place to carry out the mission of CarWA, several committees were formed:
- The Program Committee was formed to create outreach materials, beginning with the general public in mind.
- The Science Committee consists of the best minds in wetland science and will keep abreast of wetland research, research needs, and data to support other committees and other organizations, as well as wetland landowners.
- The Development Committee has been active in creating a social communication structure with our webpage, facebook, newsletter, and soon to be other media.
- The Regional Coordinators Committee is focused on increasing activity in the many regions in the Carolinas so that we can know the local issues concerning wetlands, who the local landowners and communities are, and who wants advice and support in managing their wetland resources.
- The Finance Committee is just getting started, but has the core members in place to carry out the objectives of managing the finances, starting a budget, planning for expenses, and eventually making recommendation to the Board about spending priorities.
- The Policy Committee is also just starting out but has had several important meetings to solidify its mission.
Overseeing the Carolina Wetlands Association is a strong and talented Board of Directors. 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.
One of CarWA’s most important objectives is to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization as recognized by the IRS. The application process for 501(c)(3) is long and difficult, but the application process is nearing the final stage. We must make sure it is done right the first time so that it will have the best chance of getting our application processed by the IRS quickly.
Another objective is to establish plans to guide our future. The Development Committee created the beginnings of a Marketing Plan, which has guided much of our social media work. In particular, the marketing plan has led to the “Donation Campaign” to raise $850 for the application fee that is required to file the 501(c)(3) application. This campaign was successful; and thanks to everyone involved and who contributed.
However, we need to create a Business Plan to lead our organization to becoming viable and sustainable; and we need a Strategy and Objectives Plan that will guide us in the direction we need to go to be successful in carrying out our mission. Eventually, these two plans would lead to CarWA having a staff, working for the Board of Directors and working with the Committees to ensure that CarWA is the best organization possible.
A third objective was forming partnerships with other organization with similar concerns. The Triangle Greenways Council and the River Guardian Foundation reached out to us and we have committed to close partnerships with them and especially on future grant opportunities. The Triangle Greenways Council also has purchased land along the Neuse River for future greenways consideration and ask for our help in surveying the wetlands and advising on management. We have reached out to several other organizations and are still making contacts. Of recent note are excellent meetings with the NC Conservation League, the Nature Conservancy, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. They promise to be beneficial relationships 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 are in the process of putting together a relationship with Duke, to allow students to do projects with CarWA. The discussion centered around how to communicate our message to legislators and the general public, the values of wetlands and who benefits, social network analysis, survey tools, and more. We are partnering with NatureServe and WRRI on a citizens science project. We are also involved with the NC Natural Science Museum for doing presentations and exhibits on wetlands. We have partnerships with the Town of Cary and the Walnut Creek Wetlands Center. What we need to do more of these relationships with communities, organizations, museums, etc. in other locations throughout the Carolinas. I encourage everyone who is in areas outside of the Triangle to work with the Regional Coordinators Committee to establish these kinds of relationships; they will benefit CarWA and hopefully we will be of benefit to whomever we partner with.
Eventually, the Carolina Wetlands Association will apply for grants, carry out projects to further our mission, and potentially have a paid staff. We will be supporting wetland research, encouraging the use of wetland data to influence wetland policy and management practices to local and state officials and to landowners and communities who depend on their wetland resources.
I am excited to announce that we are on the verge of making our donation goal of $850 to pay for our 501 (c)(3) application! We have come a long way in a short time, but there is much work to be done. Everyone on this email list are considered “founding members” because you were all recruited in some manner. So you are the ones that will make CarWA successful. Your financial contributions are needed but so in your volunteer time. We cannot succeed without both. The founding members of the Carolina Wetlands Association are the backbone of the organization, so please continue to be active, be vocal, be involved!
Thank you for all you do!
Rick Savage, President of the Carolina Wetlands Association