It’s been a year now since our semi-isolation because of the pandemic. We’ve missed our favorite social gatherings with friends and family. Many of us have worked from home. In 2020, Umpqua Watersheds had to cancel our main fundraising events, the Membership Banquet and Silent Auction, River Appreciation Day, Summer Concerts, and what would have been our 11th Umpqua Brew Fest. Yet, we have persevered thanks to the support of our members, staff, and volunteers. In the process of writing a grant, I calculated that in 2020, even without our significant events, we had over 3,000 volunteer hours, which amounts to over $80,000 of in-kind value when using the most recent national rate.
We are proud that our AmeriCorps program continues to thrive, thanks to Ryan Kincaid and our Education team’s tireless efforts to provide environmental education in our community. We are grateful for the work Patrick Schneider and his team have put in to enable our radio station to expand from being heard within 10-miles of downtown to being listened to worldwide, thanks to the internet. Our fabulous office manager, Melanie MacKinnon, continues to do a fantastic job handling day-to-day operations and leading our Grant Committee. Our Wilderness Committee continues to press forward to keep us informed on the latest legislative initiatives to protect our rivers and the continued effort to make a Crater Lake Wilderness area a reality. Angela Jensen has led our Conservation Committee and represented UW on important state-wide committees to make sure the concerns of the Umpqua are represented. I couldn’t be prouder of our board of directors and their dedication to ensuring we fulfill our mission and move forward with our strategic plan.
The level of financial support we received from our members and supporters in 2020 exceeded 2019. The staff and board of Umpqua Watersheds are so grateful and humbled by your support.
Our level of support reflects just how special the place we call home is to all of us. The Umpqua watershed encompasses 4,219 miles, 87% the size of the state of Connecticut! We live within a couple of hours from the beautiful Cascade Mountains and Crater Lake National Park, and the Pacific Ocean’s pristine beaches. The North, South, and main stem Umpqua, as well their tributaries provide fresh water and bountiful recreation opportunities.
A frequent refrain you may have heard from me is, “We live here?!” At the Twin Lakes campout, presentations on wildlife biology, botany, geology, astronomy, native history, and hydrology help give kids an appreciation for the Umpqua ecosystems. We go to “The Rock” and look out at the stars, and I tell our campers that “There Is No Planet B.” Even if it were possible to travel at the speed of light (impossible to our current understanding of physics), it would take 4.5 years to reach the nearest star system. While nine years would have transpired on the spaceship, over 70 years would have occurred on earth!
So, what does this have to do with Umpqua watersheds? Everything! We live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We have clean air, clean water, an abundance of wildlife, and natural wonders. But it needs to be protected, preserved, and restored because the planet is changing faster than we realize because of global warming and overpopulation. The population in the United States is projected to exceed 400 million by 2050. We must make sure that the abundant natural resources we enjoy today are here for future generations.
Hopefully, in the second half of 2021, we will return to some of our usual activities. We look forward to a River Clean-up event centered around Earth Day week in April, hikes, River Appreciation Day in July, our annual Twin Lakes Youth Wilderness Campout, concerts, and the Umpqua Brew Fest in October. While we know that if these happen, certain health safety restrictions will need to be in place. After a year of virtual events, I think most of us will be giddy to return to doing some of our favorite things with our favorite people.
On behalf of the staff and board of directors of Umpqua Watersheds, thank you for all of your support and encouragement during this very challenging year. Continue to stay safe and well. The challenges we faced this past year are not over yet but I am more confident than ever that together, we will come out of this stronger than ever. Until then, stay tuned for online events in the near future. Events will be posted on the website and through Watersheds Moments emails.