Kelli Iddings, Conservation Partners’ Director of Conservation Programs, has partnered with the Upper and Middle James Riparian Consortium to meet the goals of Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), which aims to reduce pollution and restore clean water to the Chesapeake Bay and it’s tributaries. Among the many strategies of the WIP, the plan calls for almost 70,000 acres of new riparian buffer within the James River watershed by 2025.
There are only about 8,000 acres of buffer reported to date! You can read more about this data in the State of the James, 2019. Riparian buffers, ribbons of vegetation along creeks and rivers, filter pollutants from upland runoff, stabilize stream banks, reduce impacts of flooding, shade and cool streams, and provide wildlife habitat. These ecosystem services provide a natural space for people to enjoy, and safe, healthy water for people to consume and recreate in.
Recognizing the great need for organizations to collaborate and leverage resources to achieve this goal, the Upper and Middle James Riparian Consortium was created in 2019 to align partners to facilitate water quality improvements around five focus areas:
- Riparian forest buffers
- Agricultural infrastructure
- Stream restoration
- Wildlife habitat
- Buffer protection, easements, and maintenance.
“There is a lot of room for Conservation Partners to help reach Virginia’s riparian buffer goal. We work with Virginia landowners everyday, we have a strong network of conservation professionals, and we care deeply about the state of our land, water, and wildlife,” Iddings explains. Kelli’s background in ecological research compels her to recognize the interdependence of land and water and take a systems approach to land conservation.
While attending a water quality seminar in Charlottesville, she spoke to the participants, “I know this is a water quality seminar, but the land conservation community should be at the table. We have to stop trying to solve inextricably complex issues with one toolbox. I have tools that you need, and you have tools that I need. We need to start helping each other.” Kelli’s message prompted a member of the Riparian Consortium to reach out, and after learning more, Kelli felt compelled to participate.
Kelli now leads the Outreach and Advocacy Action Team for the Upper and Middle James Riparian Consortium. In addition, she represents the land conservation community alongside other land conservation professionals such as the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, Piedmont Environmental Council, and private land trusts. “It’s really encouraging to see so much diversity at the table. Collaboration and transparency is the way forward; this is what I love about being part of the Consortium.”
You can learn more about the Upper and Middle James Riparian Consortium and find out how you can get involved on the website, which went live yesterday!
For more information about the Riparian Consortium, contact Amber Ellis, Senior Watershed Restoration Manager with the James River Association, at 804-788-8811 x205.