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Great Rivers Partnership

On Course to 2016

A note from Michael A. Reuter

As the year winds down and 2012 begins, The Nature Conservancy’s Great Rivers Partnership maintains a clear focus on the critical success factors we aim to achieve by 2016. In this way our strategic plan guides our work each day to ensure that great rivers benefit both people and nature.

Thanks to tremendous donor support we are poised in the year ahead to launch the second phase of the GRP, which will expand our ability to bring together diverse partners and best science to advance sustainable management of the world’s great rivers and their basins. I’d like to recognize our most recent donors in this effort. Not only have they invested dollars, but also intellectual capital that has shaped what the GRP looks like today and where we go from here.

The Caterpillar Foundation recently made a pledge of $5 million over the next five years, bringing their total investment in the GRP to $17 million.

During the first five years of the GRP we realized many notable conservation accomplishments on the Mississippi River in the U.S., the Yangtze River in China and the Paraguay-Paraná system in Brazil. For example, in Brazil the Conservancy established a water producer program. This program financially compensates rural landowners for implementing conservation practices upstream that help safeguard clean water for water users downstream. Now being replicated in six other watersheds in Brazil, the program illustrates how innovative approaches and funding can be leveraged for greater results. With Caterpillar’s most recent $5 million pledge, the Conservancy will expand the GRP internationally and in the U.S.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, renowned for its global leadership on conservation and sustainability issues, has made a lead planning grant of $450,000 to enable the strategic expansion of the GRP to new rivers worldwide. This gift also allows us to establish a global network of organizations working on integrated river basin management. Led by a new GRP director of global partnerships (announced in the Global Update section of this issue), we will create a roadmap to advance whole-basin models of water sustainability, develop a river selection process, and devise a multi-organizational business plan for the long term.

And let’s not forget the work here at home. Our effort to address the Mississippi River as a whole system and to exchange that knowledge with great rivers globally continues to receive significant donor support.

The McKnight Foundation leads this ambitious agenda throughout the Mississippi basin. A recent pledge of $650,000 over the next two years brings McKnight’s total GRP investment to $1.4 million to date. These funds will enable us to strengthen partnerships and advance conservation in vital tributaries and floodplains. In fact, work on floodplains and agriculture as well as the creation of a shared, intergenerational sustainability vision for the Mississippi are key deliverables of this new pledge. The Mississippi Watershed Initiative, a multi-stakeholder group funded in part by the McKnight Foundation, is leading the effort to establish a shared vision for the river and develop strategies to engage larger stakeholder groups and influence policy.

The Wells Fargo company recently provided the GRP with a donation of $200,000, marking their second gift to advance Mississippi River programs. These funds bolster our efforts to restore functional floodplains in the basin, and strengthen scientific research in the lower river—which will ultimately lead to a regional conservation blueprint. In a broad sense, these efforts help us work towards protection of the river’s ecosystem and habitats while maintaining its economic prosperity.

McKnight and Wells Fargo join a robust group of Mississippi River supporters including Monsanto, Cargill, Ingram Barge Co. and others—all of whom have been mentioned in past GRP e-news editions. As we prepare to launch this second phase of work, we are reminded of the integral roles they play and are grateful for their support.

This work is complex. It takes cooperation at many levels and we could not create “whole-river” visions for people and nature without everyone at the table.

In this spirit I want to thank all of our partners—financial, strategic and otherwise—for pushing us not only to ask big questions, but also to listen carefully to find the answers.

Health and balance in the New Year, 

Michael A. Reuter
Director, The Nature Conservancy’s Great Rivers Partnership
 

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