November 14, 2014 / by Josh
The Lower Susquehanna region of Pennsylvania is a “hotspot” for water quality issues. Over 40% of local streams are impaired by sediment and nutrient pollution from agricultural and stormwater runoff. Further, the area contributes Pennsylvania’s largest nutrient loads to the Chesapeake Bay. Under the leadership of Matt Royer, the Lower Susquehanna Initiative (LSI) was formed to increase community engagement and adoption of best management practices (BMPs) to improve water quality in a strategically targeted agriculturally impaired watershed.
Working in cooperation with the LSI partnership, Viable Industriesd and Chesapeake Commons developed the Conservation Project Tracker, an open-source web app built for connecting conservation partners, restoration projects, and expertise throughout the Lower Susquehanna region.Conservation Project Tracker enables organizations like Conewago Creek Initiative, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and Lancaster County Conservancy to crowdsource their data on voluntary conservation projects throughout the watershed. With centralized data from all partners, our app allows organizations to search, view, promote, and get involved with ongoing conservation projects in their area. Users can keyword search by projects and partners in need of expertise and capacity, allowing individuals to strategically get involved with buffer plantings or stream restorations.
Our site is fast, clean, and simple allowing one to view and click through a full list of crowdsourced conservation projects. The app makes it simple to identify projects in need of volunteer participation and users can drill down on a search by sorting status type or filtering by funds needed. Conservation Project Tracker relies on a powerful keyword search that are tagged to and help efficiently index ongoing activities associated with a given conservation effort. So for example funders that want to support a project consisting of Ag BMP implementation can simply start entering keywords to bring up an entire list of ongoing projects that are in need of their support. LSI partners like Conewago Creek Initiative use the Conservation Project Tracker to promote and get word out on the work they have done in the Susquehanna. The application is integrated with social media outlets so conservation organizations can tweet or post the stats and financial needs of their own restoration projects, increasing awareness and bolstering support in their respective networks.
Finally one of the most important aspects of the system is that it will eventually serve as a public record for voluntarily implemented BMPs in the Lower Susquehanna. Projects entered by Conservation Project Tracker partners are easy to verify and moderate thanks to Commons Cloud ensuring all data are maintained in an extensible format and are accessible to state/local governments for use in modelling efforts. For the first time small farmers participating in voluntary programs are sharing site specific information on practices implemented by conservation partners. While this list only consists of only a few landowners, we feel this app and future versions have the potential to increase the transparency and accountability surrounding the implementation of Ag BMPs. Our team looks forward to watching Conservation Project Tracker grow and serve as an efficient way to document restoration progress and help partners match need with capacity.