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We here at IRWP hope you are all enjoying the warm weather and, despite the heavy recent rains, have made some time to be outside, exploring the natural beauty of Northwest Arkansas! 
We will be making some changes to the formatting and timing of the IRWP newsletter and hope you like our new look. The mission of Illinois River Watershed Partnership is to improve the integrity of the IRW through education, monitoring, and the implementation of conservation and restoration projects. For this reason, our newsletter will be divided into four sections to reflect  our actions to address IRWP's four areas of focus. Additionally, we will be producing this newsletter on a quarterly basis, with ad hoc advertisements for specific events. Please find us on Facebook for more day-to day updates. 
Education Programming at the IRWP Learning Center and Watershed Sanctuary
Thank you to all the Northwest Arkansas schools who visited the Learning Center and Watershed Sanctuary throughout Spring! And thank you to all the volunteers and partner organizations who supported them. It takes a village to raise the next generation of Northwest Arkansas conservationists! 
Spring 2017 participating schools: 
  • Gentry Elementary 4th Grade - 129 students
  • Southside Elementary 4th Grade - 392 students
  • NWA Homeschool Group - K through 8 - 74 students
  • St. Vincent DePaul Elementary 1st through 3rd Grade - 49 students
  • Brightfield Middle School 6th Grade - 308 students
  • Fayetteville Virtual Academy 4th through 8th Grade - 33 students
  • Barker Middle School 5th Grade - 336 students
  • JO Kelly Middle School and EAST program 6th Grade - 300 students
  • Tucker Elementary School 4th Grade - 117 students
  • Kirksey Middle School 7th Grade - 330
  • Homeschool NOVUS group 5th through 10th Grade - 45 students
Partner Organizations and Volunteers:
  • Tom and Lisa Edmiston, NWA Master Naturalists
  • Wendy Williams, NWA Community College and Master Naturalist
  • Dot Nealy, Beaver Water District
  • Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch
  • Leah Saffian and Rachel Kraus, Washington County Environmental Affairs
  • Linda Simpson, Benton County Cooperative Extension
  • Stephan Pollard, Trem-Well Energy
  • Casey and Cody Wilber
  • Stuart McCoy
Monitoring
Ecological Evaluation of Priority Subwatersheds Project
Robin Gregory, IRWP Director of Education and Outreach, has partnered with 17 (!!!) EAST labs to complement an in-depth assessment of four prioirty subwatersheds for land use, in-stream characterisitics, riparian habitat condition, and macroinvertebrate communities. Her first step was to conduct a GIS training for EAST facilitators on students, which was completed on April 20 and 21 in partnership with U of A's CAST department. Next step: the field! With the support of AGFC's Stream Team program, we've been completing test runs of data collection, with the intent of completing a full assessment in Fall 2017. 
Partners' Lake Monitoring and Graduate Student Stream Pollution Analysis
Brian Haggard, Director of U of A's Arkansas Water Resources Center, has very graciously loaned us a post-doc (Brad Austin), staff (Erin Scott), and five graduate students for two, very different monitoring projects. 
  • The graduate students will be supplementing the Ecological Evaluation study with water quality monitoring data for the same four priority watersheds. This data will (hopefully) give us a snap-shot of tributaries that could be designated high prioirty within each subwatershed. 
  • Brad and Erin are carrying out in-depth water quality monitoring, collecting sediment cores, and conducting nutrient limitation studies at IRWP's Partners' Lake. As you may know, this Lake gives us some algae trouble in the warm months, and these data will help us make more informed management decisions for the Lake. 
Conservation
IRWP has been a long supporter and committee member of the Open Space Plan project. The purpose of the Open Space Plan, which is being produced by NWA Regional Planning Commission, is to identify high value properties from a conservation, historic, and cultural perspective. The Committee has worked very hard to identify those high-priority lands, with a long-term goal to secure sustainable funding to conserve them through voluntary measures such as acquisition, conservation easements, purchased development rights, and other protection methods. 
To identify such a sustainable funding mechanism, the Committee's next step is to evaluate willingness-to-pay across the Northwest Arkansas community. Studies of willingness-to-pay have been conducted in a couple of different communities, but it has never been evaluated across the entire Northwest Arkansas region. Determining how much tax payers, rate payers, and voters are willing to pay for land conservation is a very necessary next step in the sustainable funding process. 
To learn more about the Open Space Plan, please visit the website. If you are interested in participating, please contact Elizabeth Bowen at ebowen@nwarpc.org
Restoration
IRWP's Project Manager, Stephanie Burchfield, has been hard at work with our Green Infrastructure grantees to install low impact development projects on public land throughout the watershed. The finishing touches were recently made to rain gardens at Mathias Elementary and John Brown University. And we will have at least seven additional projects completed by the end of the year!
Green Infrastructure Academy
Please join us for this free workshop to learn about the importance of Green Infrastructure, with demonstrations on how homeowners can install and maintain their own Green Infrastructure projects. Rain gardens, bioswales, green walls, and green roofs can be used to slow down and spread-out rain water, as well as provide important habitat for local wildlife. Katie Teague with Washington County Cooperative Extension will be the guest speaker, followed by a tour of GI demonstatioin sites at IRWP's Learning Center and Watershed Sanctuary. Please contact Stephanie Burchfield at stephanie@irwp.org or call 479-215-6623 for more information. You can register here for the Academy. 
Cave Springs Natural Area Invasive Species Removal Day
In partnership with Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and NWA Master Naturalists, we are recruiting volunteers for an invasive species removal day.
When: Friday, June 9, 2017
Time: Arrive at 8:15, with work to begin at 8:30. We will conclude at noon with a wildflower walk with Jennifer Ogle from ANHC. 
Where: Meet at IRWP Learning Center
For more information, contact Nicole at director@irwp.org or Jennifer at jennifer.ogle@arkansas.gov. 
Cargill Donates $45,000 to IRWP!!!
We would like to extend a special thanks to Shane Acosta, Stephanie Crawley, and Carl West at Cargill for working towards a $45,000 sponsorship of IRWP! Through a combination of local giving and Cargill's corporate grant program, they were able to present a check to IRWP on Monday, May 8th at the IRWP Learning Center. We are so very grateful for their support! Thank you, Cargill! 
THANK YOU to our sponsors and partners who make IRWP possible!
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