Elected officials of the Pocono region and their staff gathered Friday for a Monroe County stream tour spearheaded by PennFuture, Sierra Club Pennsylvania and the Brodhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited on behalf of the Our Pocono Waters Campaign.
The tour showcased three sites within the Brodhead Watershed, featuring challenges to the protection of regional streams as well as the importance of these water resources for wildlife and human populations statewide.
Our Poconos Waters convened the tour at a time when private interests are organizing to reverse stream protections across the region. Presentations demonstrated how waterway protections can coexist with economic development.
The bipartisan group of attendees included newly-appointed Monroe County Commissioner Sharon Laverdure and Mackenzie Strunk, the chief of staff for Pennsylvania Rep. Rosemary Brown.
“It’s so vitally important that we maintain our streams. Conserving our natural resources preserves who we are,” Laverdure said. “Walking away from the event, I felt like we saw the diverse range of stream quality in our region: one pristine stream, one really nice stream, and one that needs attention. Personally, I am looking forward to working with groups like PennFuture, Sierra Club Pennsylvania, Brodhead Chapter of Trout Unlimited and other organizations that care for and understand how to address the needs of streams in our communities.”
Pocono streams are critical for our region’s thriving economy. Tributaries to the upper and middle sections of the Delaware River support some of the country’s premiere wild trout populations, offering recreational benefits, natural beauty and other important ecosystem services.
In total, the Delaware River watershed is estimated to support some $22 billion in regional economic benefits, including clean drinking supplies for 13.3 million people.
Tour guides explained the scientific methods to conduct stream health assessments across Pennsylvania. The time-intensive process involves detailed testing of stream water chemistry as well as a thorough collection of macroinvertebrate samples.
“Thank you to Our Pocono Waters for hosting an informative tour of our Monroe County exceptional value/high quality waterways. It was an extremely educational tour where I learned how streams are classified and how habitat assessments are conducted,“ said Strunk. “By attending the event, I gained an even deeper appreciation for our Pocono waterways.”
Last year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission upgraded designations of more than 70 streams to Class A Wild Trout status, including several in Monroe County, conferring special protections for riparian zone buffers and limiting discharges from waste-water treatment plants.
About 80 percent of Pennsylvania streams with the highest level of protection, known as Exceptional Value streams, are located in Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties.
“We are thrilled to help our elected officials more thoroughly understand how streams qualify for exceptional value status. A significant dedication of time and expertise goes into the stream assessment and designation process in Pennsylvania,” said PennFuture campaign manager Emily Rinaldi Baldauff. “Our campaign showcases the outcome of these efforts, a broad range of protected habitats in the Poconos. Defending these waters is becoming increasingly important because, unfortunately, many Exceptional Value streams are threatened by development and business interests.”
In addition to the sponsoring organizations, the tour featured presentations by members of the Monroe County Conservation District and Brodhead Watershed Association.
Our Pocono Waters is unifying the community while educating citizens, business leaders and local leaders about the importance of protecting “Exceptional Value” streams, highlighting the many ways that clean streams and economic development coexist in a region known for its natural beauty and booming tourist industry.