Montana Technological University’s Institute for Educational Opportunities (IEO) and the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program (CFWEP) have received an additional allocation of $1 Million in funding. The Upper Clark Fork River Basic (UCFRB) Advisory Council and the Upper Clark Fork River Basin Trustee Restoration Council (TRC) voted to move forward with a proposed funding amendment.
In early 2020, CFWEP staff, in discussions with the Governor’s Office and NRDP, requested additional funding to keep the program going past 2022, when previously allocated funds will be exhausted. NRDP proposed to allocate UCFRB Restoration Funds totaling $1.0 million from unspent grant projects approved between 2001 and 2011.
The new allocation will allow CFWEP to continue at least through the school year 2023-2024. The public had the opportunity to provide written comments on this proposed allocation during a 30-day comment period commencing on September 10, 2020. 25 comments were received, all supporting the proposed funding amendment.
“This additional funding is foundational to our work and will enable us to develop long-term partnerships with private and corporate donors who can help us support the program long into the future. Our mission is to create a legacy of environmental stewards for this watershed.
Doing so will take time and effort from many partners, and critically, the Natural Resource Damage Program is extending funding at the right time to see the program and our schools through to 2024,” noted Rayelynn Brandl, CFWEP Director.
CFWEP provides a 5-day intensive education program that teaches students about the restoration and remediation efforts of the nearly $1 billion restoration and remediation efforts of the Clark Fork Watershed. The program is considered a vital part of the restoration efforts to secure the long-term success of them. The program includes a field-trip where students practice doing the science of restoration, and they interact with restoration scientists and experts in the field.
Restoration education programming is provided to over 4,000 students per year in each community of the Clark Fork Watershed, including Deer Lodge County (Anaconda Public Schools), Granite County (Philipsburg, Hall, Drummond), Lewis and Clark County (Lincoln), Powell County (Deer Lodge, Garrison, Gold Creek, Avon, Elliston), Silver Bow County (Butte School District Number 1, Butte Central, Ramsay) and Missoula County (Missoula County Public Schools, Bonner, Seeley Lake, and Clinton).
In addition to the 5-day intensive program, CFWEP provides teacher professional development and works closely with teachers in the watershed to ensure the program’s framework goes beyond the in-class programming and field trip. To date, CFWEP has worked with over 700 teachers across Montana to teach the program’s framework.
CFWEP partners with the University of Montana’s Bird’s Eye View Education Program and the Montana Osprey Project, which will receive subcontract awards from this additional allocation. The partnership enables area students and teachers to participate in summer bird banding stations for both songbird and osprey research programs.
“I can’t say enough about the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program. This in-class and on-site opportunity allows students to gain a deep understanding of the history and sustainability of their local watershed. The staff provides and delivers thoughtful and engaging content while also providing teacher training and materials for supplemental activities to extended student learning. Students take on the role of scientist and use tools, data, and scientific vocabulary to gain invaluable information about the world right outside their classroom door. The experience CFWEP provides will forever impact what it means to be a scientist and the importance of local water preservation,” said Julie Papp, a teacher at Missoula County Public Schools.