Conceptual work on this strategic plan began in 2015 with a series of AsRA staff and board meetings to define the scope and purpose of planning and included informal conversations with members of the community. In 2016, staff and board met to identify and refine a new mission, vision, and organizational goals, defined a framework for a planning document, and began the drafting and revision process. The result is a document that will guide AsRA's staff and board through a program prioritization and a strategic staff expansion that, we believe, will enhance our capacity to protect the waters of the Ausable watershed and build added efficiency, credibility, and strength in AsRA's programs. Increasingly, we believe our program work in the Ausable can serve as a model for assessing and protecting watersheds throughout our region. For example, AsRA's work to reconnect stream corridors for wildlife by replacing aging and undersized culverts – reducing infrastructure damage during floods thus saving the time and money of municipalities, has informed approaches in other New York towns and counties beyond our watershed.
Continue AsRA’s commitment to conducting long-term monitoring of water quality in lakes and streams; to pursuing research to identify and understand water quality threats throughout the watershed; and to finding solutions by working with communities and diverse partners. Increase the ability of the science and stewardship director to focus on this work, by significantly decreasing his communications and marketing role with the hire of a communications manager.
Expand efforts to plan and implement natural channel design (NCD) restoration techniques that work with natural hydrology to restore self-regulating, flood-resilient, habitat rich Ausable streams. Continue to refine and grow implementation of the Climate Ready Culvert program.
Increase the ability of AsRA’s executive director, who is fully trained in NCD methods and leads these programs, in support of this goal by hiring an experienced part-time finance & operations director.
Establish a free-standing program that identifies and protects vulnerable species dependent on near/in-stream habitats. Combine invasive species and riparian buffer restoration programming under this goal and expand it to include identifying and understanding the occurrences of vulnerable species (primarily native wild brook trout but also e.g. spring salamanders, wood turtles, frog and fish species) that rely on Ausable waterways, floodplains, and wetlands. Hire a part-time science associate/wildlife or fisheries biologist to work with the river steward and science and stewardship director to lead field work, identify volunteer networks for partnering, and advance program goals.
Enjoying Ausable Streams
Encourage public access and low-impact recreational opportunities and uses of the river by promoting wise management of stream corridors, lakesides, and wetland areas by landowners and municipalities.
An Informed and Engaged Public
Rededicate the river steward position to education and stewardship activities that describe and support the value of the Ausable system, the threats facing it, and the role the community must play. Develop and expand field-based youth programs that expose students to hydrology, climate change, ecology, and biology and to methods for surveying streams, monitoring water quality, and creating biological inventories.
Fund and hire a communications manager to plan, design, and implement communications and marketing strategies that elevate the goals and programs of AsRA, increasing public awareness, and expanding AsRA’s member, donor, and volunteer base.
Sustainable Organizational Management
Expand membership and private giving to keep pace with the growth of state and federal funding. Create a board development committee to assist in outreach to non-members, members, and individual donors and to lead the preparation and implementation of a development plan.
Create a board communications and marketing committee to work with the new communications manager to develop an informed, strategic communications and marketing approach for AsRA.
Strengthen the leadership and management of AsRA with the hire of a part-time finance and operations director to oversee operational and administrative functions that support AsRA programs including: organizational bookkeeping; financial strategy and management; grants tracking, compliance, and administration; office management; and human resources.
The AsRA Board of Directors reviewed and approved this plan in December 2017. Implementation of many of the actions outlined in this document will occur over the next one to five years. Some, such as ongoing water quality monitoring, will continue indefinitely if they are supported by organizational planning, financial resources, and appropriately experienced staff. Table 5.1 presents timeframes for implementing the actions presented. Relevant partnerships and funding streams that sustain each action are noted.