CBA Joins 1% for the Planet

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) has been accepted into the unique 1% for the Planet network. Members of the network give 1% of their revenue or individual earnings back to environmental nonprofits each year. As an organizational member of 1%, CBA is now eligible to receive these gifts to improve swimmable, fishable waterways.

Each nonprofit organization entering 1% for the Planet is nominated by a business or individual already participating in the movement. After donating to CBA programs for two years, New Belgium Brewing Company nominated CBA.

“1% for the Planet is a global organization that connects dollars and doers to accelerate smart environmental giving” the organization explains. According to the 1% for the Planet mission, “1% for the Planet is a credible and accessible way to support the environment. It’s not always easy to know where and how to support good work. Most businesses and individuals don’t have the expertise to develop their own environmental giving strategies, and few have the time or resources to sort through the dizzying array of options for how to make a difference.” 1% provides that guidance.

1% for the Planet accepts nonprofit organization in six core issue areas: climate, food, land, pollution, water and wildlife. CBA remains under the “water” umbrella category. Originally founded in 2002, 1% for the Planet “members have given more than $200 million to environmental nonprofits to date.”

“1% for the Planet allows us to reach a brand new audience not only in our region, but nationally as well,” explains Alison McDowell, Director of CBA, “We appreciate that 1% for the Planet encourages partnerships through monetary gifts, but also through volunteer events, in-kind contributions, and raising awarness.” McDowell continues, “Each gift will be invested into the Choctawhatchee Bay watershed to preserve the heart and soul of our community for generations to come.”

Okaloosa County, Dewey Destin’s, and CBA Bring Interactive Lionfish Lesson to Fort Walton Beach High School

“Who’s ready to eat some lionfish?”

A slew of hands shoot up, the culmination of an interactive lesson about invasive species as part of CBA’s Spat On! program in Fort Walton Beach.

Jim Shirah, chef at Dewey Destin’s, placed the fillets on a hot pan, steam rising in the air of the classroom. Flipping the lionfish a few times, he placed the pieces onto a plate, ready for sampling. The students lined up.

Invasive species lessons are part of CBA’s Spat On! program. The initiative provides students with several hands-on activities and lessons that foster their understanding of oyster ecology and the estuarine habitat.

Spat On! encompasses both field experiences and in-class assignments. To introduce the students to oyster restoration, students help construct an oyster reef by bagging recycled oyster shell and placing the material at the end of the school year.

Amanda Briant, CBA Education Coordinator, began the lesson with an introductory presentation on invasive species and their effects on native ecoystems, before introducing Alex Fogg, Marine Resources Coordinator at Okaloosa County. Immersed in combating the invasive lionfish population by creating a seafood market for the species, Fogg traced the introduction and spread of lionfish, as well as different efforts used to curb the growth of their numbers.

“Events like this are great because they encourage removal efforts through commercialization of the fish, i.e. asking for it at the restaurant, or actively removing the lionfish themselves (when they get old enough),” Fogg explains, “The students were surprisingly interested, and most tried the lionfish at the end of the class.”

Chef Schirah showcased filleting a lionfish, removing the venomous spines, taking a look at the stomach contents, then removing the beautiful meat for cooking. Students came in closer, taking photos on their cell phones and oohing and aahing over the delicious smell filling the room.

Everyone who tried the fish loved it, all agreeing that they would order lionfish if offered at a local restaurant. “This is my new favorite fish,” one enthused.

Hands-on, taste-bud focused invasive species demonstrations provide students with a real-world solution to an ecological problem, prompting them to think creatively about landscape management and restoration.

St. Joe Community Foundation Funds High School Oyster Program

To engage area youth in oyster restoration, the St. Joe Community Foundation is granting the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) $18,300 to bring their Spat On! program to 250 high school students in Walton County. In addition to providing monthly instruction and in-class lessons to foster understanding of oyster ecology and estuarine habitat, CBA will work with area high schools to build two new oyster reef breakwaters in the Choctawhatchee Bay.

According to the Nature Conservatory, 85% of the world’s oyster reefs have been lost due to disease, pollution, declining habitat and over harvesting in the last decade. This makes oyster reefs the most severely impacted marine habitat on Earth (Shellfish Reefs at Risk Report, 2009). The oyster population in Choctawhatchee Bay is no exception, and the decline has led to a reduction in biodiversity and water quality. As NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation reports, oysters are a keystone species in the estuarine habitat because of the critical role they have in maintaining the ecosystem, and each adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each and every day. Through Spat On! students will play a direct role in improving oyster populations in their communities.

“One of the best aspects of our program is that the students are learning and doing,” says Amanda Briant, CBA Education Coordinator, “There is nothing better than seeing their sense of accomplishment after they’ve built the oyster reefs.”

“This is a great and multi-purposed environmental education opportunity for local high school students,” said April Wilkes, Executive Director of the St. Joe Community Foundation, “not only will they have the outdoor hands-on experience to learn more about the estuarine habitat of Choctawhatchee Bay, they will also be improving a natural resource for the public by growing the bay’s oyster population.”

Since its inception, the St. Joe Community Foundation (“Foundation”) has provided more than $20 million in grants to improve the quality of life in the communities it serves.  The Foundation provides charitable grants toward the civic infrastructure of communities in Northwest Florida with a focus, but not a limitation, on Bay and Walton Counties. The Foundation’s primary focus is on strengthening education, improving healthcare, protecting the environment and supporting local cultural interests. These efforts help build healthy, caring, long-lived communities.

 

30a 10k Donates $20,000 to CBA!

Over 3,000 runners competed in the 7th Annual 30a 10k. $20,000 of the proceeds benefited the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, with an additional $70,000 going to the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County, the Bay Education Foundation, the Seaside Rep Theatre, and Sandcastle Kids, for a total of $90,000. Each organization donated volunteer hours to help the event run smoothly.

The organizers founded the race when they realized no other event in the area occurred over the Thanksgiving holiday, in contrast to many other communities around the country. During their first year they only expected a few hundred runners, but 800 registered. In 2018? Over 3,000 people participated in the Fun Run, 5k, and 10k.

“A Thanksgiving event is so much fun because it’s a great way to celebrate our local community,” says Alison McDowell, CBA Director, “The funding we receive from the 30A 10K supports our education programs, inspiring the next generation to be water stewards.”

“We are thrilled to have had another successful year by selling out all three races this past Thanksgiving Day and are delighted and proud to be able to donate to support local needs in our community!” says Karen Meadows, one of the event organizers.

The 30a 10k is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to serve the community by producing a world-class 10k and related events that raise money to benefit local charities, while promoting health and fitness. 2018 race results are available here.

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance is a non-profit organization striving to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways through monitoring, education, restoration, and research. For over 20 years, CBA has promoted water stewardship within the Choctawhatchee watershed, growing the network of supporters who join in CBA’s mission to provide a future for these precious, natural resources.

For more information, please contact CBA’s Communications and Marketing Coordinator, Erika Zambello, at zambelle@nwfsc.edu.

CBA Staff and NWF AmeriCorps Volunteer for United Day of Caring

Every year, our local United Way organizes Days of Caring to give back to organizations in our community. This year, CBA and the NWF AmeriCorps team came together to remove vegetation and weeds from Harvest House property.

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Harvest House – a nonprofit based in Destin – provides food, clothing, and shelter to those who are less fortunate and at a point of need in their life. In 2016, they assisted over 5,000 people.

For the United Day of Caring event, Harvest House needed help clearing a retention basin on their property. Over the course of four hours, the team successfully cleared over a dozen bags of vegetation (see before and after photos below).

The goals of the Day of Caring events are five-fold:

– Days of Caring demonstrate that volunteer efforts are vital to the well-being of the community.

– Days of Caring provide volunteers with a firsthand look at services provided by local organizations that make an impact on people’s lives.

– Days of Caring showcase our communities’ volunteer efforts and promotes the spirit of caring throughout the year.

– Days of Caring provides many local organizations with much-needed volunteer assistance.

– Days of Caring is a great team building exercise for your family, service organization or employees.

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CBA and the AmeriCorps team definitely found meaning in the experience.

Before

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After

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