FSCR Goes to the National River Rally
by Ron Bottorff
The second annual National River Rally, put on by River Network, was held this year in California at Monterey's Asilomar Conference Center from May 12-15. Our board of directors decided FSCR should not miss this event, so off I went on the afternoon of May 11 in our VW camper, having decided to camp near the Asilomar Center and thereby save accomodations expenses. River Network provided FSCR a 50% scholarship which dropped the conference fee to $80, including meals--a fantastic bargain. (I might add that the food at Asilomar is very good and is served with great efficiency, especially considering the number of people fed daily.)
I had decided beforehand to take the back way from U.S. 101 to Monterey via County road G16 from the small town of Greenfield. This is a wonderfully scenic, albeit twisty, route to the Monterey Bay area from the Salinas Valley. I had hoped to find a creekside campground on this first night out and I was not disappointed. The Forest Service campground along the Arroyo Seco River, 5 miles off G16, turned out to be ideal. The Day Use area had a swimming hole which looked inviting under the warm conditions, although I did not arrive in time to take advantage of it. The nearby wooded campground, in spite of being full on this Friday night, was quiet and peaceful. Two small lakes near the campground provided some after-dinner bird watching.
The Rally itself, which began the next day, featured twelve "tracks" ranging from "Emerging Issues and Tools" to "Fundraising - Fuel for the Engine." Several of these tracks, each of which had individual topics throughout the 4-day conference, looked interesting and I found it difficult to narrow my selections. In the end, I opted for sessions covering land trusts, strategic planning, and grant funders forums.
The information provided in the land trust and planning sessions was broad-based and presented by experienced people from such entities as the Trust for Public Land.
As it turned out, the most interesting sessions for me were the two Funders Forums, which took up two half-days plus one evening. Funding officers from ten major grant providers were present, ranging from corporate giver Patagonia to the family-based Turner Foundation established by Ted Turner. For each forum session, the various representatives gave a brief overview of their organization followed by questions from the audience. Overall I found these sessions quite useful but also sobering in that, without exception, the funders stated they typically received far more good proposals than they could possibly fund. However, they offered many useful suggestions for improving the chances of a particular grant being funded. These included: carefully following foundation guidelines, showing why your organization is unique and needed, showing what will change in the world as a result of your proposal, and being very clear and concise in describing your project and its goals.
Evening sessions at the Rally, termed "Resource Roundups", covered various resources available to local river groups and were presented by nine organizations ranging from American Rivers to the Environment Support Center.
Meals in the Asilomar cafeteria plus a Saturday night "River Jam" provided opportunities for networking and socializing. One of the most interesting people I met was Tim Palmer, author of nine books on rivers and the environment. He has canoed or kayaked all types of rivers throughout the U.S., including Alaska. I bought his book, "America by Rivers", and am finding it very enjoyable and exceptionally thorough. The book covers not only Tim's adventures, but provides regional maps of the entire country showing rivers with flows from 5000 up to the Mississippi's 593,000 cubic feet per second.
All told, I felt my attendance at the Rally was well worth the time and minimal expense entailed. River Network, based in Portland and having a staff of 33, deserves tremendous credit for their work in organizing and conducting this event. The conference was attended by over 250 river activists from the U.S. and Canada (and even a group from Chile).