River Network Celebrates 2013 River Heroes

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The River Network celebrates the five recipients of the 13th annual River Heroes Award, an award celebrating the world’s rivers and the heroes who dedicate their lives to protecting them, at this year’s River Rally in Saint Louis, Missouri.

With the awards, River Network, a non-profit organization leading more than 2,000 local, state, regional and grassroots organizations in watershed protection projects, hopes to recognize victories in the field of river restoration and honor those who have provided leadership and inspiration along the way.

“We couldn’t be more impressed then we are by the important work these individuals and their organizations are doing to make a meaningful impact on water resources around the nation,” said Todd Ambs, River Network President. “Their dedication to – and love of rivers and water- is what inspires us all.”

Their projects range from improving water quality in the Mississippi River Basin, getting kids involved with rivers in North Carolina and Virginia, and developing the premier volunteer monitoring program in Michigan.

“All too frequently, individuals and groups involved with natural resource conservation fail to celebrate their hard-won successes. Too often, important victories are allowed to be overshadowed by the next issue or threat. Challenges always lie ahead, but we need to take time each year to celebrate our achievements and the people who make them possible,” the group said in a statement.

The River Heroes are nominated by peers, selected by peers and celebrated with peers at the National River Rally. This year, with the support of presenting sponsor Tom’s of Maine, the River Network honored:

-Brian Williams, Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) (Eden, North Carolina)
-Kris Sigford, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) (St. Paul, Minnesota)
-Earl,Grand Riverkeeper, LEAD Agency (Vinta, Oklahoma)
-Laura Rubin, Huron River Watershed Council (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
-Paul Klonowski, Des Plaines River Volunteer Stewards (Gurnee, Illinois)

Brian Williams studied wildlife biology in college and never looked back. From volunteering with groups working to protect the Everglades, to mapping underwater springs and expanding the renowned “Trout in the Classroom” program, his leadership has inspired thousands of people to get involved in protecting water resources. At DRBA, Brian’s classroom outreach has engaged over 10,000 students, and he continues to expand educational programs throughout the state.

Kris Sigford has worked to clean up Minnesota’s waters for more than 30 years – waters which ultimately flow all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes. As MCEA’s senior policy advocate, Kris directs a comprehensive program aimed at improving water quality through full implementation of federal and state water quality law, adequate funding of water quality improvements and innovative approaches to control agricultural sources of sediment and nutrients.

Earl Hatley is a life-long environmental activist. He has changed thousands of people’s lives for the better for more than 50 years. He is a co-founder of the LEAD agency – an environmental justice organization — working on a total of 18 Superfund sites in his career. Earl also serves as the Grand Riverkeeper, protecting Grand Lake and the upper Grand River watershed, working in conjunction with the Waterkeeper Alliance. Earl also works as an environmental consultant to Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, as well as indigenous grassroots groups around the country.

Laura Rubin’s passion for protecting the Huron River has resulted in measurable results in water quality improvements; new habitat, recreation and economic projects; increased volunteers; and increased community support. She has also helped grow the organization’s Adopt-A-Stream program into the premier volunteer monitoring program in Michigan and a national model. Most recently, working with Congressman John Dingell, local government and business and community leaders, Laura is spearheading an ambitious million-dollar river renaissance campaign to make the Huron River a prime destination for residents and tourists.

Paul Klonowski works tirelessly as a volunteer on a number of on-going river programs while also working full time at Abbott Laboratories. In 2001, as a board member of the Illinois Paddling Council, he designed a new program for Lake County Forest Preserve District, becoming the lead River Steward for Section IV of the Des Plaines River and recruiting, training and overseeing a core group of volunteers in numerous activities. One day he might be digging tires from the riverbed, another coordinating a volunteer cleanup. In between, as a lifelong canoeist, he shares his paddling skills, getting people excited to get on the river.

In addition to the River Heroes Awards, each year River Network celebrates one individual’s accomplishments with the James R. Compton River Achievement Award. This year, River Network honored Pat Munoz (Washington, DC).

Pat has been involved in nonprofits for more than 30 years. From 1977 to 1993, Pat worked for American Rivers as Vice President for Development. While there, she focused on building the organization’s membership base, major donor program, foundation base and workplace giving program, helping increase the organization’s budget from $30,000 to $2,000,000.

From 1994 to 2007, Pat served as Watershed Program Manager for River Network. In that position, she worked with hundreds of nonprofit river and watershed groups around the country to help them create sustainable organizations. An avid whitewater canoeist and kayaker, Pat is currently “retired” and spends her time volunteering and sharing her decades of experience supporting watershed organizations.

Nominations are now open for 2014 River Heroes, and River Rally 2014 will be held May 30 – June 2 in Pittsburgh, Pa. Get more info at www.riverrally.org.

For details about the River Hero program, visit www.riverheroes.org.

For more information about River Network, visit www.rivernetwork.org.

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