2013 River Heroes Awards

PORTLAND, OR (June 27, 2013) – Improving water quality in the Mississippi River Basin, devoting a lifetime to environmental justice, getting kids involved with rivers in North Carolina and Virginia, being a tireless volunteer river steward in Illinois, and developing the premier volunteer monitoring program in Michigan are just a few of the accomplishments of an extraordinary group of individuals who have dedicated themselves to protecting our most vital natural resource—water.

River Network hosted the 2013 River Heroes Award winners at a banquet during this year’s River Rally conference in St. Louis, MO.

The five exceptional 2013 River Heroes honorees are:

Kris Sigford, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MN) Kris has worked to clean up Minnesota’s waters for more than 30 years, and that work ultimately spans watersheds that reach 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, Grand Riverkeeper, LEAD Agency (OK) Earl is a life-long environmental activist because it is his calling, changing 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 so far 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.

Brian Williams, Dan River Basin Association (NC) Brian 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.

Paul Klonowski, Des Plaines River Stewards (IL) Paul 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, and in between, as a lifelong canoeist, sharing his paddling skills and getting people excited to get on the river.

Laura Rubin, Huron River Watershed Council (MI) Laura’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, 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.

“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.”

In addition, each year River Network celebrates one individual’s accomplishments with the James R. Compton River Achievement Award. This year’s honoree is Pat Munoz (Washington, DC). Pat has been involved in nonprofits for over 30 years. From 1977 to 1993, Pat worked for American Rivers as Vice President for Development. While there she focused on building that 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.

River Network is especially grateful to Tom’s of Maine for their ongoing leadership and support to ensure a healthy water future, and we’re proud of their sponsorship to honor these outstanding River Heroes.

For details about the River Hero program, visit www.riverheroes.org. Nominations are now open for 2014 River Heroes.