River Heroes

The River Hero Award recognizes and showcases the achievements of individuals and teams who have advanced the movement toward a future of  healthy, resilient riverssafe, affordable drinking water; and climate-resilient communities. Their work expands the network’s collective power and activates others in the water sector to advance equitable policies and practices.

2024 River Heroes

Freshwater Future

Freshwater Future (Petoskey, Michigan). Freshwater Future, the inaugural organizational recipient of the River Hero award, is a dynamic and impactful organization operating across the Great Lakes states. With a mission to address pressing issues such as drinking water contamination, water affordability, and climate change threats, Freshwater Future demonstrates unwavering dedication to improving water quality for… Read More

Sharee Harrison

Sharee Harrison (she/her), Founder of Orange Trail Mix (Orange, New Jersey). Sharee Harrison is a passionate community leader in Orange, NJ, founding Orange Trail Mix to grant underprivileged families access to South Mountain Reservation. Her tours explore local history, the Rahway River, and the city’s water system, expanding outreach to East Orange and Newark. Sharee… Read More

Kirsten Shead

Kirsten Shead (she/her), Co-Executive Director at Milwaukee Water Commons (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Kirsten is a visionary leader driving water equity and justice. With a background in chemistry and a history in interfaith networks, she forged a path to environmental activism. Kirsten’s approach infuses culture into MWC’s initiatives, advocating for spiritual and artistic connections to water. Her… Read More

Justinn Overton

Justinn Overton (she/her), Executive Director and Riverkeeper at Coosa Riverkeeper (Mt Laurel, Alabama). Justinn has been a steadfast advocate for the middle and lower Coosa watersheds for over 11 years, driving Coosa Riverkeeper’s mission with fervor. Her tenure has been marked by unwavering dedication, innovative thinking, and a passionate commitment to protecting the Coosa River. … Read More

Dennis Mabasa

Dennis Mabasa (they/them), Vice President of Community and Youth at The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy (Los Angeles, California). Dennis is a community leader dedicated to building an inclusive environmental movement. As the former COO of Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), they orchestrated the Great LA River Clean-Up, uniting thousands annually for river… Read More

2022 River Heroes

Christina McVie

Christina McVie, President of Community Water Coalition of Southern Arizona (Tucson, AZ). Christina retired as a registered nurse in the 1990s and started a new career in environmental activism. For over 20 years, she has defended the Santa Cruz international watershed by strengthening local water policies to serve the watershed and the people most affected… Read More

Melanie Ariens

Melanie Ariens, Artist in Residence at Milwaukee Water Commons (Milwaukee, WI). Melanie facilitates water-inspired art experiences for local leaders, scientists, students, and community groups as the artist in residence for the Milwaukee Water Commons. She has grown the multicultural We Are Water event and shaped the Water School program with unparalleled love and commitment. Her… Read More

Arthur Johnson

Arthur Johnson, CEO of Lower 9 Center for Sustainable Engagement & Development (New Orleans, LA). Arthur advances initiatives around food security, the natural environment, and the built environment in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods by storms, hurricanes, and flooding in the Gulf Coast region. Arthur is a founding member of the… Read More

Ann-Marie Mitroff

Ann-Marie Mitroff, Former Director of River Programs at Groundwork Hudson Valley and Groundwork USA (Yonkers, NY). As coordinator of the Saw Mill River Coalition, Ann-Marie guided the habitat plan and community involvement for Yonkers’ $18 million river daylighting. She co-founded the Urban Waters Learning Network, an EPA-funded partnership between Groundwork USA and River Network. The… Read More

Trey Sherard

Trey Sherard, Riverkeeper at Anacostia Riverkeeper (Washington, DC). Trey serves as a community organizer and a voice for the Anacostia River. In addition to coordinating Anacostia Riverkeeper’s Clean Waterways cleanup series, he manages several Bandalong litter traps and ARK’s green infrastructure program. Most recently, Trey used volunteer-collected data to advocate for and unanimously pass the… Read More

2021 River Heroes

Ean Thomas Tafoya

Ean Thomas Tafoya, Colorado Field Advocate of GreenLatinos (Denver, CO). As Field Advocate and founder of the Headwaters Protectors, a mutual aid group serving the unhoused, Tafoya is innovatively fighting for clean and healthy water for all. Tafoya was raised a proud Xicano and his Indigenous ancestors are Jicarilla Apache and Ohkay Owingeh from the Headwaters of the… Read More

Colette Pichon Battle

Colette Pichon Battle, Founder & Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy (Slidell, LA). Pichon Battle is a vehement defender of communities on the frontlines of climate change in the Gulf South. Despite serious challenges posed by COVID-19, Pichon Battle has anchored communities in Gulf South for a Green New Deal, which would advance long-existing work toward climate, racial, and economic justice in… Read More

Beth Styler Barry

Beth Styler Barry, Director of River Restoration of The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey (Chester, NJ). For more than 20 years, Styler Barry has worked toward watershed education and protection in New Jersey, including work with various stakeholders. She leads the development and implementation of major on-the-ground river restoration projects in the Paulins Kill watershed and leads the NJ Statewide Dam Removal Partnership. Her… Read More

Tom Vaughan

Dr. Tom Vaughan, Biologist and Co-Founder of the Rio Grande International Study Center (Laredo, TX).  For 3 decades, Dr. Vaughan has made a sustained contribution to the conservation of the Rio Grande and the Rio Grande Watershed. In addition to founding the RGISC, Dr. Vaughan is credited for creating a water quality data program with… Read More

Sky Jones-Lewey

Sky Jones-Lewey, Education Resource and Protection Director of Nueces River Authority (Uvalde, TX).  Jones-Lewey has lived her entire life on the banks of the Nueces River in southwest Texas and has served as a formal river advocate since 2000. Jones-Lewey  joined the Nueces River Authority as its first Director of Resource Protection and Education and… Read More

2020 River Heroes

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Catherine Coleman Flowers, Founder and Director of Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice (Montgomery, AL).  Coleman Flowers founded the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise to address the root causes of poverty in Alabama. Now an internationally recognized advocate for the human right to water and sanitation, Coleman Flowers works tirelessly to promote sustainable initiatives that strengthen… Read More

Amanda Pitzer

Amanda Pitzer, Executive Director of Friends of the Cheat (Kingwood, WV).  Pitzer is a tenacious and dedicated educator and water advocate, having initiated many programs that earned her recognition in West Virginia. In her 10-year tenure at Friends of the Cheat, Pitzer has successfully constructed 9 treatment projects to combat acid mine drainage, secured the… Read More

Maya van Rossum

Maya van Rossum, Founder of Green Amendments for the Generations (Bristol, PA).  For over 25 years, van Rossum has dedicated her life to protecting the Delaware River watershed. Now the founder of Green Amendments for the Generations, van Rossum has secured many legislative victories for the Delaware River Basin and its surrounding communities including a moratorium… Read More

2019 River Heroes

James Rasmussen

James Rasmussen, Executive Director of the Duwamish Tribe Advisory Council (Seattle, WA).  Rasmussen has been an active voice in environmental, habitat, and community issues along the Duwamish River and in the Seattle region for over 30 years. Rasmussen has played a fundamental role in the EPA’s formation of the Duwamish Superfund Roundtable, which will inform the… Read More

Monica Lewis-Patrick

Monica Lewis-Patrick, Co-Founder & President of We the People of Detroit (Detroit, MI). Lewis-Patrick is actively engaged in almost every struggle on behalf of Detroit residents. As a former lead legislative policy analyst for Detroit City Council, Lewis-Patrick has authored legislation, conducted research, and delivered constituency services to thousands of city residents. She is a graduate… Read More

San Juana “Juani” Olivares

San Juana “Juani” Olivares, President and CEO, Genesee County Hispanic and Latino Collaborative (Flint, MI). At the time of the Flint water crisis, Olivares was a volunteer educator at GCHLC, teaching the Spanish-speaking residents of Flint how to navigate the crisis and find clean and safe water. Today, as President and CEO, Olivares uses her knowledge… Read More

Dennis Chestnut

Dennis Chestnut, Founding Executive Director of Groundwork Anacostia River D.C. (Washington, D.C.). A lifelong resident of Ward 7 in the far-northeast section of Washington, D.C., Chestnut is a master carpenter and vocational educator, but his dedication to youth development, community improvement, and civic duty has led to his involvement in many conservation projects. Chestnut is the… Read More

2018 River Heroes

Bob Zimmerman

Bob Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Charles River Watershed Association; Weston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1965, CRWA is a private nonprofit environmental research and advocacy organization using science and the law to protect and enhance the Charles River and its watershed. Zimmerman joined CRWA in 1990. During his tenure, CRWA has become a leading authority on… Read More

James Wheaton

James Wheaton, President of the Environmental Law Foundation; Berkeley, California. Wheaton runs a Free Speech Legal clinic at UC Berkeley and teaches Journalism Law at both UC Berkeley and Stanford.  He is a former River Network Board member, former Chair of Friends of the River, and a founder of the Public Trust Project.  Wheaton was… Read More

Tillie Walton

Tillie Walton, Conservationist, Consultant, and Philanthropist; Aspen, Colorado. Walton has created and implemented large river restoration projects and environmental conservation efforts, including the Yuma East Wetlands. Her love of rivers was inspired by over 20 years of guiding whitewater expeditions through the Grand Canyon and on other rivers across the planet. Walton served on the… Read More

Barbara Ullian

Barbara Ullian, Conservation Director, Siskiyou Wildlands Project; Grants Pass, Oregon. For over four decades, Barbara Ullian has worked to protect the wild rivers of remote Southwest Oregon and Northern California. Ullian has been an advocate for Kalmiopsis Wild Rivers region since 1990 when she helped found the Siskiyou Environmental Council, which became part of the… Read More

Kira Davis

Kira Davis, Program Director of Conservation Resource Alliance; Traverse City, Michigan. Davis is an Odawa (Anishnaabekwe) and Tribal citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Issues and Applications from Michigan State University, Davis worked for Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians for 16… Read More

2017 River Heroes

David Deen

David Deen is the River Steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council responsible for public education and advocacy on issues in the VT/NH reach of the river since 1998. The job included regulatory affairs, river cleanup, hydro dam relicensing, and presentations to citizen groups about the river. David has served in the Vermont Legislature for… Read More

Angie Rosser

Angie Rosser joined West Virginia Rivers Coalition (WV Rivers) as the Executive Director in 2012, after serving on the Board of Directors, with a background of working in West Virginia on social justice issues in the non-profit sector. Angie brings both a professional commitment to clean water for the common good, as well as a… Read More

David Sligh

David Sligh has worked with perseverance and enthusiasm for more than 35 years to protect streams and water quality and to make government regulators responsive to the public. He is a strong advocate and is always ready to give citizens advice and encouragement in fighting battles for clean water. He is devoted to pushing for… Read More

Denny Caneff

Denny Caneff knew he was a river rat from the moment he fell through the ice of a small creek in rural Minnesota at age 10.  Ten years later he paddled the Mississippi River from source to mouth as a college project and, with that, began a lifelong affection for towboats. Caneff served as executive… Read More

Margaret Frisbie

Margaret Frisbie is executive director of Friends of the Chicago River, the only organization exclusively dedicated to improving and protecting the Chicago River system. Appointed to her position in 2005, Frisbie has been working to improve water quality for the Chicago River system; develop guidance for responsible river corridor development; create habitat for wildlife; connect… Read More

2016 River Heroes

Casi Callaway

Mobile Baykeeper

For more than 20 years, Casi Callaway has made tremendous contributions to protect and preserve the Mobile Bay Watershed, Alabama’s waterways and coastal communities.  Casi became the first Executive Director of Mobile Baykeeper (formerly West Bay Watch) in 1998, and under her leadership the organization has evolved into the largest environmental advocacy organization in the… Read More

Jan Goldman-Carter

National Wildlife Federation

Jan Goldman-Carter manages the National Wildlife Federation campaign to restore Clean Water Act protections and works to strengthen wetland and watershed protections regionally and nationally. Jan has lectured and written extensively on Clean Water Act and wetlands laws and programs since 1987. Jan’s expertise and persistence directly led to the nation’s single most significant river… Read More

Derrick Evans

Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, Gulf Coast Fund, and Bridge the Gulf Project

Derrick Evans has worked since 2001 to help protect and revitalize his coastal Mississippi community and sister communities throughout the region. Derrick is a direct descendant of the former slaves who were the first to settle Turkey Creek, and left his life as a history professor in Boston when his ancestors’ graves back home were… Read More

Andrew Purkey

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

From 1994 through 2002, Andrew Purkey served as the founding executive director of the Oregon Water Trust, the nation’s first nonprofit established to acquire existing water rights for conversion to instream water rights.  During this time, he pioneered the concept of voluntary water transactions as a market-based mechanism for restoring “first in time, first in… Read More

John Linkes

Roaring Run Watershed Association and Kiskiminetas River Watershed Association

John Linkes has spent more than 16 years working to protect and restore the Kiskiminetas River and Roaring Run Watershed in Pennsylvania. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of both watershed groups, he is also a volunteer water monitor for the Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team, a Steering Committee Member for the Crooked Creek… Read More

2015 River Heroes

Laura Rose Day

Executive Director, Penobscot River Restoration Trust (ME)

For more than 15 years, Laura has actively and effectively worked to bring restorative change to the Penobscot River. In her past role as Rivers Coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Laura organized, initiated and guided negotiations for the Penobscot River Restoration Project, which began in 1999. Laura then facilitated the completion and… Read More

Jennifer Pitt

Environmental Defense Fund (CO)

Jennifer has spent more than 15 years working to protect and restore the Colorado River Delta. Her efforts include her recent central role in the development and implementation of the internationally recognized agreement between the U.S. and Mexico, “Minute 319”, which guides future management of the Colorado River through 2017. The agreement included a provision… Read More

Dwayne Shaw

Downeast Salmon Federation (ME)

For over 30 years, Dwayne has been a leader in river and fisheries conservation in the northeastern U.S. His work began with the removal of the Pleasant River dam and the renovation of the facility as a hatchery and fisheries research center, which in turn became the first non-governmental hatchery in the U.S. to be… Read More

BJ Cummings

Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition (WA)

Over the past 20 years, BJ has provided invaluable leadership in securing the cleanup of Seattle’s damaged Duwamish River. BJ founded the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition/Technical Advisory Group (DRCC/TAG), which subsequently led to the naming of Seattle’s only river as a Superfund site and set in motion 13 years of advocacy work. In 2014, BJ… Read More

Bill Sedivy

Idaho Rivers United (ID)

Bill has dedicated more than 15 years of his life to river conservation. As the leader of Idaho Rivers United, he has crafted alliances with unlikely partners to realize nationally important river conservation success. In 2009, Bill’s strategic work secured Congress’ designation of 328 miles of the Owyhee and Bruneau Rivers to the National Wild… Read More

2014 River Heroes

Michael Taylor

Illinois Water Trailkeepers

The Little Calumet River runs through the south side of Chicago and its southern suburbs. As a volunteer trail steward and promoter of paddling, Michael trains volunteers, leads annual clean-up events, and expands water trail access. He is helping local high students learn how to kayak, and at a recent cleanup made sure every kid… Read More

Jane Sherman

Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council

Jane founded the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council in 1998 to expand river revitalization initiatives to the entire river system, and involve every community. Her vision and hard work have completely altered the quality of life in one of the most economically challenged communities in Rhode Island. Among many accomplishments, she led the charge to convert… Read More

Joe Payne

Friends of Casco Bay

Joe is one of the first seven Waterkeepers and a founder of Waterkeeper Alliance. For more than 20 years, Joe has been the eyes, ears and voice of Casco Bay, working to protect the environmental health of Maine’s premier bay. He has built an impressive and sustainable operation with outstanding water quality monitoring programs and… Read More

Margarita Diaz Lopez

Proyecto Fronterizo de Educacion Ambiental

Margarita has become the leading community advocate for water quality protection in the coastal community of Playas de Tijuana and throughout Baja California. Over the past 13 years she has mobilized more than 35,000 volunteers, fostering “awareness through action”; coordinated the removal of nearly 200 cubic tons of trash; trained over 400 youth leaders as… Read More

Laura Calwell

Friends of the Kaw

For over 20 years, Laura worked tirelessly as both a volunteer and as Kansas Riverkeeper for Friends of the Kaw to promote public awarenss of the Kaw, an outstanding natural resource and valuable drinking water source in the state of Kansas. Each year she paddle sthe entire 170 mile Kansas River to check on its… Read More

2013 River Heroes

Brian Williams

Dan River Basin Association (VA)

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… Read More

Kris Sigford

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

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… Read More

Laura Rubin

Huron River Watershed Council (MI)

Laura has led the HRWC as executive director since 1998. Her passion for protecting the 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… Read More

Paul Klonowski

Lake County Forest Preserve District (IL)

Paul is very committed to making the Des Plaines River a better place. He 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… Read More

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… Read More

2012 River Heroes

George Wolfe

Los Angeles River Expeditions

George Wolfe is an avid canoeist/kayaker who led a flotilla of citizen-boaters down the 51 miles of the L.A. River over three days in July 2008 to advocate for Clean Water Act protections for the uch-abused waterway. The sub rosa expedition and his report – extensively documenting navigability, hydrology and other information collected during the… Read More

John Wathen

Friends of Hurricane Creek

John Wathen is the Hurricane Creekkeeper and founder of Friends of Hurricane Creek in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. An Alabama native who grew up on the Black Warrior River and served in the United States Navy, John is no stranger to water. John’s first endeavor in the river world was the formation of the Stroker’s Paddle Club… Read More

Susan Heathcote

Iowa Environmental Council

Throughout her career advocating for water quality in Iowa, Susan Heathcote has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments in a state where success is hardly a foregone conclusion. Iowa has one of the nation’s most altered landscapes due to intense agricultural production, leading some people to question whether it is even possible for the state… Read More

Terry Backer

Long Island Soundkeeper

Terry Backer has been the appointed Soundkeeper and Executive Director of the Long Island Soundkeeper Fund, Inc., since 1987. Soundkeeper’s mission it is to protect and enhance the environmental integrity of Long Island Sound. Terry oversees all projects with approval from the Board of Directors. A third-generation fishermen, long active in his family’s shell-fishing business,… Read More

Azzam Alwash

Born in Kut, Iraq in 1958, Azzam Alwash spent much of his younger years in Nassariya on the fringes of Iraq’s southern Mesopotamian marshlands, once the 3rd largest wetlands in the world and home to the Ma’dan Marsh Arabs, the descendents of the ancient Sumerian. After completing his BS in Civil Engineering at the California… Read More

2011 River Heroes

Dean Wilson

Atchafalaya Basinkeeper

Captain Dean A. Wilson is the executive director of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper. Dean cam to south Louisiana in 1984, at the age of 24, from Spain, and for the next 16 years, made his living as a commercial fisherman and hunter. Over time, Dean began to notice that pollution, illegal development, sedimentation and poor water… Read More

Beth Stewart

Cahaba River Society

Beth Stewart is the Cahaba River Society’s (AL) Executive Director. She is lead staff for the Responsible Agenda for River Restoration and Growth and our storm water and ADEM reform programs. Beth has a Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley with a focus in urban and environmental planning. Prior to joining… Read More

James McMillan

James McMillan was born into a family of farmers who have farmed in Knox County for 6 generations. From the time he was a little boy, he loved the land, to farm, to hunt and to fish. In 2002, James’ creek overflowed with mud from upstream developments. After numerous conversations with authorizes, he was urged… Read More

Robert Hunter

WaterWatch of Oregon

Bob Hunter is a founding board member and staff attorney for WaterWatch of Oregon. WaterWatch is a river conservation organization devoted to restoring and protecting natural flows in Oregon’s rivers and was the first conservation organization formed specifically to address instream flow and water allocation issues in the West. Bob co-drafted Oregon’s landmark Instream Water… Read More

Margo Farnsworth

Margo Farnsworth is one of only nine Biomimicry Fellows in the world, and is currently engaged in a project using biomimicry as a model to restore coastal communities. She has extensive experience developing watershed organizations. During her 10-year association with the Cumberland River Compact in Tennessee, she led the effort to be one of the… Read More

2010 River Heroes

Pamela Williams

Northwest Neighborhood Alliance

Pamela “Pam” Williams has lived in York Center, Ohio, for most of her life. For over twenty years, she has worked as a mail carrier in a small Ohio village. She does not have a degree in environmental “anything.” She was never an activist. The mere thought of public speaking filled her with dread. That… Read More

Felix Smith

U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (retired)

For thirty-four years, Felix served as a fish and wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. Felix is a lifelong advocate for the protection of fish and wildlife habitat, and for responsible use of our precious water resources. Felix was one of the biologists on the team that found the first deformed birds… Read More

Cynthia Sarthou

Gulf Restoration Network

Cynthia “Cyn” Sarthou has been the Executive Director of the Gulf Restoration Network (GRN) since its inception fifteen years ago. In the time, she took a small environmental organization from one (her) to a robust organization of 12 full-time employees and 3 offices. Through these 15 years, Cyn has kept the GRN true to its… Read More

Keith Pitzer

Friends of the Cheat

The late Keith Pitzer was a native of Ohio and a full-time farmer who moved with his wife and four sons to West Virginia after a trip on the Cheat River captured his heart. Not long after settling-in to his new home, Keith worked as an advocate for the Friends of Laurel Mountain and successfully… Read More

Jeff Crane

Colorado Watershed Assembly

Jeff is a hydrologist specializing in stream restoration, irrigation diversion and habitat enhancement projects with a major emphasis in water resource engineering and hydrology. As a founding member and the first executive director of the North Fork River Improvement Association, he developed a collaborative approach to stream bank stabilization and water conservation with the landowners… Read More

2009 River Heroes

Cynthia Skrukrud

Illinois Sierra Club

Cindy Skrukrud has lived the past 22 years in the glacial hills of Northern Illinois overlooking the mighty Nippersink Creek, a tributary to the Fox River of southern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Along with her work with Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Openlands to protect streams and wetlands throughout… Read More

Dean Naujoks

Yadkin Riverkeeper Inc.

Born in PA and raised on the Upper Delaware (National Scenic) River, Dean has over 18 years of environmental non-profit experience in North Carolina. He began his non-profit career with the NC Wildlife Federation for eight years from 1991-1999. After graduating cum laude from NC State University, with a degree in Environmental Policy and Sustainable… Read More

Roger Frymire

Retired for 20 years, Roger started down the slippery slope of watershed volunteering after borrowing – for 4 years – a friend’s canoe. Now armed with a kayak, Roger’s dedication to rivers is inspiring. Trained by the Charles River Watershed Association, and supplied with a limited amount of bacterial sample analyses in their lab, Roger… Read More

Ella F. Filippone

Passaic River Coalition

The Passaic River Basin is the most densely populated area in the State of New Jersey. It is composed of eight counties and 118 municipalities totally 2.5 million people. While the Passaic is only 81 miles long, its eight major tributaries contribute over 1000 river miles to the watershed. In 1969, the Passaic River was… Read More

T. Allan Comp

Appalachian Coal Country Watershed Team & the Western Hardrock Watershed Team

An employee of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Comp works through the ACCWT and the WHWT to support the efforts of small community/watershed groups in mining communities of Appalachia and the Rocky Mountains. The ACCWT and the WHWT are coalitions of grassroots-level groups created to repair the environmental degradation left by historic… Read More

2008 River Heroes

John Tippett

John Tippett, Executive Director, Friends of the Rappahannock (VA). John Tippett has served as Executive Director of Friends of the Rappahannock (FOR) since he came to the organization in 1995. His professional interests include the design and implementation of Low-Impact Development practices, watershed assessment and planning, and integrating the science of watershed management into the… Read More

Robert Ruffner

Robert Ruffner, Executive Director, Kenai Watershed Forum (AK). A native of Texas, Robert Ruffner learned to love rivers while canoeing the local waterways with his family and friends. He moved on to kayaks and whitewater, spent time in Minnesota getting degrees in geology and civil engineering, and further honing his whitewater skills, before moving to… Read More

Rob Hutsel

Rob Hutsel, Executive Director, The San Diego River Park Foundation (CA). In 2000, Rob Hutsel was a “weekend warrior,” dedicating his spare time to helping restore local native wildlands. Then, a 34-million gallon sewage spill occurred. For nearly a week, raw sewage ran into the San Diego River without detection. Rob was one of three… Read More

Bernie Dahl

Bernie Dahl Immediate Past President, Banks of the Wabash, Inc., Professor, Purdue University (IN). Since 1972, Bernie Dahl has been teaching at Purdue University. For the past six years, he has been Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Chair of the Landscape Architecture Program. Over the past twenty years, Bernie has melded his teaching with… Read More

David Baker

Dr. David Baker, Director Emeritus, National Center for Water Quality Research at Heidelberg College (OH). For nearly forty years, Dr. David Baker has devoted his life’s work to achieving a better understanding of water quality issues in the Lake Erie Basin, and, above all, to improving the health of these waters. It all began with… Read More

2007 River Heroes

Alan Rollo

Alan Rollo (MT). Alan has been a key figure in Montana and national river conservation for over twenty-five years, actively engaged in a plethora of water quality programs. His impressive accomplishments are the result of quiet, relentless, difficult work that has and is resulting in positive, long-term changes in the Sun and Teton watersheds, and… Read More

Judith Petersen

Judith Petersen (KY). A former aerospace engineer, Judy has been one of the river conservation movement’s most devoted advocates. A colleague once described Judy as “vigilant as a mother bear” watching over her charges, the rivers of Kentucky. Director of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance since 1997, Judy is a leader on water quality policy issues… Read More

Rebecca Miles

Rebecca Miles (ID). In 2005, Rebecca was the first woman, and at 32 the youngest person ever elected chair of the Nez Perce Tribe. With an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice and a Masters in organizational leadership, Rebecca returned to the Nez Perce reservation, working as a communications specialist for the Tribe, cleanup issues with… Read More

Kerry Mackin

Kerry Mackin (MA), Kerry is the mouse who roared, and her work is a stunning example of what one person can accomplish. For more than two decades, Kerry has championed the cause of river protection and restoration, not only for the Ipswich, but for all rivers across Massachusetts. In her twelve years leading IRWA, Kerry’s… Read More

Joe Cook

Joe Cook (GA), An award-winning nature photographer and author, Joe’s slide presentations about the Etowah River, Chattahoochee River and Appalachian Trail have been enjoyed by more than 10,000 children and adults. Over the past fifteen years, Joe has logged more than 3,500 wilderness miles on foot and canoe. In 1999, Joe became a board member… Read More

2006 River Heroes

Beth Maynor Young

Beth Maynor Young (AL), Conservation Photographer. Beth has linked a generation of southerners to the beauty and biodiversity of their rivers and coastal waters through the power and emotion of her exquisite photographs, and has directly motivated significant land and river protection. Beth has worked with countless conservation organizations to promote their work, to enhance… Read More

Clinton (Bill) Townsend

Clinton (Bill) Townsend (ME), President, Maine Rivers. For more than a half-century, Bill has worked passionately to protect and revitalize the more than 31,000 miles of rivers and streams in the State of Maine. The results have rippled across the nation. Since Bill arrived in Maine as a dairy farmer in 1957, he has earned… Read More

Barry Sulkin

Barry Sulkin (TN), Environmental Scientist, TN PEER. Barry spent many years as an employee for the TN Department of Environment and Conservation, and was promoted to Chief of Enforcement in the Water Quality Control Division for exemplary work. After a change in administration and his refusal to allow the burying of creeks for profit, he… Read More

Lawrence Master

Lawrence Master (NY), Chief Zoologist, Nature Serve. It would be fair to say that each and every river protection effort in this country has been touched by the work and passion of Lawrence Master. Larry’s career began with his doctoral and post-doctoral work at the University of Michigan, in which he helped establish the Michigan… Read More

Gershon Cohen

Gershon Cohen, PhD (AK), Project Director, Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters (Project of Earth Island Institute). Gershon has actively championed river and marine ecosystem protection for the last 16 years in Alaska and throughout the U.S.A., focusing on industrial wastewater pollution. Armed with a Masters Degree in immunology/molecular genetics, Gershon moved to Alaska in 1983…. Read More

2005 River Heroes

Tim Watts

Tim Watts (MA), Massachusetts River Activist. Tim is an overnight janitor at a local college— a job that allows him to be on a river or in meetings during the day when most volunteers are at their day job. He grew up in and around rivers; fishing, exploring, learning—the same activities he now shares with… Read More

Deb Perryman

Deb Perryman (IL), Elgin High School Teacher. As a child, Deb spent hours gliding across Crooked Lake in a canoe or exploring the cedar swamp across the road. Her dream was to become a wildlife biologist. Fortunately for the children of School District U46, Deb became a high school science teacher. Noticing a 35-acre tract… Read More

David Fowler

David Fowler (WI), Senior Project Manager, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. With a Master of Science in Stream Ecology, Dave has worked as a Fisheries Biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and later as an Aquatic Biologist for the MMSD where he has been for the past 24 years. He has been active in… Read More

Janet Cohen

Janet Cohen (CA), Executive Director, South Yuba River Citizen’s League. After 14 years with SYRCL, Janet Cohen retired in 2005. Her passionate work for the Yuba River started as a volunteer when, during a 1978 visit to Northern California from her home in London, she was captivated by the Yuba’s deep blue pools and white… Read More

Alice Champagne

Alice Champagne (GA), Technical Programs Director, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Alice has worked tirelessly, for over a decade, on the Chattahoochee River’s most serious problem— polluted sediment runoff from construction sites in the sprawling metro Atlanta region. Never afraid to speak up at public meetings, to lead and teach citizen and governmental trainings/workshops, or to challenge… Read More

2004 River Heroes

Bill Sheehan

Captain Bill Sheehan (NJ), founder and executive director of the Hackensack Riverkeeper, is widely credited with the resurrection of New Jersey’s Hackensack River and the Meadowlands Estuary. Bill was born and raised in New Jersey and has lived his entire life next to the Hackensack River. He received his Coast Guard “Captain” accreditation in order… Read More

Bill McLarney

Dr Bill McLarney (NC), project coordinator and aquatic biologist for the Little Tennessee Watershed Association, has been working over 40 years to evaluate, manage and protect aquatic ecosystems in the United States and internationally. In 1994 he received the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Outstanding Water Conservationist of the Year.

John Klunk

John Klunk (PA), Founder, Cordorus Monitoring Network, hadn’t planned on becoming an advocate for the environment. But when the stream behind his house turned a dark, rusty-brown color, and began to emit a horrible smell, John wanted to find out the cause. It took almost twenty years of letter writing and organizing public meetings, but… Read More

Paul Erhart

Paul Erhart (AK), is a Koyukon, Athabascan Native American of the Tanana Tribe in Alaska. He lives at the confluence of the Tanana and sacred Yukon Rivers where year round he takes the daily vitals of the river as the Assessment and Monitoring Coordinator of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council. If there is an… Read More

2003 River Heroes

Michele Tremblay

Michele Tremblay (NH), chair of the Upper Merrimack River Local Advisory Committee, is a whiz at recruiting volunteers to do the critical work of monitoring the health of waterways. She makes sure collected data is communicated to watershed decision makers through intensive public education and outreach efforts. She also works directly with local schools, helping… Read More

Don Sampson

Don Sampson, (OR) former executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, was recently named executive director for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. He has been an inspiring force behind collaborative efforts to bring back salmon in the Columbia River basin.

Brad McLane

Brad McLane (AL), former executive director of the Alabama Rivers Alliance, never shrinks from powerful, entrenched interests or fails to stand up for the rights of the underrepresented or disenfranchised citizens of his state as he takes on water quality and quantity issues.

Albert Ettinger

Albert Ettinger (IL), senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago, is recognized for his leadership on clean water and natural resource issues. Not one to take on high profile litigation cases, Albert instead dedicates his talents and abilities to tirelessly work to improve standards for water quality protection in Illinois and… Read More

Todd Ambs

Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition

Todd Ambs was River Network’s fifth President (2010 – 2013) and has worked in the environmental policy field for more than 30 years. His extensive experience in both state government and nonprofit organizations includes serving as Executive Director of two statewide river organizations, Policy Director for the Ohio Attorney General and Senior Policy Analyst for… Read More

2002 River Heroes

Marc Taylor

Marc Taylor (MA), chair and founding director of the Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition, has given countless hours to bringing together stakeholders to understand and improve the health of the River and Aquifer. His inspiration and leadership ability resulted in the creation of the first State of the Watershed Report; developing a state-of-the-art webpage; holding a… Read More

Barb Horn

Barb Horn (CO), has worked for over 15 years as a Habitat Biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. In the mid 1980s, Barb started the Colorado River Watch program – a school-based volunteer monitoring program that has grown to include over 100 schools throughout the state. Additionally, Barb worked with other coordinators to initiate… Read More

David Hess

David Hess (PA), former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is responsible for the creation of Growing Greener. The program promises $650 million over five years for open space and farmland preservation, watershed restoration, cleaning up from abandoned mines and mine lands, plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, and upgrading sewer and water… Read More

Zach Frankel

Zach Frankel (UT), founding director of Utah Rivers Council, ran the organization from the back of his truck until he could raise enough funds for an office. In the early 2000s, Zach helped convened a diverse coalition responsible for the defeat of proposed dams on the Bear River. Additionally, Utah now has a law –… Read More