Photo by John Wathen.

River Network Announces 2016 River Hero Award Winners

BOULDER, CO (May 24, 2016) – Five leaders from the river and water conservation community have been recognized by national nonprofit organization, River Network, for their exceptional personal and professional achievements in support of river protection and restoration. The 2016 River Heroes are John Linkes of Leechburg, Pa.; Andrew Purkey of Portland, Ore., Derrick Evans of Gulfport, Miss.; Jan Goldman-Carter of Washington, D.C.; and Casi Callaway of Mobile, Ala.

Since 2002, River Network has recognized 72 individuals from the U.S. and beyond with the prestigious River Hero award. This award is unique within the conservation community given its focus on water, local champions, and peer recognition. Each candidate must be nominated by those they work with who attest to their transformative work at a particular river or geography.

The 2016 River Heroes are:

John Linkes, Director, Roaring Run Watershed Association and Kiskiminetas River Watershed Association (Leechburg, Pa.)

John 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 Environmental Learning Center, an Associate Member for the Armstrong Conservation District, and from time to time ‘dons’ the Pennsylvania Resources Council’s litterbug costume to teach kids about littering. He has also served as the local coordinator of the Orsanco Ohio River Sweep for the past 16 years. Most recently, his partnership with Bridgestone’s Tires4Ward program has led to the removal of more than 800 tires in a single weekend from the Kiskiminetas River.

Andrew Purkey, Director of Western Water Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (Portland, Ore.) — From 1994 through 2002, Andrew 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 right” flows in depleted stream systems while building trust with local landowners, ditch companies, tribes, and irrigation districts under Oregon’s 1987 instream water transfer law. Since 2003, Andrew has been with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), working until 2012 as the program director of the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program.  Andrew has shown a tireless commitment to the art and practice of voluntary flow and instream habitat restoration in some of the most conflict-laden watersheds of the North American West: the Klamath River basin in Oregon and California; the Colorado River Delta in Mexico; the Walker River Basin in California and Nevada; the Rio Grande in New Mexico; and California’s Great Central Valley, to name only a few.

Derrick Evans, Director of Turkey Creek Community Initiatives and Managing Advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Renewal and Ecological Health (Gulfport, Miss.) — Since 2001, Derrick has worked 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 bulldozed for development. He founded Turkey Creek Community Initiatives in 2003 with a mission to “conserve, restore, and utilize the endangered cultural, historical and ecological assets” of his native community and watershed. When Hurricane Katrina, and then Rita, came along, Derrick put his entire life on hold to help his community in Gulfport, Miss. recover. When the BP disaster struck, Derrick was again at the forefront of the support efforts, traveling from town to town across the Gulf to meet with the people in impacted communities. He was appointed administrator of the Gulf Cost Fund, where he helped direct millions of dollars to the small groups impacted most by Katrina and the BP Disaster. A critically acclaimed documentary film called Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek, chronicles Derrick’s struggle for justice in his coastal Mississippi community.

Jan Goldman-Carter, Senior Manager, Wetlands and Water Resources, National Wildlife Foundation (Washington, D.C.) – Jan 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. She received the EPA-ELI National Wetlands Award in 1993. Jan’s expertise and persistence directly led to the nation’s single most significant river protection accomplishment in 2015: the Clean Water Protection Rulemaking. The Rulemaking provides critical legal protection to rivers, streams, wetlands and other waters across the nation. It reinstates protections for drinking water supplies in approximately one-third of the country. Jan worked closely with key leaders in groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, Trout Unlimited, Environment America, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Izaak Walton League and River Network to build a national coalition of voices advocating for a strong, clear rule that reestablishes protections under the Clean Water Act for thousands of waterways across the nation.

Casi Callaway, Executive Director & Baykeeper, Mobile Baykeeper (Mobile, Ala.) – For more than twenty 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 region supported by more than 4,000 members. Among her many accomplishments, Casi served as a leading community and regional advocate during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster response to ensure that local areas of environmental concern were taken into account in remediation planning and execution, and she has been integral to the City of Mobile’s increased efforts to address stormwater and other environmental issues. Casi has received numerous awards for her work, including being named “Remarkable Woman” by Lifetime Television, “Coastal Hero” by Coastal Living Magazine, “Woman Shaping the State” of Alabama by AL.com, and a “Gulf Guardian” by the U.S. EPA Gulf of Mexico Program.

“Our River Heroes go far beyond what we expect and even what we imagine is possible for our rivers,” said Nicole Silk, President of River Network. “Local leaders like these are essential to uniting people to solve water problems. They are creating a future where healthy rivers and thriving communities are the rule rather than the exception. We offer our warmest congratulations to these champions for our waters.”

River Network’s 2016 River Heroes award banquet honoring the winners was held on May 23, 2016 as part of the organization’s annual conference, River Rally. This year’s event took place in Mobile, Ala. and drew more than 400 river advocates and enthusiasts from across the U.S. and around the world.

For details about the River Hero program, visit https://www.rivernetwork.org/events-learning/awards/river-heroes/.

About River Network
River Network empowers and unites people and communities to protect and restore rivers and other waters that sustain all life. We envision a future of clean and ample water for people and nature, where local caretakers are well-equipped, effective and courageous champions for our rivers. Visit http://www.rivernetwork.org to learn more.