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River Network Announces 2018 River Heroes Award Winners

April 20, 2018 [Boulder, Colo.] – Six leaders have been recognized by national nonprofit organization River Network for exceptional achievements in river and water protection and restoration. Since 2001, River Network has recognized over 80 individuals with River Hero Awards, which honor transformative work on a particular river or geography. Letters of support from community members, local elected representatives, governors, members of congress, and national conservation leaders support award nominees.

“Everyone needs a hero to inspire us to dream bigger, to do more, and to never give up,” says Nicole Silk, President of River Network. “This year’s River Heroes have pioneered restoration tactics, defended legal protections, and forged novel partnerships. With experience that binds the restoration of rivers in the arid Southwest, protection of waters in the northern Great Lakes, innovations to restore ecological function to the waterways of New England, and stewardship of coastal streams of the Pacific, their achievements and passionate determination elevate our sights to what is possible.”

In addition to five River Hero awards, River Network’s Board of Directors recognizes one individual annually for lifetime achievement and significant contributions that improve the collective outlook for clean water and healthy rivers. This special award is named after James “Jim” Compton.

The 2018 River Hero award recipients include:

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 years. Kira became program director for Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA), a non-profit river and wildlife restoration organization, in 2015.

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 Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Project. She served as the conservation director of Siskiyou Audubon Society, and headed Friends of the Kalmiopsis for more than 15 years.

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 board of the Walton Family Foundation and on advisory boards including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Aspen Institute’s Vanguard Chapter, and Grand Canyon Youth.

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 the lead counsel in the Scott public trust case; counsel in the SF BayKeeper case. Wheaton is a trained whitewater rafting guide.

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 the science of water in urban watersheds, and he has developed programs that address storm-water pollution, water quality, low instream flow, nutrient loading, habitat protection and restoration, community zoning, suburban sprawl, sustainable development and water demand, the economics of water infrastructure transformation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The 2018 Compton award recipient is:

Lester Snow, Executive Director of the California Water Foundation; Sacramento, California. Engaged in integrated resource management for more than 40 years, Snow implemented the Clean Water Act in Arizona in the late 70s and has supported efforts to remove four dams on the Klamath River. Founding director of the Water Foundation, in 2016 he was appointed to the board of directors for the Klamath River Renewal Corporation. Previously, he served as Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency and chief advisor to the Governor on issues related to the state’s natural, historic, and cultural resources. Snow also directed the California Department of Water Resources, including operation of the California State Water Project.

All awards will be presented on May 2nd at River Rally (Olympic Valley, California, April 29–May 2, 2018), the annual gathering of water protectors and conservationists hosted by River Network.

For more about River Hero Awards, visit

About River Network
River Network is the foremost nonprofit connecting nearly 6,000 water-focused organizations, agencies, businesses, and communities for greater local impact and healthier rivers across the U.S.

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