Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Katherine Baer (KB) (she/her) now lives and works in Carboro, North Carolina, on Eno and Occaneechi lands.
KB joined River Network in 2015. As Vice President for River Programs, Katherine leads, aligns and leverages River Network’s programmatic efforts to strengthen the capacity of local groups nationwide for healthy rivers, climate-resilient communities and a powerful and inclusive network. As a longtime environmental advocate, Katherine has worked for River Network, American Rivers, Triangle Land Conservancy, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, the Center for Progressive Reform, and the School for Field Studies. In that work she has led efforts to improve policies and practices for clean, healthy and sustainable water for people and nature at the local, state and national levels, including testifying before Congressional Committees and serving on state and national working groups on topics including drought management, climate change adaptation and reducing sewage pollution. She also has deep experience in providing strategic leadership across a variety of programs and scales and working with a diverse range of partners to catalyze impact for change.
Outside of work, KB is trail running with friends, spending time with her family (including one dog and three cats), reading mysteries, eating dark chocolate and volunteering as a local race director.
Which River Network value most speaks to you?
Balance. Ever since my graduate research on the impact of urban land use on our streams and rivers, I’ve recognized the inseparable connection between the health of our communities and our waterways. Wherever you are in a developed areas, you’re essentially right by a creek because of the way that we’ve engineered our landscapes – you see that both in how pollution gets into our waters and how flooding happens in communities even outside of the official floodplain. Because of that, I love that we center human and ecological needs as core to our work. More than that – we’ve also worked hard as a team to create a culture that values a work-life balance, which is critical to me.
What called you to work in water?
Growing up in Atlanta, my friends and I spent days splashing around in the backyard creek, mapping the trails that snaked across backyards and empty lots, and following the creek through culverts to its downstream confluence. It was in no way pristine, but I loved it for the refuge and fun it provided. Since then I’ve been hooked by the joys and complexities of our waters and water systems and how to protect and restore them for everyone.
Why is equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) important in your work?
The imperative to center communities who are most impacted by pollution and climate change and find ways to dismantle and change our systems to address the many inequities was crystallized for me as we began working on safe, clean and affordable drinking water. Understanding the historic burden that Black, Indigenous and People of Color, bear in so many ways that results in disproportionate rates of water shut-offs, drinking water violations and lack of access to water is unacceptable and why we strive to create an inclusive network and support solutions crafted by those who are most affected.
If you didn’t work in water or conservation, what would you be doing?
I’d be a dog walker or a civil engineer.