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Awards from Rivers Alliance
Environmental Champions 2019
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut is pleased to announce the selection of State Representatives Mary Mushinsky (D-Wallingford) and Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport) as the recipients of our 2019 Environmental Champion Award for their tireless and persistent work on Connecticut’s first State Water Plan.
Rivers Alliance’s Environmental Champion Award is an annual award given to individual(s) or groups that have shown exemplary leadership and effectiveness in protecting Connecticut’s water resources and the environment.
Rivers Alliance Annual Meeting
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut Honors
Senator Ed Meyer as
In recognition of his dedicated and fearless defense of Connecticut's open space and natural resources. As Chairman of the General Assembly's Environmental Committee, Senator Meyer has led the fight for clean water, clean air, and healthy communities. He is a true friend to rivers and those who love them.
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut HonorsSally Rieger as
RIVER CHAMPION OF THE YEAR 2012
In gratitude for her service as Chair of the Lower Farmington River/Salmon Brook Wild and Scenic Study Committee. She has pursued heightened protection for this beautiful river with determination, patience, a sharp wit, and skillful diplomacy. Success is within reach.
At its Annual Meeting in December 2011, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut named conservation leader Barbara David as Environmental Champion 2011. The award was given in recognition of her extraordinary dedication to the conservation of Connecticut’s land, air, and water; her generous support of the environmental community; and her special love of gardens and music, the graces of the world.
At its Annual Meeting in December 2011, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut named Betsey Wingfield of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as State Agency Environmental Hero 2011. The award was given in gratitude for her expert, patient, and effective work to negotiate a regulation protecting streamflows in Connecticut.
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut has named Karl Wagener, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality, as Environmental Champion 2010. The award was given in gratitude for his expert, patient, and effective work to protect the state’s natural resources, educate people state officials and the general public on environmental issues, and assist residents who need help with environmental problems. He not only listens to citizens’ complaints; he acts on them, often finding solutions when others thought no solutions were possible.
Mr. Wagener has been executive director of the CEQ since 1985. In that capacity, he serves as a guide to CEQ members and his colleagues on environmental law. He and the CEQ advocate for protection of the state’s environment, often taking positions that are politically bold. He also oversees publication of the CEQ’s annual report on the state of Connecticut’s environment, which is an invaluable tool for tracking the state’s progress and regress. Among his many accomplishments at the CEQ was helping to create and coordinate the original Governor's Greenways Committee, which led to the establishment of the Connecticut Greenways Council.
In 1995, Mr. Wagener was selected for an Eisenhower Fellowship and spent several weeks in the Czech Republic and Slovakia exchanging information with environmental officials and advocates in those countries.
Before joining the CEQ, he was director of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Environmental Center in Hartford and served as their lobbyist at the State Capitol.
A graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Mr. Wagener resides with his wife Maria in the Hubbard Brook watershed near the Connecticut River.
Rivers Alliance has named David Sutherland, Director of Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy Connecticut Chapter, as environmental champion of the year. Mr. Sutherland not only has a strong record of accom-plishment as an environmental advocate, he is exceptionally helpful to his colleagues. He is perennially one of the first advocates to grasp the details of the state budget as it develops and as it concludes. Given that the 2009 legislative session was almost all about the budget, Mr. Sutherland was much in demand. In particular, he was able to explain the complexities of the budget proposed for the Department of Environmental Protection, thereby strengthening the testimony of his many colleagues who sought to minimize cuts to the agency. He also was a leader in saving the funding that is distributed under the Connecticut Community Investment Act for open space, farmland, affordable housing, and historic preservation.
In his nineteen years with The Nature Conservancy, Mr. Sutherland has worked with colleagues in the Land Conservation Coalition for Connecticut to lobby for over $350 million in state funds to preserve natural lands across the state. He has led the Face of Connecticut campaign, which provided a vision and map for preserving the state’s natural and historic heritage. He has also lobbied for tax incentives to encourage conservation and laws to ensure the permanence of conservation restrictions and ownership..
Mr. Sutherland served on the Governor's Stakeholder Dialogue on Climate Change in 2004, and helped to pass many hope, a model for watersheds under the stream-flow regulation that the Department of Environmental Protection released shortly after the celebration. Gov. Rell stressed the significance of the Shepaug case for all state rivers. She said: In fact, the battle over the Shepaug River flow was one worth fighting. The issues raised and the resolution created will resonate beyond just our borders. The case pointed to the important need for us to properly manage the flow of our rivers and to do it with balance: balanc-ing our needs for drinking water and recreational use while protecting our natural resources, legislation implementing the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in Connecticut and establishing a state task force on the impacts of climate change. He was appointed by the Speaker of the House to serve on the Con-necticut Invasive Plants Council.
Rivers Alliance Executive Director Margaret Miner expresses thanks to Mr. Sutherland and The Nature Conservancy for their collegial assistance on a number of policy issues. “David has always been exceptionally helpful and gracious. He never seems to mind explaining the basics.”
At the present time, Rivers Alliance and the Nature Conservancy are leading the effort to achieve passage of the Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed streamflow regulation to provide protective standards for all Connecticut’s stream and rivers. This looks to be the most important and, unfortunately, contentious issue on the state’s water-policy agenda.
Mr. Sutherland lives in Glastonbury's Kongscut Mountain/Diamond Lake neighborhood and has a Masters degree in Environmental Studies from Antioch University.
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut has named Nancy Eve Cohen of WNPR and Connecticut Public Radio as Environmental Reporter of the Year 2008. Ms. Cohen is also Managing Editor of NPR's Northeast Environmental Hub, which focuses on the natural resources of the region. Ecological systems do not recognize state borders, and many environmental issues are common to some or all of the states in the region.
Rivers Alliance selected Ms. Cohen for its annual award because her work in this state has provided extraordinary benefits. A good reporter not only reaches the immediate audience, she enlightens the entire community as that audience interacts with colleagues, friends, and family.
The award will be presented at the Rivers Alliance Annual Meeting on December 18 in Hartford. Anyone interested in attending should contact the RA office: firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-361-9349.
Margaret Miner, Executive Director of Rivers Alliance, said, "One reason that Nancy's stories are so excellent is that behind each feature are many, many hours of travel, study, and interviews. With her background in politics and science, she understands all facets of an issue. Also, she's really fair and really smart."
Eric Hammerling, Rivers Alliance President and Executive Director of Connecticut Forest and Park Association, remarked, "Nancy has a special talent for finding interesting individual stories that also explain wider issues. And vice versa. She can take a concept like river continuity and bring it to life with specific illustrations. We are lucky to have her on Connecticut Public Radio."
Last summer, Ms. Cohen broadcast environmental stories from Alaska, which documented effects of global warming on the delicate arctic environment. In 2006, she won an Associated Press Award for her reporting on sewage overflows in people's basements in Hartford. Her recent feature on the pros and cons of dam removal in New England dealt deftly with a controversial subject.
Rivers Alliance was founded in 1992 in Collinsville, on the banks of the Farmington River, and is now in Litchfield, close to the Bantam River. It is the statewide, non-profit coalition of river organizations, individuals and businesses formed to protect and enhance Connecticut's waters by promoting sound water policies, uniting and strengthening the state's many river groups, and educating the public about the importance of water stewardship.
Ms. Cohen is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Her journalism work has taken her to Cuba (where she recorded an interview with Castro), Sarajevo (in wartime), Guatemala, and Moscow. She has been an editor on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Funding for NPR’s Northeast Environment Hub comes from United Technologies Corporation.
Previous winners of the Rivers Alliance award have been Rep. Tim O’Brien of New Britain for legislative leadership in protecting drinking water and attorney Roger Reynolds of Connecticut Fund for the Environment for legal work on statewide environmental issues.
Ms. Miner concluded, “We have a wealth of talent in Connecticut and outstanding environmental policies. With the help of people like our awardees, we will reach our environmental goals.”
At its annual meeting in December 2007, Rivers Alliance was delighted to honor Roger Reynolds, senior staff attorney at Connecticut Fund for the Environment, as Environmental Attorney of the Year. Mr. Reynolds has worked with Rivers Alliance and numerous other groups to defend the state’s most basic environmental laws (the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act and the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act); to protect prudent water-diversion policy in general and individual diversion permits; to establish a fair method of disposing of state “surplus” lands without giving away valuable resources; to improve sewage treatment; to bolster wetlands protections and so forth. Meanwhile, he has also done important work on air-quality cases and the Broadwater project in L.I. Sound. He can master hundreds of details rapidly, and he is an expert negotiator. Thanks, Roger.
Rivers Alliance of Connecticut has named Rep. Tim O’Brien of New Britain as environmental legislator of 2007. The award was presented on December 19 at the organization’s annual meeting in Hartford.
Thanks to the courageous leadership of Rep. O’Brien, the legislature, in a September 2007 special session, repealed a newly passed law that had threatened the quality of the state’s drinking water supplies.
The threat arose during the 2007 regular session in an eleventh-hour amendment added to an innocuous bill (Senate bill 1341) that made certain improvements in the management of water utilities. The amendment overrode state laws protecting Class I and Class II land in drinkingwater watersheds. (These lands buffer drinking-water reservoirs and wells.) It was written to allow the New Britain water utility to lease more than 130 acres of Class I and II land that it owns in Plainville to the Tilcon company for rock mining.
The advantage to New Britain was that Tilcon reportedly was willing to pay in the range of $12 million to $15 million for a forty-year lease. The disadvantage to the residents of Connecticut was that this permission-to-mine would open the door to similar ventures in some 100,000 acres of drinking water lands that have been protected under state law for three decades. Connecticut has been, in fact, a national leader in requiring the conservation of watershed lands as a public health mandate to maintain the exceptionally high quality of the state’s drinking water. Rep. O’Brien, who represents the state’s 24th district, initially supported the mining project, as did the entire New Britain delegation. As he learned more of the facts and implications of the hurriedly passed amendment, he took the lead in calling for its repeal.
He and New Britain’s senator, Don DeFronzo, pledged to seek repeal and eventually persuaded the rest of the delegation to join the cause. Ultimately, they persuaded Democratic leadership to implement the repeal. Rep. O’Brien’s willingness to acknowledge an error and to fight to repair the damage has rescued the state’s commitment to preserving healthy drinking water.