Five Alabamians receive lifetime achievement awards at Alabama Water Rally

Alabama Rivers Alliance presents River Hero Awards to notable individuals who have made outstanding contributions toward river protection

Guntersville, AL— Nearly a hundred and fifty river advocates gathered, in from the snow, at Guntersville State Park for Alabama Water Rally, the 17th annual conference of the Alabama Rivers Alliance, where five outstanding Alabamians were honored with lifetime achievement awards for their work in river protection during the River Celebration Awards Banquet.

The River Celebration Awards Banquet is an evening devoted to the recognition of those special organizations and individuals who have made outstanding contributions toward river protection in our state. Nominations are submitted by members of the Alabama Rivers Alliance.

The highest of the River Celebration Awards is the coveted River Hero Award, a lifetime achievement award given to passionate individuals who exemplify river stewardship and who have a rich history of advocating for the protection of Alabama’s waterways. This year’s River Hero Award recipients are:

Pete Conroy
Pete Conroy is the Director of Jacksonville State University’s Environmental Policy and Information Center (EPIC). Trained as a biologist, Conroy moved to Alabama in 1985 to work as the curator of the Anniston Museum of Natural History. He worked for decades as a Federal Commissioner of the ACT and ACF Water Compacts, appointed by President Bill Clinton and later retained by President George W. Bush. Conroy has led a number of projects, including the establishment and operation of the Little River Canyon Center, reuse of the former Fort McClellan, the Chief Ladiga Rail-Trail, and several Alabama-based initiatives promoting smart growth, environmental education, the arts, conservation, ecotourism, water policy, and the Gulf oil spill disaster. Currently, he spends most of his time developing various projects and facilities, all targeting sustainability, education and economic development. His newest efforts include the development of Alabama’s film industry, construction of Freedom Riders Park at the site of the famous 1961 bus burning and as result of the Alabama Rivers Alliance event, a renewed interest in water policy.

Gil Rogers of Southern Environmental Law Center
Birmingham native Gil Rogers is a senior attorney with Southern Environmental Law Center and is the leader of SELC’s Clean Water Program. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Rogers has spent his career working for the protection of southeastern rivers. He has focused primarily on water quality and water management, looking at issues such as water pollution reduction, water supply challenges, hydropower, and interstate water conflicts. He has tirelessly lobbied for a water management plan for Alabama, and assisted the town of Magnolia Springs draft and implement a stormwater ordinance. He has litigated consequential cases in both state and federal court (including cases that questioned the Shepherd Bend coal mine, Rosa Mine coal mine, and the Northern Beltline). This work in both Georgia and Alabama has earned him the awards of Georgia Water Conservationist of the Year and now Alabama Rivers Alliance River Hero.

Paul Freeman of The Nature Conservancy
Paul Freeman has worked for The Nature Conservancy for fifteen years as an aquatic ecologist. Born in Chattanooga, TN, he received a degree in Biology from Appalachian State and a Master’s in Environmental Science from UT-Chattanooga and currently resides in Irondale, AL. Throughout the time in his career with The Nature Conservancy, Freeman has maintained ties with the river advocacy community and helped to keep the work of his science grounded in the spirit of advocacy. Current Alabama Rivers Alliance executive director Cindy Lowry recognizes Paul as having been a valuable resource to her when she began her leadership of the organization as he helped her to develop connections with the State and Federal Agencies. The Nature Conservancy has also been an instrumental partner in the work to create a statewide water policy for Alabama, and Paul has been an active participant in that movement, instrumental in bringing scientific expertise to the instream flow conversation.

Doug Morrison of Friends of Big Canoe Creek and Coosa Riverkeeper
Doug Morrison receives his River Hero Award presented by John Wathen with Cindy Lowry at left.Doug Morrison is the president of Friends of Big Canoe Creek. His vision was to protect the creek that he loved, which is one of the great natural resources in central Alabama. He reinvigorated Friends of Big Canoe Creek, a group that brings awareness to the creek, its tributaries and the property in which it runs through. He is responsible for having the proposed Big Canoe Creek Preserve, which has been nominated by Alabama’s Forever Wild Program and is very close to becoming a reality, which will preserve this special place for generations to come. Doug also gives of his time and energy to the Coosa RiverKeeper, serving as president of their board of directors, and supportive of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Hurricane Creekkeeper, the Alabama Rivers Alliance, and other watershed outreach groups in Alabama. He is active in civic groups in Springville and often is seen picking up trash along the county roads which intersect Big Canoe Creek as well as in his canoe while paddling.

Marty Schulman receives the James Lowery Service Award
Marty Schulman receives James Lowery Service Award from Cindy Lowry (left) and Liz Brooke (right).Another notable award conferred during this ceremony is the James Lowery Service Award, a lifetime achievement award given to exceptional individuals who have gone above and beyond in their volunteer service to their communities and Alabama’s environment. An expansion of the “Volunteer of the Year Award,” the James Lowery Service Award was established in 2011, when the Alabama Rivers Alliance recognized James Lowery, a long-time, highly dedicated board member and volunteer for a number of environmental advocacy organizations. In recognition of James’ outstanding contributions, he was named the “Volunteer of the Decade” and the James Lowery Service Award was consequently named in his honor.

This year’s James Lowery Service Award will be presented to Marty Schulman. Marty has served for a number of years as an Alabama Water Watch monitor on behalf of US Fish and Wildlife Service at four of the five known habitats of the endangered Watercress Darter habitats that exist in the world.. Marty is also involved with the Alabama Wildflower Society, the American Chestnut Society, and the the Historic Birmingham Mineral Railroads Signs Project among other civic involvements. Click here to see video of Marty receiving his award.

Other notable honorees include:

Sam Stokes, Volunteer of the Year
Black Belt Citizens Fighting for health and Justice, Group of the Year
Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, Beyond Rivers Partner of the Year
Wolf Creek Creations, Business Partner of the Year

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About the Alabama Rivers Alliance
The Alabama Rivers Alliance is Alabama’s statewide, nonprofit river protection organization. Our purpose is to protect & restore Alabama’s rivers. To do this, we advocate smart water policy, organize at the grassroots level, and teach citizens how they can protect their water. We are privately funded and accomplish our mission with the financial support of people like you. Our goal is to achieve healthy rivers, healthy people, and a healthy system of government for the state of Alabama.

About Alabama Water Rally
Alabama Water Rally is a conference that has been produced annually by the Alabama Rivers Alliance for sixteen years. It is the premier education event for adults interested in water protection and conservation in Alabama, with three days of educational sessions designed to inform, empower, and inspire participants to protect their local waterways.