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Save The River Announces Interim Executive Director

June 11th, 2018 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Save The River announced today that John Peach has been appointed to serve as the executive director and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper in an interim capacity until a new director has been hired. John has resigned from his position on the board of directors to serve in this interim role. The search process for the next executive director has already begun, overseen by a search committee chaired by Diane Leonard, secretary of the board.  

“We are pleased to have John stepping into this leadership role while we search for our next executive director,” said Jeff Garnsey, president of Save The River’s board of directors. “His experience as a long-time board member and active volunteer ensures that we will continue the progress we’ve made during Lee Willbanks’ time as executive director. John will provide continuity for our projects while we focus on finding the right person to join our organization.”

“My passion is that Save The River remains strong in our work to protect the Upper St. Lawrence River through advocacy, education, and research,” said Peach. “Summer is a busy season for us with many of our programs and events taking place in the next few months, including the celebration of our 40th anniversary. I look forward to representing our organization and will be available to our members and communities both at the office and out on the River.”

John joined Save The River’s board in 2000 and has served in several key roles including as president from 2004-2007, on the executive committee, and most recently as treasurer leading the finance committee. He is an active volunteer in Save The River’s Common Tern Monitoring program and shoal marking program and will continue his work in these programs while serving as executive director. Prior to his retirement several years ago, Peach worked as an international business consultant in fields including arts, oceanographic research, environmental, and pharmaceuticals. He and his wife Pat call Huckleberry Island near Ivy Lea home for a significant portion of the year; their children and grandchildren represent the fifth and sixth generations of family living in the Lake Ontario and St. Lawrence River region.

The complete executive director job description and application instructions are available here.

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Save The River Executive Director Departing

May 16th, 2018 | Posted by Margaret Hummel

Save The River announced today that after six years of leadership Lee Willbanks will be departing his position as Executive Director and Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper at the end of June.

Willbanks joined Save The River in June of 2012 and played a critical role in significant achievements for the organization including:

    • Oversight of the advocacy enactment of Plan 2014;
    • Creation of Bass Catch & Release program;
    • Expansion of the In the Schools program;
    • Strengthened relationships with fellow Waterkeeper organizations and elected officials; and
    • Led member engagement in the advocacy effort to ban Microbeads in New York State.

“I have loved the responsibility and challenge of being the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and working with the staff, board and volunteers to advance Save The River’s mission to protect and preserve the River,” said Willbanks. “After six years of hard fought accomplishments I am looking forward to other ways to engage with this great River, starting with a lot of delayed boating.”

“I have enjoyed working with Lee during his tenure at Save The River. His depth of knowledge and passion for both regional and global environmental issues have allowed us to reach beyond the ends of our docks and impact the entire St. Lawrence River basin. He will be sorely missed,” said Jeff Garnsey, president of Save The River’s board of directors. “Our board is committed to supporting our dynamic staff team during this transitional period. Our priority is to find the best individual to fulfill Save The River’s mission to protect the Upper St. Lawrence River.”

The search for new leadership will begin immediately; a position description is available here. Interested individuals should submit application materials by June 1, 2018.

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Riverkeeper Statement to Watertown ‘Sister Rally’

January 23rd, 2017 | Posted by Lee

It was an honor to be asked to be a part of Watertown’s ‘Sister Rally’ held Saturday in conjunction with the Women’s March on Washington and the hundreds of others held across the country. It was the beginning of a grassroots effort to remind the new administration and the new Congress that there is widespread support for a range of policies and programs the new President has expressed opposition to.

Although I was out of the area, Save The River supporter and volunteer Maria Purcell read my statement to the almost 300 participants from all over the River region and beyond*.

In part,

“The fact that the highest level appointees of the incoming administration have articulated a clear intention to minimize environmental protections in government decisionmaking is frightening. It threatens our very mission – the protection and restoration of the St. Lawrence River.

Access to clean water is the most fundamental human right. We are entering challenging times for many (if not all) social justice issues, within which we must include the right to clean – swimmable, fishable, drinkable – water.”

We are thankful that the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes and their tributaries have benefitted from decades of bipartisan cooperation at every level of government, from village, township, county, province and state to federal and international, by people of good will focused on restoring and protecting these waterbodies that hold 20% of the world’s fresh water and provide drinking water to millions. We cannot return to a time when they were viewed as resources to be consumed, dammed, diverted, filled and fouled.

The message Saturday was simple, we are watching and we will mobilize to protect hard fought and hard won victories for a clean St. Lawrence River now and for generations to come.

Save The River and the standing heron are registered trademarks. Riverkeeper is a registered trademark of the Waterkeeper® Alliance


Notes:

  • full text of statement
  • the event organizers noted RSVPs from Watertown, Cape Vincent, Redwood, Potsdam, Canton, Fort Drum, Edwards, LaRay, Carthage, Clayton, Adams, Hounsfield, Rutland, Chaumont, Pulaski, Brownville, Sackets Harbor, Cranberry Lake, Antwerp, Rodman, West Carthage, DeKalb, Massena, Lowville, Plattsburgh, Waddington, Lorraine, Lyme, Ogdensburg, Alexandria Bay, Gouverneur, Bombay, Lyonsdale, Theresa, Diana and Watson (all in the River region) and Brentwood, Rochester, Staten Island, Hanover, Worthington, Ithaca, NY, Fresno, CA, Albuquerque, NM, and Bellmead, TX.
  • media coverage of the event: Watertown Daily Times, 7 News Fox 28
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Riverkeeper and Executive Director records his Watermark

October 10th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Riverkeeper and Executive Director records his Watermark.

What is a Watermark?

The Watermark Project is a community effort to collect and archive true stories about the ways people interact with water started by Lake Ontario Waterkeeper in 2015. A Watermark is a true story about you and a body of water. Your Watermark connects you to a shared water heritage. A Watermark describes a memory of time spent near water or the way a body of water has shaped your life. Watermarks create a living record of our powerful connection. When you archive your Watermark, you help protect your water heritage.

Submit yours by clicking here.

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Saving the St. Lawrence

June 7th, 2016 | Posted by Lee
It is sad to note the silence from federal and state officials since American Rivers designated the St. Lawrence River as one of America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers this past April. It is time to speak up and make them take note and take action.
The Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper kicks off a month of shining the spotlight on the threat an outdated water management plan poses to wetlands, fish, wildlife and local communities with the first of a series of blogs on the American Rivers website.
Take action at plan2014now.savetheriver.org

It is sad to note the silence from federal and state officials since American Rivers designated the St. Lawrence River as one of America’s 10 Most Endangered Rivers this past April. It is time to speak up and make them take note and take action.

The Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper kicks off a month of shining the spotlight on the threat an outdated water management plan poses to wetlands, fish, wildlife and local communities with the first of a series of blogs on the American Rivers website.StLawrence_Napaneegal_5bflickr5d-1-680x303

Take action at Plan 2014 Now.

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This type of advocacy takes resources. If you would like to contribute to our efforts by becoming a member please click here. And keep coming back for updates.

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Blue Fish Radio Interviews Riverkeeper about Most Endangered Designation

May 9th, 2016 | Posted by Lee
Blue Fish Radio covers the designation of the St. Lawrence River as one of America’s most endangered rivers with Lawrence Gunther interviewing Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. Listen to the interview here: http://ow.ly/E9ga3003Isj
Visit http://plan2014now.savetheriver.org/ to learn more about the designation.
from Lawrence’s website: “Lawrence Gunther, North America’s only blind professional angler, is the host of both “Feel the Bite TV” and the “Blue Fish Radio” show. . . In addition to being one of Canada’s top-sponsored anglers, Lawrence is the President of “Blue Fish Canada”, a charity dedicated to the future of fish and fishing. More recently, Lawrence completed filming a documentary exploring the most significant fish and water issues affecting Canada. For more visit: http://lawrencegunther.com/

Blue Fish Radio covers the designation of the St. Lawrence River as one of America’s most endangered rivers with Lawrence Gunther interviewing Most Endangered (1)Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. Listen to the interview here.

Visit plan2014now.savetheriver.org to learn more about the designation.

from Lawrence’s website: “Lawrence Gunther, North America’s only blind professional angler, is the host of both “Feel the Bite TV” and the “Blue Fish Radio” show. . . In addition to being one of Canada’s top-sponsored anglers, Lawrence is the President of “Blue Fish Canada”, a charity dedicated to the future of fish and fishing. More recently, Lawrence completed filming a documentary exploring the most significant fish and water issues affecting Canada. For more visit his website.

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Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Executive Director named Freshwater Hero and Citizen Advocate of the Year

March 30th, 2016 | Posted by Lee
Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Executive Director Recognized as Freshwater Hero and Citizen Advocate of the Year
Freshwater Future has added Lee Willbanks to its 2016 list of Freshwater Heroes and honored him with the distinction of Citizen Advocate of the Year.
Based in Michigan, the Freshwater Future has a singular and vitally important mission: to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region.
This month the organization issued its list of Freshwater Heroes. The list includes extraordinary groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond to protect what they hold dear—our waters.
In naming him Citizen Advocate of the Year, Freshwater Heroes said the following about Lee: “From on-the-water monitoring and restoration efforts, to educating the next generation of river champions, to his persistent and passionate advocacy on complex policy issues like aquatic invasive species and regulation of water levels, you can trust that Lee is there, standing up for the St. Lawrence, each and every day.”
For more: http://ow.ly/1067E4

Freshwater Future has added Lee Willbanks, Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River’s Executive Director, to its 2016 list of Freshwater Heroes and honored him with the distinction of Citizen Advocate of the Year.

Based in Michigan, Freshwater Future has a singular and vitally important mission: to ensure the healthy future of our waters in the Great Lakes region.

This month the organization issued its list of Freshwater Heroes. The list includes extraordinary groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond to protect what they hold dear—our waters.

In naming him Citizen Advocate of the Year, Freshwater Heroes said the following about Lee: “From on-the-water monitoring and restoration efforts, to educating the next generation of river champions, to his persistent and passionate advocacy on complex policy issues like aquatic invasive species and regulation of water levels, you can trust that Lee is there, standing up for the St. Lawrence, each and every day.”

2016 Freshwater Future Freshwater Hero Award
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Protect the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence River from radioactive material

March 3rd, 2016 | Posted by admin

Save The River / Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper has joined over 100 groups to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River from radioactive material.

The Lakes and River are at risk because of the high concentrations of nuclear industry, combined with the fact that these radioactive materials are currently not being monitored in a comprehensive way. Today more than 100 organizations from around the Great Lakes are calling on the Canadian and American governments to list radionuclides as a “chemical of mutual concern” under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

“A healthy St. Lawrence River is essential to our area”, said Lee Willbanks, ED/RK, “and there is no question that radionuclides are a threat to it. We don’t know enough about the comprehensive levels and impacts of these compounds, and this designation will help us learn more and better protect our freshwater.”

GL Nuclear Hot Spots

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A Voice for Clean Water

February 10th, 2016 | Posted by Lee

Originally published in the Thousand Islands Sun on February 3, 2016, from Lee Willbanks Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper and Save The River executive director.

Clean, drinkable water is a basic human necessity. It is fundamental to the environment that sustains all human activity. Even so, for much of our history we have taken fresh, life-sustaining water for granted. In the vast St. Lawrence River watershed, blessed as it is with an abundance of clean water, threats to it have frequently seemed remote.

It is a sad irony, when the Thousand Islands stretch of the River is ranked as America’s number one archipelago, the River is recognized as a premier destination, and Clayton is chosen to host the 2016 Empire State Tourism Conference, that right in our backyard the fundamental ingredient in those accolades – fresh water – is under such a threat.

In the unfolding story of Flint, Michigan, and, closer to home, Hoosick Falls, we are witnessing the toll on a community when access to fresh water is compromised and government turns its back or is slow to mobilize. Much closer to home news reports have made a compelling case that this is happening in the Town of Orleans.

While the number of affected residents and businesses is small compared to Flint or even Hoosick Falls, it is clear that salt from a source other than the individual homeowners is in the groundwater. And it is there in high enough concentrations to cause serious health concerns – the introduction of lead from salt-caused corrosion foremost among them.

Corroded pipes and appliances are not within the mission of Save The River. Protection of the River, its tributaries and the people that live within its watershed from polluted water is. Montreal’s massive sewage dump opened our eyes to the equally massive amount of sewage entering our waters upstream. Algal blooms, dead zones in Lake Erie and the threat of oil transport on and around the River make it clear that threats to freshwater are not remote but right here right now. As Riverkeeper we join our community in the effort to protect it.

Whether the state is culpable or has just been inattentive is not the immediate issue in Orleans. Bringing the necessary resources to bear to solve the problem is. A state that can contemplate $100 billion in multi-year capital projects should be able to put together a funding package for the Town that gets clean, safe and affordable drinking water to its citizens. And it is imperative that it do so as soon as possible.

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“Meet the upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper; Save The River prepares to host annual conference”

February 3rd, 2016 | Posted by admin

Great coverage by North Country Public Radio of our upcoming Winter Environmental Conference

“The upper St. Lawrence River’s largest environmental group holds its annual winter conference this weekend.

North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik will be one of the speakers at Save The River’s conference this Saturday at the 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton.”

Tony Maas, Principal of Maas Strategies, is a nationally recognized water policy expert in Canada. He will be providing an update on Canadian environmental policy and Ontario’s Great Lakes Protection Act.

With the potential for New York State voters to vote for a constitutional convention in 2017, van Rossum will speak about the need for constitutional guarantees for clean water and air in the New York State constitution.

“Speakers will also tackle topics that kept Save The River busy in 2015, including passing a new, more environmentally-friendly water levels management plan for the river, and opposing Montreal’s dumping of raw sewage into the river last fall.”

Visit NCPR’s website for the full story:http://ow.ly/XTDaK

There’s still time to register for the conference. For more information call Save The River at 315-686-2010 or visit: http://ow.ly/WUDZF

WEC Speakers Panel Image

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