Annual awards recognize stewards and job creators
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
As we debate jobs versus the environment—a tiresome, simpleton binary of winners versus losers—we gloss a fundamental truth: Focus on the environment creates jobs. Lots of jobs.
This truth became astoundingly clear in last year’s county elections, where candidates who championed a more careful, circumspect analysis of the expansion of heavy industry at Cherry Point had themselves created hundreds of jobs in comparison to their opponents, who promised focus on jobs at any cost.
It’s not jobs versus the environment. The vitality of the one depends upon the other.
Rud Browne created a business that recycled old electronics into new applications, building one of the county’s premier employers in the manufacturing sector. His colleague on Whatcom County Council, Carl Weimer, helped launch the RE Store, which similarly recycles old building materials into new uses. In the ashes of a gasoline pipeline explosion in Bellingham that killed three boys in 1999, Weimer helped form the Pipeline Safety Trust, a grassroots watchdog group concerned with pipeline safety across the nation, advocates of new management and infrastructure protocols and energy alternatives. Weimer also helped lead RE Sources through its formative years, building an education and policy advocacy group that—along with the RE Store, which the group manages—employes more than 30 people.
Each year, RE Sources recognizes Environmental Heroes for their extraordinary efforts in protecting and promoting the health of the Pacific Northwest environment. RE Sources has hosted Environmental Heroes for 11 years as a way to support, applaud and encourage work of this quality.
Job creation in environmental pursuits is, by its very nature, entrepreneurial—an emergent need is discerned, investment is accumulated and applied to in response to that need, people are gainfully employed in pursuit of tasks related to those needs. What’s striking, in fact, with this year’s Environmental Heroes is how each saw a need and set about to create a career to address that need.
“Driven by passion, all five innovated jobs so they could work full-time on what they cared about,” observes Peter Frazier, director of communications at RE Sources. “They started their own nonprofits that now employ scores of people. These are not just environmental heroes, but they are also job creators.”
“The accomplishments of our Heroes have made huge impacts in shaping our community’s culture and providing models of sustainability,” boasts RE Sources’ Executive Director Crina Hoyer. “Our vision at RE Sources is to see people living satisfying lives in accord with the ecosystem we depend on—generation after generation. We are delighted to highlight the work of our Heroes in advancing that shared vision.”
Martha Bray helped conserve more than 6,500 acres of threatened lands in Skagit County. As conservation director for Skagit Land Trust, Martha has built a strong and widely respected land conservation program. Through focused partnerships, Martha and the Land Trust team have completed more than 50 land acquisition projects—many of which were complex and lengthy. She has worked diligently to reconnect fragmented landscapes. As a result of Martha’s efforts, places people love and habitat wildlife needs—low-elevation forests, wetlands, shorelines and scenic open space threatened with sprawl and development—are protected forever through land trusts, conservation easements, county parks or lands transferred to state and federal agencies. She has worked to conserve places many of us consider the heart of Skagit, for generations to come: Guemes Mountain, Cypress and Samish Island shoreline, South Fidalgo Bay, Barney Lake Natural Area, Hurn Field, and Barr Creek Forest on the flanks of Sauk Mountain; and thousands of acres in the Skagit River floodplain between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete so the river can take its natural course, meandering across the valley floor, shaping and reshaping essential habitat. Martha is now focused on finishing up a new Conservation Strategy for the Land Trust that uses best available science to refine how to find the most important lands to protect in the Skagit—to maintain landscape connectivity, restore and protect important ecosystem processes, and allow for adaptation and resiliency.
Fred Felleman is a tireless advocate for the conservation and protection of the Salish Sea. Over the past three decades, Fred has worked with marine conservation organizations, both locally and nationally, as well as local governments and tribes, to protect whale habitat and mitigate threats, particularly from oil spills. A skilled writer and photographer, Fred has used his talents to translate his research into public awareness and concern for the health of the Pacific Northwest’s marine environment. He has been involved with every major industrial expansion effort that would increase shipping traffic in our area, and has successfully challenged a variety of permits to decrease the risk of catastrophic oil spills. Fred has made integral contributions toward the creation of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, the stationing of the Neah Bay response tug, enhancing Washington State’s oil spill prevention and response capabilities, banning Naval bombing of the Copalis Wildlife Refuge, listing the Southern Resident orca community under ESA, creating the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve and Management Plan, and improving cruise ship discharge requirements. Fred monitors and holds accountable decision-makers, as in the recent case where the Army Corps neglected to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement for a massive expansion of the BP pier. For more than 30 years, Fred has been the leading citizen paying attention to studies and rules that impact the safety of the Salish Sea.
Aimee Frazier has harnessed the joy, wonder, curiosity and capabilities of children and youth. In 2004, she followed passion and a sense of purpose to found the Explorers Club, an outdoor education program that provides leadership and life skills’ development for youth ages 7-17. Through outdoor exploration and community service, Explorers Club youth learn to lead collaboratively, serve compassionately and to be aware and care about the world they inhabit. Outdoor explorations build a hands-on, intimate connection to and awareness of the natural world. A sense of community commitment is built and nurtured as Explorers Club youth identify local needs and meet them, collectively contributing more than 7000 hours of service to Whatcom County’s human and non-human ecosystems since 2004. Along with a dynamic team of educators, Aimee helped form the nonprofit Wild Whatcom, which connects people of all ages to themselves, others, the community and the natural world. Wild Whatcom offers guided sensory exploration for young children, serves more than 300 youth in the Explorers Club, brings its environmental education programs to local schools, and leads outings and adventures for adults. Deep, informed, joyful connection to our planet creates leaders out of learners, and students emerge as stewards. Aimee is honored to help shape informed, capable, collaborative future citizens of tomorrow, and can’t imagine more purposeful work.
Mitch Friedman is the executive director of Conservation Northwest, which he founded in 1988 after being an activist leader in efforts to save ancient forests. He was a founding board member of the Wildlands Network, Western Lands Alliance, and the Bellingham Bay Foundation. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Washington and has received conservation awards from Sunset Magazine, Society for Conservation Biology, the Wilderness Society, and others. In 2003 he was named by Washington Law and Politics Magazine as one of the “25 smartest people in Washington.” At Conservation Northwest, Mitch has led the effort to infuse landscape-scale conservation biology into advocacy strategy. The success of this approach is evident in great gains protecting habitat connectivity between the North Cascades Ecosystem and wild areas to the south (Central Cascades, across the I-90 landscape), east (the Rockies), and northwest (BC Coast and Chilcotin Ranges), as well as recovery of native carnivores including wolves, fisher, lynx and wolverine. He is known for his efforts to organize the first spotted owl protection protests; spending several days in the canopy of an ancient tree as one of the first tree-sitting protesters; having conceived and organized the Ancient Forest Rescue Expedition, nationwide educational tours featuring a giant log towed by a semi-truck; executing the first non-logging high bid for a Forest Service timber sale (called Thunder Mountain); and spearheading the dramatic protection of the Loomis State Forest wildlands.
On his own steam, Duane Jager set to work creating local green jobs, reducing over-consumption, and diverting waste. Duane is the founding executive director of ReUse Works, a nonprofit that supports worker training, job creation and business development opportunities for low-income residents using discarded materials. Appliance Depot is a well-known project of ReUse Works. Since 2005, Appliance Depot’s appliance refurbishing and recycling center has provided job training for 300 workers, diverted nearly 30,000 appliances from waste streams (900 tons) for reuse, and recycled 2,000 tons of scrap metal. ReUse Works’ most recent project, Ragfinery, offers a community-based solution to the modern issue of fiber and fabric over-consumption and waste. In partnership with social service agencies, schools and the local arts community, Ragfinery upcycles and repurposes post-consumer textiles. Both nonprofit businesses are designed to promote local sustainability by using local waste to create local jobs. Duane’s unceasing commitment to this community is evident in his involvement in myriad events and projects, as well as his serving on committees and boards of nonprofits like Kulshan Community Land Trust, Whatcom Peace & Justice Center, and Sustainable Connections, of which he was a founding board member. Duane was also the founding director of two other nonprofits outside of Washington: ReUse Industries, the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, the Community Kitchen, and was on the founding board of two homeless shelters.
This event is made possible by Cornerstone Sponsor, Sanitary Service Company, Whatcom County’s largest full-service recycling and waste collection company; and by generous community sponsors: Boundary Bay Brewery, Community Food Co-op, The Bellingham Herald, Lairmont Manor, Evolve Truffles, Altility Art Studio, 3D Corporation, Snapper Shuler Kenner Insurance, Heritage Bank, and Recreation Northwest.
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