By Brook Lenker, Executive Director
In my earlier conservation work, I was always inspired by the activities of certain volunteers. Whether it was a guy who touched the lives of scores of kids through his outings and mentorship or a watershed maven who was the queen of planting and restoration, there are people who go above and beyond to make a difference, help others, and heal the planet. Some call them saints, others call them stewards, but whatever you call them they deserve our praise.
In this spirit, FracTracker Alliance created an award – in partnership with the Halt the Harm Network – to honor three ‘sentinels’ amongst the thousands of volunteers across the United States working in their communities and cherished places to observe, measure, document and report impacts caused by activities of the oil and gas industry. In the complex universe around these issues, volunteers fill regulatory gaps in oversight and do extraordinary things. Everyday insights from citizens lead to the discovery of problems unnoticed or ignored, to enforcement and remediation, and to new perspectives and initiatives for environmental protection. Whether mapping or monitoring, capturing photos or video, a sentinel is someone watching tirelessly, caring boldly – an indispensable ally in informing science, understanding, and action.
Community Sentinel Nominations
The nomination process launched in July and closed on August 17th, with 27 nominations received from around the country but especially the Northeast. The nominee lineup was a tour de force:
- Ling Tsou, United for Action – New York, NY
- Craig Stevens, Food & Water Watch, NYAF, PAF and other organizations – Herndon, VA
- Diane Sipe, Marcellus Outreach Butler – Evans City, PA
- Therese Vick, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League – Raleigh, NC
- Vera Scroggins – Brackney, PA
- Jim Rosenberg, Fayette Marcellus Watch – Grindstone, PA
- Kel Pickens, Stop Fracking Payne County – Stillwater, OK
- Dick Martin, Pennsylvania Forest Coalition – Boiling Springs, PA
- Leatra Harper, Freshwater Accountability Project – Grand Rapids, OH
- Michael Fitzgerald, The Finger Lakes Times and Subject2Change Media – Watkins Glen, NY
- Dory Hippauf, Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition – Dallas, PA
- Frank Finan, Breathe Easy Susquehanna County – Hop Bottom, PA
- Karen Edelstein, FracTracker Alliance – Lansing, NY
- Dana Dolney, Friends of the Harmed – Pittsburgh, PA
- John Detwiler, Marcellus Protest – Pittsburgh, PA
- Malinda Clatterbuck, Martic Soul – Holtwood, PA
- Anne Marie Garti, Stop the (UN) Constitutional Pipeline – East Meredith, NY
An esteemed panel of judges carefully considered the outstanding choices without pause to geography. Judges included:
- Paul Feezel – Chair, Carroll Concerned Citizens
- Julie Weatherington-Rice – Senior Scientist, Bennett & Williams
- Jennifer Krill – Executive Director, Earthworks
- Francisco “Paco” Ollervides – Leadership Development Manager, River Network
- Ben Stout – Professor of Biology, Wheeling Jesuit University & FracTracker Alliance Board of Directors
- Phil Pritchard – Retired, Nature Conservancy et al & FracTracker Alliance Board of Directors
In the end, in what were admitted to be very difficult decisions, three winners were chosen.
Dory Hippauf, Therese Vick, and Craig Stevens became the first recipients of the Community Sentinel Awards for Environmental Stewardship. Let’s make the ground shake with seismic applause! In the weeks to come, FracTracker plans to highlight each of these conservation heroes, sharing their experiences and inspiring others.
The Community Sentinels will be duly recognized at a FracTracker Film Night event in Mechanicsburg, PA on Saturday evening, September 12 where they will receive very special artisan-made awards fit for proud display. If you can, please join us for this celebration.
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I’m gratified for the chance to meet and honor these dedicated individuals and lift up the names of all the nominees. I also appreciate the time and thoughtfulness of the nominators who presented such worthy candidates. While this was the inaugural year for the Sentinel Awards, we intend to give them annually and continue to affirm the good performed by good people in communities near and far.