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Environmental award honors Lewis Creek organization

FERRISBURGH — Marty Illick and the Lewis Creek Association, a leading Vermont water quality and conservation organization, have been honored with the eighth annual GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award.
The award, named for famed osprey advocate Meeri Zetterstrom of Milton, was presented Wednesday for more than 25 years of work and education to improve the Lewis Creek watershed, which spans Ferrisburgh, Monkton, Charlotte, Hinesburg, Starksboro and Bristol in Addison and Chittenden counties.
Nominated by employees of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Illick, the executive director of the association, and LCA were praised for using data as a tool to support conservation in the watershed.
“Over the last 10 years, the LCA has persevered and continues to improve the evolving relationship it has with state and local governments,” nominators Jim Pease and Karen Bates said. “The LCA has, more than any other water quality non-pro t organization in the state, delved into the complexities of water quality monitoring, stream geology and the interaction between water quality, nutrient runoff and land use.”
Like Zetterstrom, who was never afraid of ruffling feathers as she worked to restore nearly extinct ospreys to Vermont’s skies, Illick and the LCA have embraced the difficult conversations that often accompany environmental progress.
“LCA has pushed the envelope of water quality protection and preservation with municipalities and the DEC,” Pease and Bates said in their nomination. “Instead of contesting a decision or position that it disagrees with, the LCA or one of its partner collaborators will undertake a new study, acquire more data and information using an assortment of volunteers, staff and partners, and return to the table with a better argument or case for their position. It is this approach that has given them a reputation as a highly respectable, persistent, effective and intelligent voice for the public on water quality issues.”
Illick and the LCA were unanimous winners in a selection process that involved a panel of GMP employees with responsibilities related to land management, resource protection, community relations and education, and environmental compliance.
GMP Vice President Steve Costello, who worked closely on osprey education and conservation with Zetterstrom for years before she died in 2010, said Zetterstrom would applaud Illick and the LCA.
“Meeri had an unbending commitment to Vermont and the environment at large, and knew that water quality was critically important,” Costello said. “Given that they only eat fish, her beloved ospreys rely on clean water every day, so she would celebrate Marty and the LCA’s work.
“Like Meeri, Marty and the LCA have taken the long view, working over decades to improve habitat, water quality and recreational opportunities along Lewis Creek,” Costello continued. “That kind of perseverance is uncommon and inspiring.”
Zetterstrom began what became a statewide initiative to restore endangered ospreys in Vermont in the late 1980s. Despite people annoying the birds accidentally and intentionally, and repeated nest failures, Zetterstrom remained focused on her goal.
After years of effort, the birds were removed from the endangered species list in 2005. Plans for the GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award were announced in 2010, shortly before Zetterstrom died, with three goals: recognizing similar environmental heroes, honoring Zetterstrom’s legacy, and inspiring others.
Past Zetterstrom Award recipients include: Sally Laughlin, a leading wildlife advocate and scientist whose work was instrumental in restoring three species of endangered birds in Vermont; Michael Smith, the founder of Rutland’s Pine Hill Park; Margaret Fowle, who led Vermont’s peregrine falcon restoration program; the Lake Champlain Committee, which works to protect and improve Lake Champlain; Kelly Stettner, who founded the Black River Action Team in southern Vermont; Roy Pilcher, founder of the Rutland County Chapter of Audubon; and Lake Champlain International, a nonprofit working to protect, restore and revitalize Lake Champlain and its communities.

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