Prairie Rivers Network to honor river advocates at Annual Dinner Oct. 10

Staff Report

CHAMPAIGN, Illinois — Prairie Rivers Network will honor Kevin Green, Pete Leki and Joy Schmoll for their work in protecting and promoting the health of Illinois rivers and wildlife at its Annual Dinner Oct. 10. The event will be at the I Hotel and Conference Center, 1900 S. First St., in Champaign, Illinois.

Green, a Vermilion County Board member, will receive the Outstanding Public Servant Award for his work protecting the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. Green is a farmer from rural Oakwood who serves on the Vermilion County Board as well as the boards for the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation and the Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation District. Green supported the call for responsible closure of Dynegy’s leaking coal ash dumps along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River by bringing the issue before a variety of local leaders. Each of these boards unanimously passed resolutions pushing the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and political representatives to take action on these deteriorating pits along the state’s only National Scenic River.

Leki, of Chicago, will be presented the River Steward Award. Leki has been a tireless champion for the oft neglected and abused Chicago River. Leki is the ecology teacher at Waters School in Chicago, co-steward of Sauganash nature restoration site along the Chicago River, and lead organizer of the Riverbank Neighbors Community group. Prairie Rivers Network is honoring Leki for his many years of work and inspiration, resulting in generations of Waters School students and families knowing and loving the Chicago River, as well as his leadership in transforming both the North Branch of the Chicago River, as well as the community that thrives along its banks.

Artist and graphic designer Schmoll, of Evanston, Illinois, will receive Prairie Rivers Network’s Volunteer of the Year Award for the donation of her time and work, including designs of logos, fliers and T-shirts.

The evening’s keynote speaker will be legal scholar Mary Christina Wood, a frequent and highly sought speaker on environmental challenges. She has received national and international attention in recent years for her pointed criticisms of business-as-usual permit-granting by environmental protection agencies. She is best known today for working with conservation interests across the country, spearheading litigation — brought on behalf of children and teens, representing future generations — challenging the failures of public bodies to take responsible action under the Public Trust Doctrine. It has long been accepted in the United States and other countries that government holds waterways, beaches and wildlife in trust for present and future generations. By bringing young people into the arena, Wood and her colleagues have helped shift attention to the future and brought real, compelling human faces to the issues. More than 50 lawsuits have been initiated across the nation, highlighting specifically the threats from climate change, drawing vast publicity and putting pressure on slow-moving governments and other actors.

The reception begins at 6 p.m. with music by Don’t Ask. Dinner follows at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $50 per person, or $400 for a table of 10. For more information, go to or by call (217) 344-2371, ext. 200.

Prairie Rivers Network is a member-supported, nonprofit organization that champions clean, healthy rivers and lakes and safe drinking water to benefit the people and wildlife of Illinois. Drawing upon sound science and working cooperatively with others, the group advocates public policies and cultural values that sustain the ecological health and biological diversity of water resources and aquatic ecosystems.

From the Oct. 8-14, 2014, issue

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