Martinsville, Virginia


Local River Steward Receives National Honor

 Martinsville, Virginia (July 8, 2013) -River Network, a national watershed protection organization that includes nearly 2,000 state, regional and local grassroots organizations members, has awarded our Brian Williams, DRBA's Project Manager for Martinsville/Henry County as one of five National River Heroes. The River Hero Award is given to individuals involved with natural resource conservation and celebrates their hard-won successes.

Brian was raised on rivers in the south and his love for water and the outdoors shaped his studies and his desire to protect our natural resources. From mapping underwater caves and springs in Florida, to helping develop the largest single "Trout in the Classroom" program in the country, his leadership has inspired thousands of people to get involved in protecting water resources. DRBA's education and outreach programs have engaged thousands of students each year as Brian continues to expand these programs, while working with partners across the community to help preserve and promote the natural resources of the Dan River Basin.

"Brian's energy and enthusiasm inspire children and adults alike. Creating a nationally recognized Trout in the Classroom program, he has worked tirelessly to educate over 2,000 youngsters each year," said T & Lindley Butler, founders of DRBA. "Reaching out to the public, Brian's extraordinary commitment to conservation inspires individuals, governmental agencies, and businesses to partner with DRBA in creating riverside trails and boating accesses. Brian's willingness to use his considerable talents to serve local citizens make him a beloved member of the community and serve as a model for staff and volunteers throughout the river basin in Virginia and North Carolina."

Brian received his award at the National River Networks River Rally Banquet in St Louis, MO. He accepted the award on behalf of the entire DRBA family and thanked his wife Patty Williams for years of support along with his mentor Dr. David Jones.

"We don't do any of this work alone and our strengths have been because of our partnerships" said Brian.

"Overall, it is safe to say that Brian Williams is a true River Hero," said Tiffany Haworth, DRBA's Executive Director. "His leadership has inspired the work of thousands of people to get involved in protecting our watershed. The model he created in Martinsville/Henry County is the model DRBA is using in the other 16 counties of the basin we serve to improve water quality, increase outdoor recreation and educate kids and adults about conservation. He has completely changed the mindset of an entire community by utilizing innovative strategies such as Trout in the Classroom, Heritage Trails, Streamside Trees in the Classroom (STIC), private river tours, corporate teambuilding outdoors, a river festival and an unbelievable 30-mile, one day clean up. But the most important result of his work is the fact that future generations will continue to protect their natural resources and honor their river because of the seeds he planting today."

The other four exceptional 2013 River Heroes honorees are:

Kris Sigford, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MN)Kris has worked to clean up Minnesota's waters for more than 30 years, and that work ultimately spans watersheds that reach all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes. As MCEA's senior policy advocate, Kris directs a comprehensive program aimed at improving water quality through full implementation of federal and state water quality law, adequate funding of water quality improvements, and innovative approaches to control agricultural sources of sediment and nutrients.

Earl Hatley, Grand Riverkeeper, LEAD Agency (OK)Earl is a life-long environmental activist because it is his calling, changing thousands of people's lives for the better for more than 50 years. He is a co-founder of the LEAD agency - an environmental justice organization, working on a total of 18 Superfund sites so far in his career. Earl also serves as the Grand Riverkeeper, protecting Grand Lake and the upper Grand River watershed, working in conjunction with the Waterkeeper Alliance. Earl also works as an environmental consultant to Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, as well as indigenous grassroots groups around the country.

Paul Klonowski, Des Plaines River Stewards (IL)Paul works tirelessly as a volunteer on a number of on-going river programs while also working full time at Abbott Laboratories. In 2001, as a board member of the Illinois Paddling Council, he designed a new program for Lake County Forest Preserve District, becoming the lead River Steward for Section IV of the Des Plaines River and recruiting, training and overseeing a core group of volunteers in numerous activities. One day he might be digging tires from the riverbed, another coordinating a volunteer cleanup, and in between, as a lifelong canoeist, sharing his paddling skills and getting people excited to get on the river.

Laura Rubin, Huron River Watershed Council (MI)Laura's passion for protecting the Huron River has resulted in measurable results in water quality improvements; new habitat, recreation and economic projects; increased volunteers; and increased community support. She has also helped grow the organization's Adopt-A-Stream program into the premier volunteer monitoring program in Michigan, and a national model. Most recently, working with Congressman John Dingell, local government, business and community leaders, Laura is spearheading an ambitious million-dollar river renaissance campaign to make the Huron River a prime destination for residents and tourists.

In addition, each year River Network celebrates one individual's accomplishments with the James R. Compton River Achievement Award. This year's honoree is Pat Munoz (Washington, DC).Pat has been involved in nonprofits for over 30 years. From 1977 to 1993, Pat worked for American Rivers as Vice President for Development. While there she focused on building that organization's membership base, major donor program, foundation base, and workplace giving program, helping increase the organization's budget from $30,000 to $2,000,000. From 1994 to 2007, Pat served as Watershed Program Manager for River Network. In that position, she worked with hundreds of nonprofit river and watershed groups around the country to help them create sustainable organizations. An avid whitewater canoeist and kayaker, Pat is currently "retired" and spends her time volunteering and sharing her decades of experience supporting watershed organizations.

"We couldn't be more impressed then we are by the important work these individuals and their organizations are doing to make a meaningful impact on water resources around the nation", said Todd Ambs, River Network President. "Their dedication to - and love of rivers and water- is what inspires us all."

River Network hosted the 2013 River Heroes Award winners at a banquet during this year's River Rally conference in St. Louis, MO;to view a short video with this year's awardees, visit

River Network is especially grateful to Tom's of Maine for their ongoing leadership and support to ensure a healthy water future, and we're proud of their sponsorship to honor these outstanding River Heroes.

For details about the River Hero program, visit Nominations are now open for 2014 River Heroes.

The Dan River Basin Association works to preserve and protect the river corridor with a series of municipal, county, and state parks and trails; increase public access to rivers; build constituency for the rivers and outdoor recreation through monthly outings; protect water quality by instituting stream monitoring across the Basin; promote regional nature and heritage tourism; and bridge boundaries to create a bi-state borderland community. To learn more and to help, visit

About River Network
River Network is leading a national watershed protection movement that includes more than 2,000 local, state and regional and local grassroots organizations whose primary mission is to protect rivers and watersheds. For twenty-five years, River Network has worked closely with watershed protection groups from coast to coast - building the capacity of state and local organizations, assisting people grappling with water and environmental health problems, protecting habitat for fish and wildlife, developing blue cities and reducing our country's use of water and energy. Visit us online at or on Facebook.