Kelly Stettner wins GMP- Meeri Zetterman Environmental Award!

April 18, 2014 in Community Development, Inspiration, Stories by Jen

Kelly Stettner of Springfield, VT has won the GMP- Meeri Zetterstrom Environmental Award! This award is given every year in the name of Meeri Zetterstrom, an advocate and champion of the osprey, to celebrate and support the efforts of Vermont environmental heros.

Kelly founded the grassroots Black River Action Team, B.R.A.T., in 2000 and has been a champion of all things river-related ever since. Kelly will be accepting the award in an upcoming ceremony at the Vermont legislature, along with a check to support her efforts.

Below the photo is a copy of one of the monimations for this award. We think it’s easy to understand just why Kelly was chosen. After reading, please join us in congratulating our very own hometown hero.

Kelly Stettner, pictured here with the new signage for the "Adopt-A-Swimming-Hole" project

Kelly Stettner, pictured here with the new signage for the “Adopt-A-Swimming-Hole” project

Please explain the effort or activity performed by the nominee on behalf of Vermont’s environment. You may use additional space, but please limit your answers to 200 words or fewer per question.

1. What benefits have been derived for the environment through the nominee’s efforts?

Kelly established and runs the Black River Action Team (BRAT). Highlights include:

RiverSweeps: Began in 2000 with 4 volunteers, covering 100′ of river. This fall will be the 15th RiverSweep, with dozens of volunteers covering miles of river across several towns.
Over 350 shopping carts, along with innumerable tires and other debris, removed from riverbeds
Monthly water sampling at 11 sites and ‘Adopt a Swimming Hole’ program
Environmental education: thousands of people engaged every year
Recruited and managed over 300 volunteers
Hundreds of organizations engaged to address river issues and expand educational opportunities
Discovered underground storage tank spewing fuel; worked with State to remove it and contaminated soil;
Worked with Town and Black River Produce to monitor effects of large diesel spill
Stream monitoring in proposed development areas
Central force in post-Irene efforts in Ludlow area
Started a ‘native nursery’ on donated land, growing own plants for bank stabilization
Nearly 6000 cartridges saved from landfills- used as primary funding source
Fishing line recycling program
Cleans up at parades to prevent trash entering river
Started program to capture and recycle 2000 pounds of bottle caps/ year.

2. What challenges has the nominee overcome to accomplish this?

It’s hard to know all the challenges Kelly has faced as she tends to be a very positively-focused person. She sees opportunities where others may have given up. She started the project because she saw a need- and with a gentle nudge from her husband- realized that she was someone who could help make things happen.

One of the main challenges is, in fact, that Kelly identifies areas where there is a need, because others are not addressing it. As she has become a local expert through her experience, known to be a trusted and reliable source of information and key advocate, Kelly also fields calls and reports from others about potential problems concerning the rivers and watersheds. All of this often means starting from the ground-up, with no ready supply of volunteers, funding, or initial interest. The BRAT remains a grassroots organization. With no board or formal committees, she is the driving force behind every project.

As she has established and grown these programs, Kelly has maintained a full-time job, raised 2 home-schooled children, been a central force in establishing and promoting a local wrestling team, and earned her Bachelor’s Degree, with a focus on Environmental Science, in 2010.

3. Please explain how the nominee demonstrated or exhibited commitment, perseverance, creativity and determination on behalf of the environment.

From the beginning, Kelly has identified issues that needed to be addressed and pursued them with a level of creativity and persistence that is admirable. She often sees opportunities where others have seen overwhelming challenges.

Her persistence and determination are demonstrated by the sheer volume of organizations she has managed to collaborate with. Just a few include: Ottauquechee National Resources Conservation District, Agency of Natural Resources, State of Vermont Dept of Environmental Conservation, various town in the watershed, Windsor County Regional Planning Commission, Connecticut River Watershed Council, Ascutney Mountain Audubon Society, Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife, Massachusetts Environmental Education Society, CT River Join Commissions, Wildlife Festival, UVM Extension, VT Youth Conservation Corps.

Kelly has become a reliable source of information and networking among those interested in water quality issues. When people call about a problem or concern, she willingly takes it upon herself to find out what is happening and, if needed, takes necessary action.

Kelly doesn’t just stop at addressing problems, either. She nurtures the health of the watershed through extended outreach programs, workshops, and environment education. Kelly sees the connections between many issues and the health of our waters, and works tirelessly, maximizing every opportunity.

4. Please provide any additional information you believe should be considered by the judges.

Kelly is incredibly humble. She will look you in the eye and insist that she is not an environmentalist, nor really all that special. She would laugh if you called her a ‘hero’ and will tell you that she simply saw a need and set about addressing it.

Although she may, indeed, not be a traditional ‘environmentalist’, her commitment to addressing environmental issues is extraordinary. Despite her humility, Kelly has garnered the respect, support, and admiration of many environmentalists and advocates. She now serves on the Watersheds United Vermont (WUV), a grassroots organization building a dynamic network of watershed groups around the state, and was invited to participate in a state-level summit with town planners.

Kelly is a hands-on leader. From removing invasives to planting trees, digging in the mud, and trekking through water and muck, she does whatever it takes. She is a shining example of what is possible. I think Kelly is like Meeri in many ways- remaining just as humble as she is passionate, diving into an issue, figuring out what needs doing, and getting it done. And inspiring many others along the way.

5. If applicable, please provide photos, articles, or other materials that support this nomination. (Do not send originals; these items will not be returned.)

Because Kelly has done so much with so little, it has been hard to limit the answers to 200 words each. I would welcome the opportunity to share more about her, and there is a lot of information available on the BRAT website (as Kelly has been the coordinator and champion of all of these projects, everything on there is directly attributable to her work): http://blackriveractionteam.org and on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-River-Action-Team/111866026630

Below are a few articles about Kelly and the Black River Action Team and just a couple of photos of some of their success.

http://802eureka.com/somebody-should-do-something/

http://802eureka.com/14th-annual-riversweep-sat-sept-7th/

http://www.blackrivertoday.com/tag/black-river-action-team/