12 organizations and individuals honored for their environmental efforts at Greening the Statehouse event


A dozen organizations and individuals from across the state and region were recently recognized for their environmental advocacy and stewardship at the Hoosier Environmental Council’s 15th annual Greening the Statehouse event, according to the press release. HEC.


Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide climate justice organization, was recognized as Organization of the Year. This organization is creating solutions to the climate crisis by working with young people and raising their voices in public policy to advance resilience. Among ECI’s activities is an annual climate leadership summit that brings together citizens and local government representatives to discuss programs and policies in response to climate change. Another key initiative is The Thriving Schools Challenge, a K-12 green schools program with a focus on civic engagement and the circular economy. ECI also hosts Resilience Coordinators in 12 Indiana cities, who focus on advancing local climate-related projects.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box received the Improving Kids’ Environment Award for her work in preventing lead poisoning in children. Under Dr. Box’s leadership, Indiana has made significant strides in promoting lead safety for younger Hoosiers, convening a core advisory committee in 2019; lowering the state’s blood lead threshold to recognize that low exposure can have irreversible and permanent effects on children; allocating funds from the House Enrolled Act 1007 to cover the costs of providing in-home nursing care and environmental inspection support to families living in lead housing; work alongside Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority partners to secure more than $6.7 million in funding for lead reduction and healthy home improvements over the next three years; and advocating for legislation to take effect in January 2023 that will require universal lead screening of young children statewide.

Don’t Leave it to Beaver, a local Hamilton County group organized to prevent the approval of a sand and gravel mine near the banks of the White River, has been honored as a frontline organizer of the year. DLITB was formed by neighbors of the Potter’s Woods and Fairfield Farms subdivisions in 2020 in response to an application co-filed by Beaver Materials and Hamilton County Parks to rezone a 50-acre area of ​​residential and agricultural land along the White River, directly above the main aquifer providing water to all of Noblesville. Site surveys have shown a moderate risk to the local drinking water supply and a risk of air and noise pollution which would negatively impact wildlife habitat and the flight paths of migratory birds. Through research and consultation with industry professionals, DLITB won the fight to prevent the rezoning of this environmentally sensitive area; in June 2022, seven of the nine Noblesville Common Council members voted to reject the gravel pit.

Local/organic food advocate Katy Rogers received the Sustainable Agriculture Champion of the Year award. She is a farmer, originally from Indiana and manager of Teter Organic Farm in Noblesville. The farm’s mission is to increase food security, provide environmental education and build community. As a child, Rogers witnessed firsthand the loss of small family farms to the detriment of people and the environment. She studied agriculture at Purdue University, then earned a degree in political science from Indiana University which led her to work in communications and campaign management while maintaining her passion for food justice. In 2011, she started her own farm and her first community-supported agriculture program, which led to advocacy work for the hungry.

Canoe Country, a Delaware County river outfitter on the West Fork of the White River, received an award for Distinguished Service to the Indiana Environmental Community. Canoe Country offers floating, canoeing, kayaking, or tubing trips on a stretch of the White River that includes Mounds State Park. Owner Robbie Mixell purchased an existing canoe rental business in 2006 and continues to operate Canoe Country just across from Shellabarger Park in Daleville. In addition to hosting seven annual Rides for the Mounds, HEC’s bike ride highlighting the importance of protecting the White River Valley, Mixell has hosted numerous chariot trips to encourage community leaders to experience the river.

Indiana Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit that conserves wetlands for wildlife and people, was named Wetland Steward of the Year. This year, Indiana Ducks Unlimited announced an initiative to help farmers plant 75,000 acres of cover crops in Indiana and Michigan that will improve soil health and reduce sediment entering waterways from Indiana. Over the years, its conservation program has restored or enhanced nearly 33,000 acres of wetlands and adjacent habitats. Over the past two years, the organization has focused more on wetland policy in Indiana, including significant engagement on the 2021 Anti-Wetland Bill at the Indiana Statehouse.

Environmental Law and Policy Center, a public interest environmental legal advocacy organization, was named Legal Advocate of the Year. ELPC conducts strategic environmental advocacy campaigns to protect natural resources, including the Great Lakes, and improve environmental quality throughout the region through legal strategies, economic analysis, advocacy and public policy research and communication tools. More recently, ELPC represented HEC in a successful lawsuit against a Lake Michigan polluter. The consent decree that resolved the case included a $3 million civil penalty, substantial new pollution control improvements at the Cleveland Cliffs Burns Harbor plant, increased water monitoring and the donation of 127 acres of open space that will eventually become part of Indiana Dunes National Park.

Kenny Cain, fourth-generation farmer, Sugar Creek steward, and conservation crop innovator from Montgomery County, received a lifetime achievement award. While developing, modeling and teaching sustainable agricultural practices, he has worked for organizations that educate the community on how to protect soil and water quality. The Cain family regularly plants 50% of their acreage in cover crops, a practice that naturally suppresses soil diseases and pests while providing food and habitat for wildlife, beneficial insects and pollinators. Cain also serves on the steering committee of the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative, a statewide task force that helps farmers apply science-based methods to improve soil health. He is also a founding member of the Friends of Sugar Creek and worked on the Upper Sugar Creek watershed project.

Mitch Barloga, walk and bike transportation planner and active transportation manager for the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission, was named sustainability champion of the year. Since 2003, Barloga, of Dyer, has worked with government entities in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties to design and secure funding for pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the NIRPC region and beyond. He holds a master’s degree in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Barloga serves as Chairman of the Board of the Greenways Foundation of Indiana and is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute was named Climate Advocate of the Year. ERI, with its Executive Director Sarah Mincey, has been a leader in statewide urban forest management issues by supporting community-led work to study and plan for stronger green infrastructure. This year, ERI helped relaunch the state’s Urban Forestry Advisory Council, which now plans to help communities manage urban forests for climate resilience. The organization is also recognized for its McKinney Climate Fellows program, which places undergraduate and graduate students with nonprofits, governments, and corporations for three-month terms of focused work on climate, sustainability and community resilience projects. Through ERI’s McKinney Midwest Climate Project, the institute connects Hoosier communities and organizations with experts and resources to help mitigate local greenhouse gas emissions and implement climate solutions and coping strategies.

Jerry Sweeten of Denver, co-founder of Ecosystems Connections Institute, LLC and Emeritus Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Manchester College, was named River and Streams Steward of the Year. Sweeten’s career has included educating students about water quality and researching nonpoint source pollution, nutrient and sediment pollution, and the reintroduction of endangered freshwater mussels. disappearance in the Eel River. After retiring in 2019, Sweeten and three associates founded Ecosystems Connections Institute, a company that provides holistic restoration of aquatic ecosystems. The company’s work focuses on eliminating low-head dams and implementing innovative fish passage solutions to give aquatic species the space they need to move upstream and downstream.

The Coalition Against the Mid-States Corridor, a grassroots group formed in 2019 by concerned Dubois County residents opposed to the new-terrain freeway project, received the award for Frontline Organizer of the Year. Since 2020, the group has collected more than 8,000 signatures against the Mid-States Corridor, holding two rallies, four town halls and workshops to help residents write letters to the editor. The coalition met with project managers from the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and the Indiana Division of the Federal Highway Administration to speak on behalf of preservation land for purposes other than road construction.

The Greening the Statehouse event also featured panel discussions on progress toward cleaner waterways in Indiana and prospects for pro-environmental legislation in the 2022 election and state legislature session. 2023.


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