Award for the Wise

The Northeast PA Environmental Council (PEC) recognizes people who make Pennsylvania ‘greener’ and more environmentally conscious with the Environmental Partnership Awards. Initiated in 1991, the recognition is a highly coveted honor.

“PEC is a nonprofit organization that promotes the protection and sustainability of Pennsylvania’s natural and built environments through innovation, collaboration, education and advocacy,” said Janet Sweeney, vice-president of the organization. “PEC carries out its mission by fostering partnerships among the private sector, state and local government, communities and individuals to improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.”

“The intent (of the awards) is to salute those who bring diverse groups and individuals together to solve problems of common interest and to recognize those who use partnering as their primary method to achieve environmental progress,” said Sweeney. Winners are chosen based upon: impact of the activity on the region’s environmental quality of life; number and quality of partnerships formed and used to achieve goals; extent to which nominee has gone above and beyond usual work expectations; extent to which activity serves as a model of partnering for others to follow. 

The Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award, is bestowed on the individual who has demonstrated inspiring leadership and partnering for more than 20 years. The Emerging Environmental Leader Award honors a student (between the ages of 14 and 22) who has demonstrated environmental leadership, creativity and dedication to inspire others to adopt similar actions to protect the environment.

Last year’s recipients included Richard Mitchell, Jr., founder of Bear Creek Organics and teacher of Graham Academy. He earned an award for sharing his expertise on organic gardening, edible landscaping and composting. Tom Ogorzalek earned an award last year for his tireless efforts and partnerships that created the Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails. He promoted the environment and healthy living through developing rights of ways through the trail, designing trail drainage improvements and developing interpretive signage. The Greater Hazleton Rails to Trails has become an asset to the community and visitors.

William Reichert, president of the Schulykill Headwaters Association, was also honored for his work improving the quality of the water within the northernmost reaches of the Schuylkill River watershed. He improved the water by leading millions of dollars of acid mine drainage remediation, coal silt erosion mitigation and green infrastructure projects. Buzzi Unicem USA Stockertown Plant earned an award for its Hercules Meadow project, which provides an outdoor classroom for students to learn environmental concepts as well as to participate in actual projects to protect and improve the water of the Bushkill Creek and surrounding area. Lehman Sanctuary was recognized for providing a venue for environmental education and STEM activities targeted through schools. Tobyhanna Conservation Association was honored for partnering with many organizations on numerous projects, such as creating a fishing area for children and the handicapped on the Tobyhanna Creek, conducting educational programs on bluebirds for teens and monitoring local streams for water quality. 

PEC is currently accepting nominations for the 2017 NEPA Environmental Partnership Awards which will be announced on October 26 at the Woodlands Inn and Resort in Wilkes-Barre. Between 250 and 300 people attend the ceremony. The dinner is also a critical fundraiser for the Northeast office of PEC, which has locations in Luzerne, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“For over 40 years, the Pennsylvania Environmental Partnership Council has made a difference in our state,” said Sweeney. “Our approach is unparalleled and our work informs and influences not only high level political leaders, but also students, teachers and advocates across Pennsylvania. We are striving to protect and restore our environment at every level. The dedication and commitment of the people active in our programs have shown what is possible for the future of the environment and the quality of our lives in Pennsylvania.” –Ben Freda