November 2023 E-News

This month, we’re leaning into gratitude and appreciating the essentials: clean water, public lands, and our communities.

From our exceptional team and board to dedicated partners and supporters like you, your unwavering support fuels our mission to protect West Virginia’s most precious resources. Thank you for being part of our coalition.

Wishing you a warm and safe beginning to the holiday season,
-The whole team at WV Rivers Coalition

Photo: Greenbrier River by Connie Manchester

Checking in with Angie Rosser

Recently, I talked with Kate Tucker on her podcast “HOPE Is My Middle Name” and it was a perfect way to kick off this season of our work.

While recording this episode, which you can listen to almost anywhere, I was reminded of my start with WV Rivers. It was a little over a year before the 2014 Water Crisis when MCHM, a chemical used to clean coal, leaked out of a storage tank at Freedom Industries into our Elk River, just upstream from the West Virginia American Water municipal water intake and distribution center.

We were a small but dedicated group facing a monumental challenge that left 1 in 5 West Virginians without safe water for days and weeks in the middle of winter — that time changed us, galvanizing us to push forward.

I’ll never forget how our neighbors came together, united by our commitment to safe and healthy water that is swimmable, fishable, and drinkable for all.

As I plan for the future of our organization, I see the many challenges waiting for us. In most places, water scarcity is a big issue. In West Virginia, instead, we’re blessed with an abundance of water — some pure and pristine, untouched by industry, while others need to be put on the path to recovery.

Our Mon Forest Headwaters feed the drinking water to millions of people in the D.C. Metro Area, and five million more people get their water from the Ohio River.

The people who live here and care for these waters find ourselves in a unique position to innovate, breathe life into our streams, and ensure that clean water flows for all. You can pitch in here to sustain this work.

As I told Kate, every member of this coalition is a West Virginia waterkeeper. We are the stewards of this precious, shared resource that is important to all life and all people. Together, we’re poised not just to innovate but to restore and safeguard our streams, securing clean water for generations to come.

In this place of paradoxical abundance and need, I am endlessly grateful that you are with us.

We couldn’t do this without you.

Thanks a million,

Angie Rosser
Executive Director, WV Rivers Coalitions

Thankful to be in this Work Together: Meet our Newest WV Rivers Team Members!

As we navigate the challenges and opportunities, the WV Rivers Coalition is immensely grateful for the collective strength and passion that defines our team. Captured in the above photo, taken during our fall retreat at Pipestem Resort State Park, the dedicated and collaborative spirit of our team members shines brightly.

For the last time this year, our team has grown. We are thrilled to formally introduce you to the newest members of WV Rivers, Mariah Clay and Crys Bauer. Get to know them below!

Mariah Clay
Mountain Valey Pipeline Organizer

Mariah, a proud West Virginian from Mingo County, is an advocate driven by their passion for making a difference in their beloved home state. They are a 2021 graduate of Marshall University, holding a bachelor’s degree in public relations where they held a role as secretary for The Sustainability Club, which was successful in obtaining a signature from President Gilbert on The Break Free From Plastic Pledge.

Prior to their role at WV Rivers, Mariah worked with POWHR (Protect Our Water Heritage Rights) as a Communications Intern and with Coalfield Development as an Americorps service member for Conservation. Having spent their formative years in the heart of West Virginia, Mariah’s commitment to their community and state is unwavering.

Their deep connection to the effort to hold the Mountain Valley Pipeline accountable is rooted in personal experiences. Having witnessed the similar tactics employed by both the gas and coal industries, they understand the urgency to protect communities from environmental harms. Mariah currently serves as the MVP Organizer with WV Rivers Coalition.

Mariah Clay
Mountain Valey Pipeline Organizer

After growing up in Maryland, Crys soon found herself in the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia and never looked back. The moment she dipped her toes in the Shenandoah River, her love for not only the water, but the mountains and the communities that filled them grew exponentially. Within months, she considered herself an “adopted West Virginian” and dove headfirst into the whitewater scene, learning how to be a good paddler, an effective steward of the environment, and a contributing member of the local community. Since then, Crys has “eddyed out” in the small town of Kingwood and continues to work to protect the amazing rivers and streams of West Virginia, as well as every hill and holler in between.

Crys’s education, experience, and passion for protecting West Virginia’s natural resources provide a unique asset to the West Virginia Rivers team, helping to foster connections with members and supporters and advance the organizational mission. Crys has also served as the Membership and Fulfillment Secretary for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy since 2022. When Crys isn’t hard at work, you can find her somewhere in the mountains, hard at play, enjoying an adventure with her family, friends, and three dogs (Snoop Dogg, Master P, and Nelly).

A Heartfelt Thank You to Our Board of Directors

As the year draws to a close, we pause to express our deepest gratitude to individuals whose dedication has woven the very fabric of West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

Chrissy Zeltner and Rachel Tompkins, concluding their service as Chair and Vice Chair of our Board of Directors, have steered our organization with wisdom, compassion, and a steadfast commitment to clean water and healthy streams. Additionally, we bid farewell to Turner Sharp and Dave Ruediger, whose remarkable board service and tireless efforts have shaped our organization’s journey.

Their visionary leadership, countless hours of hard work, and unparalleled contributions have left a lasting impact on our organization.

To Chrissy, Rachel, Turner, and Dave: Your service has been an inspiration to us all. We extend our heartfelt gratitude for your immeasurable contributions. You will forever remain a cherished part of the WV Rivers Coalition family.

Grateful for our Partners

Earlier this year, the West Virginia Watershed Network (WVWN) brought together watershed groups for the 2023 West Virginia Watershed Symposium at Canaan Valley Resort. WV Rivers is proud to sponsor and foster this network of water protectors.

Dozens of nonprofits, state and federal agencies, and volunteers came together to collaborate and strengthen our collective mission of preserving and celebrating West Virginia’s vital watersheds.

WV Rivers and WVWN provide essential resources, foster volunteer engagement, and shine a spotlight on the remarkable initiatives of local watershed groups. Visit the WVWN homepage to learn about ongoing watershed protection and restoration efforts.

The WV WaterNet is made possible through the Environmental Protection Agency’s 319 funding awarded to the West Virginia Rivers Coalition by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection — and through the continued support of people like you!

At the heart of our work are passionate individuals steering partner organizations across West Virginia and the region who share a vision of safeguarding our land, water, and communities. Together, we work to shape a better world.

In this collective effort, we honor the enduring Appalachian tradition of looking out for one another, working hand in hand to forge a future that supports and uplifts us all. We hope you’ll take a moment to learn about just a few of our allied organizations:

Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC) unites over 290 organizations in the Chesapeake Bay region, advocating for clean rivers and streams. With a lead structure for each Bay state, they amplify their collective voice, and WV Rivers is proud to collaborate as a partner in their efforts for clean water. In fact, our Clean Water Campaign Coordinator, Maria Russo, is the West Virginia State Coalition Lead.

Protect Our Water Heritage Rights Coalition (POWHR) is an interstate coalition dedicated to preventing the impacts of fossil fuel infrastructure, notably the Mountain Valley Pipeline. POWHR works towards a just and renewable future, and WV Rivers partners with them to train and mobilize citizen water quality and pipeline construction monitors along the 303-mile path to protect our water, land, and communities.

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action (MOVCA) leads the way in engaging youth in environmental advocacy. They have succeeded in developing a “Youth Climate Ambassador” program, empowering and resourcing young people to complete their own inspired sustainability projects, developing the skillsets needed for the next generation of climate leaders. We’re grateful for their work.

Save Coonskin Park protects one of the few parks that offer wilderness spaces for Kanawha County and Charleston residents from the proposed Yeager Airport Runway extension. This Mountain Top Removal project would level Coonskin Park, causing ireversable damage to the Coonskin Branch, the Grotto, and local wildlife. This group demonstrates the power of community-driven environmental protection.

West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC) mobilizes citizens and fosters collaboration among environmental organizations to promote sustainability in the state. Through education, advocacy, and legislative outreach, WVEC influences policy decisions and collaborates closely with member organizations, including WV Rivers, to preserve and protect West Virginia’s environment. Register for E-Day today!

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action (MOVCA) leads the way in engaging youth in environmental advocacy. They have succeeded in developing a “Youth Climate Ambassador” program, empowering and resourcing young people to complete their own inspired sustainability projects, developing the skillsets needed for the next generation of climate leaders. We’re grateful for their work.

West Virginians for Public Lands are groups, individuals, and businesses that want and need vibrant and protected public lands – and work hard to protect our home. We share information, opportunities to be active, and immediate and long-term concerns that threaten our public lands. The “Wild and Wonderful” spirit unites us all, calling on us to revel in and love our outdoors and a thriving recreation economy.

Protect PT is dedicated to ensuring residents’ safety, security, and quality of life by engaging in education and advocacy to protect the economic, environmental, and legal rights of the people in Westmoreland and Allegheny Counties, Pennsylvania. As the WV Rivers team has collaborated with them, we see their advocacy doesn’t stop at home. We are grateful to have such good neighbors.

Maury Johnson is a force of resilience in the face of the MVP, holding the pipeline accountable and defending the rights of the people in its path. Maury’s story is one of love, and his actions speak louder than words, echoing the belief that positive change is possible when individuals unite for a common cause. FracTracker Alliance named Maury one of their 2023 Community Sentinel Award for Environmental Stewardship.

One last thing: Giving Tuesday is right around the corner. Can we count on you to support our work with a tax-deductible contribution today? Your gift, no matter how big or small, will help the WV Rivers Coalition continue our vital work in safeguarding our waterways and preserving the beauty of West Virginia for generations to come.

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