Florence LaRiviere, leader of San Francisco Bay’s Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, this week won the 2012 National Wetlands Award. She was also named the Wetland Community Leader of the year.
The award, one of the nation’s most prestigious environmental prizes, honors individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the conservation and restoration of our nation’s wetlands.
LaRiviere’s efforts on behalf of San Francisco Bay go back to 1960s, when she helped organize a band of concerned citizens to oppose extensive Bay shoreline development projects. Four years of effort led to the establishment in 1972 of the first U.S. urban national wildlife refuge. Located in the southern end of San Francisco Bay, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge protects more than 30,000 acres of wetlands.
For 40 years since, La Riviere has continued working to protect and expand the refuge, and to preserve the natural environment along the edges of San Francisco Bay.
“We congratulate Florence on this richly-deserved award,” said Baykeeper Executive Director Deb Self. “Baykeeper has worked closely with Florence and the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge for many years. Florence has been a force of nature – intrepid, inspiring, innovative, cajoling, persistent and successful.”
Now, at age 88, her eyesight is faltering. Many of her friends and her fellow wetlands activist pioneers have started to slow down. But LaRiviere continues her quest for wetlands preservation and her battle against yet another bayside development.
Environmental activists must never give up, says La Riviere. “There are very discouraging times that you have to battle through. It takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. At the refuge, there would have been building all the way to the edges of the Bay and into the Bay if we hadn’t put up ‘the fight.’ Sometimes there are things worth fighting for and when you win it is very rewarding.”
Baykeeper has played an indirect role in supporting the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge’s work. When we settle lawsuits with polluters, we seek mitigation payments to offset damage done by illegal pollution in the Bay. These funds do not go to Baykeeper. Instead, they are placed in a fund at the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, which makes grants to organizations working to protect and restore the Bay. Over the years, one of those organizations has been the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge.
LaRiviere will be honored at an awards ceremony in Washington D.C. on May 10th.
The National Wetlands Award is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, NOAA Fisheries Service, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.