WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush and Steve Johnson, EPA acting administrator, honored students at the White House April 21, awarding the 2004 President’s Environmental Youth Awards.
The 30 winners come from Rhode Island, New York, Virginia, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah, California and Oregon.
The program recognizes students in kindergarten through 12th grade who develop projects that help protect local environments and promote local environmental awareness.
Winners were selected from among applicants to EPA’s 10 regional offices. Regional EPA panels judge projects on environmental need, accomplishment of goals, long-term environmental benefits and positive impact on local communities.
Ohio winners. A trio of Hawken School ninth graders in Geauga County, Ohio – Karoline Evin McMullen, Angela Primbas, and Amanda Weatherhead – decided more should be done to save one of the last reproducing populations of brook trout remaining in the state.
The trout or “brookies” live in Spring and Woodie brooks in the Munson Township area east of Cleveland.
The three girls learned that these environmentally sensitive fish are good indicators of the health of the brooks and the surrounding Chagrin River watershed.
The trout’s existence in the brooks was already considered remarkable because the streams flow through heavily populated areas.
The girls interviewed naturalists, conservationists, park staff, and public officials and discovered that no management protection plan existed for the fish. The trio discovered that stream monitoring was being performed but that no one was trying to inform people about what they could do to protect the fish.
Save Our Stream. The girls then started the organization Save Our Stream (SOS) and created a logo to place on shirts, hats, and brochures.
SOS, which is made up of students, established partnerships with park officers; area schools and teachers; city officials; conservancy groups; the Ohio Department of Natural Resources; and even experts in the fields of graphic arts, landscape architecture, golf course management, and public marketing.
SOS also brought together groups such as the Geauga County Park District and Geauga County Soil and Water District to work on Chagrin River watershed issues. SOS mounted a sophisticated public education campaign and focused on reducing non-point source pollution such as runoff containing lawn fertilizer or vehicle cleaning and oil wastes.
SOS sponsored a sticker application project for storm water grates in Solon, Ohio, and designed a survey that not only explored residents’ environmental knowledge but also asked them to make written commitments to environmental protection.
The team also created a pamphlet on riparian buffers that explains how residents can create such buffers in their yards.
Results. The education and survey efforts of SOS paid immediate dividends. The team’s survey revealed that 88 percent of the respondents had been unaware of the presence of brook trout in nearby streams.
Another 67 percent of those responding admitted not having known that storm drains were connected directly to the streams.
The trio of students and SOS also acted directly to preserve the brook trout by nurturing pregnant fish at a school hatchery and releasing fingerlings into the streams.
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