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Riverkeeper adopts a new Strategic Plan, reaffirming its commitment to communities and life in the Hudson River watershed


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Plan outlines the mission, goals, vision and core values needed for future success


With new plan in place, Paul Gallay to end his 11-year run as President and Hudson Riverkeeper in June

Riverkeeper, looking to build on its 55-year history of fighting to reclaim the Hudson River and ensuring that over 10 million New Yorkers have clean, safe drinking water, has adopted a new Strategic Plan, which articulates a new mission, vision and core values.

Riverkeeper’s new Strategic Plan is both a recommitment to the ideals that have historically driven the organization and a reflection of the changes in the Hudson River Watershed since the group’s founding as the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association in 1966.

For example, under its new Strategic Plan, Riverkeeper will seek to build new local partnerships and help create real solutions to the risks our communities and shorelines face from rising sea levels and storm surges. With Indian Point closing for good in April, the organization will fight against new fossil fuel power plants while supporting renewable energy projects that can help save our climate. Riverkeeper’s growing commitment to habitat restoration, invasives control and better fisheries policy will help reverse generations of biodiversity losses. And Riverkeeper will fight to ensure that our water systems get the reinvestment they deserve, protecting both our health and the vitality of our communities.

Riverkeeper’s new mission, vision, goals and core values

After extensive discussions about where the organization has been and where it must go from here, Riverkeeper updated and refocused its mission, highlighting the following key goals and tactics:

Riverkeeper protects and restores the Hudson River from source to sea and safeguards drinking water supplies, through advocacy rooted in community partnerships, science and law.

To complement this newly refocused mission, Riverkeeper’s Strategic Plan redefines the organization’s vision for the future, in the following terms:

Riverkeeper envisions a future in which the Hudson River, its tributaries and watershed, and the New York City drinking watershed are:

    • restored to ecological health and balance,
    • free-flowing, resilient, and teeming with life,
    • reliable sources of safe, clean drinking water,
    • recovered from historic and inequitable environmental harms,
    • safe and accessible for swimming, fishing, boating and other recreational activities, and
    • valued and stewarded by all.

Riverkeeper’s new Strategic Plan is centered on four programmatic goals:

    • Improve the water quality of the Hudson River and its tributaries and protect drinking water supplies
    • Restore wildlife and habitats in the Hudson River and its tributaries
    • Support communities seeking to envision and enact positive change in their relationships with the Hudson River, its tributaries, and drinking water supplies
    • Address climate change’s impacts on the Hudson River, its tributaries, shoreline communities and drinking water supplies

These goals will be combined with a set of operational improvements designed to strengthen the organization and help it accomplish its mission. Details can be found on page 12 of the Strategic Plan.

Also at the heart of this new Strategic Plan is Riverkeeper’s first-ever statement of core values, in which the organization commits to:

    • The fundamental rights of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and all the living things that depend upon them to exist and thrive in healthy, balanced ecosystems
    • Clean water as essential to all living things and access to clean drinking water as a human right
    • A reduction of environmental harms, especially for disproportionately impacted communities and decimated fish and wildlife populations;
    • Facts, science, and community voices as the foundation of our work;
    • Trust, respect, integrity, and justice as the basis for our relationships, both within and beyond our organization, and
    • Environmental and recreational benefits for all.

“Riverkeeper’s updated mission, new vision and new set of values are components of the compass for Riverkeeper 3.0,” said Ernest Tollerson, chair of Riverkeeper’s board of directors. “This latest articulation of Riverkeeper’s agenda is evidence that the staff and board are ready, indeed eager, to take on two consequential challenges.”

“First, Riverkeeper has renewed its commitment to an enduring challenge, protecting and restoring the Hudson, its ecosystems and waterfront communities within the Hudson’s vast watershed,” Tollerson said.

“Second, Riverkeeper must grapple with the existential challenge threatening people and the planet: the ravages of the Anthropocene, both the slow-moving and cascading damage of human activity, particularly in the Global North, on the climate system, the natural world and vulnerable human communities, at home and overseas.”

Riverkeeper’s new Mission, Vision, Values and programmatic goals will provide a firm foundation for the organization’s work over the next five years, which is essential, considering the enormous challenges we face from pollution, climate change and damaged ecosystems. Despite these challenges, Riverkeeper expects to make real, measurable progress towards a Hudson River teeming with life, safe drinking water for all and vibrant shoreline communities, in each and every year of its new Strategic Plan.

Paul Gallay to step down from President’s role in June 2021
With Riverkeeper’s new Strategic Plan in place, and in the eleventh year of his service as President and Hudson Riverkeeper, Paul Gallay has announced his intention to step down at the end of June 2021.

“Organizations need new leadership on a regular basis to keep growing and renewing themselves, and I, too, hope to find new opportunities to grow and renew,” said Gallay.

Since 2010, when Gallay joined Riverkeeper, the organization has reached major milestones like a ban on fracking in New York State; the impending closure of the dangerous Indian Point nuclear power plant; the rejection of new anchorages designed to facilitate expanded crude oil shipments along the Hudson; and the abandonment of a plan to build cross-harbor storm barriers that would have permanently damaged life in the Hudson without protecting the region from sea-level rise. In recent years, Riverkeeper has also upped its commitment to Hudson River biodiversity by fighting for better fisheries policy and restoring habitat, most notably by removing dams to allow increased passage for migratory fish.

Riverkeeper’s staff was 16 when Gallay took the helm in 2010, and it has since roughly doubled. While more staff has given the organization much greater capacity, Riverkeeper has also worked to expand its connection with volunteers and community scientists. For example, Riverkeeper initiated its annual Sweep, a day of service for the Hudson River, in 2012. Over nine years, the Riverkeeper Sweep has grown considerably, with thousands of volunteers cleaning shorelines, planting trees and removing invasive plants in their communities from the Adirondacks down to Flushing Bay. Some 276 tons of trash have been removed from the Hudson and its tributaries since the Sweep’s inception, and many Sweep sites are now clean, year round.

Likewise, Riverkeeper’s Water Quality Program has grown significantly. Its success depends on community volunteers who help Riverkeeper monitor water quality in the Hudson River and its tributaries, collecting as many as 5,000 water samples a year. These volunteers not only help gather essential data, they also build capacity and resilience to meet regional water challenges. Local groups like the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance, Guardians of Flushing Waterways and the Rondout Creek Watershed Alliance, as well as the municipalities which have banded together as the “Hudson 7,” are among a growing army of clean water advocates, supported by Riverkeeper, rising to act on immediate water quality concerns today, while building capacity to address complex and emerging challenges.

Riverkeeper’s volunteer leadership has also become larger and more dynamic since 2010. The organization has over 80 distinguished volunteers serving on its board, advisory board, leadership council, young advocates council and corporate stewardship council, and the ties between these leaders, Riverkeeper staff and the communities in which the group works are all expected to grow significantly, in the coming years.

“Under Paul Gallay’s leadership for more than a decade, Riverkeeper has excelled at flexing two muscles on behalf of protecting and restoring the Hudson,” said Tollerson, Riverkeeper board chair. “Riverkeeper has collaborated with other parties to achieve desirable environmental outcomes where appropriate and Riverkeeper has sued parties in the private sector and in the public sector when litigation turned out to be the best way to pursue beneficial environmental outcomes. Paul’s understanding of how and when to flex these muscles is unparalleled. Bravo, Paul.”

“With Paul’s announcement of his desire to step down on June 30, 2021, the end of Riverkeeper’s fiscal ’21 year, Riverkeeper has formed a search committee that will conduct a national search for Paul’s successor,” Tollerson said. “Occasionally, cliches have the virtue of being appropriate and true. This is such an occasion. Paul’s shoes will be hard to fill. But fill them we must.”

“I cannot say how honored I have been to serve as President and Hudson Riverkeeper since 2010, but Riverkeeper will be in good hands when I leave next June,” said Gallay. “Our staff, which drives all of our success, is extraordinary and our volunteer leadership has grown significantly in size, wisdom and engagement. And, our community ties grow stronger and deeper each day, which is yet another reason why Riverkeeper will surely be ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead.”

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