The Severn Sound Environmental Association held its own version of the Oscars Friday night.
The achievements of eight local individuals were highlighted at the annual SSEA Environmental Champions Awards and partners reception.
The March 24 event in Coldwater that attracted dignitaries from across the watershed, saw former SSEA executive director Keith Sherman honoured with the first-ever Environmental Legacy Award for his lifetime commitment to improving the Severn Sound region.
“Keith was instrumental in garnering the resources that significantly contributed to the delisting of Severn Sound as an Area of Concern,” said SSEA Chair Steffen Walma. “That commitment and determination laid the groundwork that many of us including the rest of the evening’s award winners, continue to build upon.”
Cathy Tait and Kate Harries captured the Sustainability and Stewardship Champion Award, which recognizes an individual or group that has contributed to the stewardship of the Severn Sound environment by demonstrating outstanding leadership, creativity and innovation in forging sustainability in the watershed and ecosystem.
Midland-Penetanguishene Field Naturalists president Bob Codd praised Harries for championing and leading the "never-ending battle" to control invasive species within the Severn Sound watershed.
"On a personal level, Kate has been a source of inspiration to me personally and to a great many other people in the naturalists' community," Codd said. "We are very pleased that Kate is receiving recognition for her hard work and determination that she richly deserves.
"Kate is the inspiration for and the driving force behind MTM Conservation's Phrag Free Tiny Marsh initiative. Kate conceived of the plan and almost single-handedly sought out and applied for funding from the federal and municipal governments. Kate researched best practices in tackling the invasive aquatic plant and engaged with the Invasive Phragmites Control Centre to create a strategy to begin the removal of this widespread invasive species and secured funding to begin the process."
Codd said Harries allied herself with Georgian Bay Forever and the SSEA to expand awareness of the problem and to assist these organizations with their own initiatives. Kate reached out to local high schools and sought to create educational opportunities, not only for students but also for the wider public. She has also lent her expertise to the Beausoleil First Nation on Christian Island as they tackle their own invasive phragmites problems, according to Codd.
"Now in its third year, Phrag Free Tiny Marsh has enjoyed much success and Kate continues to champion environmental initiatives," Codd said of Harries, who also serves on Ontario Nature's board as the Huronia Region representative.
"Her ongoing efforts to control invasive garlic mustard predates the phragmites project and Kate continues to promote awareness and direct action to address the continuing invasive species crisis in Canada.
The SSEA's Volunteer Champion award went to Don Limoges and Alex Seaborn while Student Environmental Champion awards were presented to Briana Figgures, Gabrielle Crate and Reagan Pharham.
“All these winners demonstrated an amazing passion for improving the environmental health of not only our region, but beyond the watershed,” said SSEA Executive Director, Julie Cayley.
“Their work is inspirational and makes me proud to know that there are so many people in Severn Sound working to reduce the environmental footprint and to protect our watershed for generations to come.”
The event also featured Dr. John Hartig, author of Great Lakes Champions – a book highlighting those who have worked to restore aquatic ecosystems in the Great Lakes – including Keith Sherman in Severn Sound.