Forest Service Urban Waters team honored with Sammies Award

Forest Service Cooperative Forestry Acting Assistant Director Alice Ewen and her fellow Urban Waters Team members were honored with the People’s Choice Award at the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals ceremony on Wednesday, September 27th, 2017. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton made the presentation of the medallion to the Urban Waters Team, which Morgan Grove from the Northern Research Station accepted on behalf of the Forest Service. The team, which includes an extended network of more than 35 Forest Service employees, was selected from more than 440 nominees for their efforts to clean up urban waterways and revitalize surrounding lands.

Known as the “Oscars” of government service, the Sammies Award is a highly respected honor with a vigorous selection process. Organized by the Partnership for Public Service, the awards are designed to recognize excellence in the federal workforce.

“The Urban Waters Team’s work shows how the Forest Service and USDA partner with other federal agencies, local businesses, nonprofits, and other stakeholders to improve communities,” said Deputy Chief of State and Private Forestry Vicki Christensen. “We’re so proud to see these efforts not only bearing fruit, but also recognized on a national level.”

Through the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, the Forest Service has forged an innovative national collaboration with 14 federal agencies to transform neglected watersheds into community assets, aligning with the agency’s strategic goal of delivering benefits to the public. The Urban Waters Team supports local, state, and federal agencies, businesses, nonprofits, and philanthropies by sharing knowledge and resources and avoiding duplication to more effectively conserve and restore rivers and watersheds, promote land restoration, increase recreation access, grow environmental education and awareness, and enhance local economic opportunities.

The Forest Service leads interagency collaboration in Baltimore, Northwest Indiana, Seattle, Denver, and the greater Philadelphia region and provides dedicated “Urban Waters Ambassadors” to facilitate and organize each local collaborative. For example, in Denver, State and Private Forestry, National Forest System, and Research and Development staff  collaborate with the EPA, Colorado State Forest Service, and more than 30 partner organizations to work across the 6,600-square mile South Platte River watershed. Connecting people and organizations across the urban-rural gradient, the goal is to improve water quality, protection, and awareness through coordinated investments in green infrastructure. In addition, the Forest Service contributes to the Urban Waters Federal Partnership in Atlanta, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, Boston/Chelsea, Grand Rapids MI, New York City, San Juan, and Washington D.C.

The Urban Waters Federal Partnership is an applied, high-capacity vehicle for working beyond organizational boundaries and encouraging multi-mission area collaboration that brings together Forest Service resources with federal and community partners — all while working within existing budget resources. Collectively, the program has improved more than 22,000 acres of land, planted over 80,000 trees, and engaged an estimated 100,000 community members.

Members of the Urban Waters Team pictured above left to right: Roy Simon – EPA, Ryan Nichols – DOI, Surabhi Shah – EPA, Mike Shapiro – EPA, Lisa Pelstring – DOI, and Morgan Grove – USDA Forest Service. Forest Service photo.