December 28, 2006

A Salute To Heroes (and Heroines)

At a press conference in Chicago Thursday afternoon, Illinois Lt. Governor Pat Quinn honored twenty-four 2006 Illinois "Environmental Heroes", including five from the Sierra Club.

Among those honored were Sierra Club's Joyce Blumenshine, Connie and Jerry Heinrich, Verena Owen, and Cindy Skrukrud. According to Quinn, "I am proud to honor these environmental heroes and the hard work they have done to protect the health and well-being of people all across the Land of Lincoln. These individuals are fine examples of environmental citizenship, and teach us all that we have the power to make our state a better, cleaner place."

Joyce Blumenshine, Conservation Chair for the Illinois Chapter, was honored for her three decades of work with our Heart of Illinois Group to protect natural resources in Illinois, including her work to create the Rock Island Trail and the Banner Marsh Wildlife Area. Quinn commented on what a remarkably cheerful and tireless advocate Joyce is.

Connie and Jerry Heinrich, Conservation Chairs for our Sauk-Calumet Group, were honored for their integral role in the creation of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie on the site of the former Joliet Arsenal, and for their leadership since in the big effort to convert a former munitions facility into a 19,000 acre tract of tallgrass prairie and protect it from numerous threats over the years.

Verena Owen was recognized for her leadership of the Club's Illinois Clean Air Campaign, in particular her work on the successful effort to limit mercury pollution from coal plants. Of her role in Illinois' new requirement that Illinois coal plants cut their mercury output by 90% by 2009, Quinn said, "It took real citizens blazing the trail to get the mercury rule passed, and Verena Owen led that citizen effort."

Cindy Skrukrud, who is the Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Chapter, was recognized for her career efforts to protect water quality and habitat in the Fox River watershed and McHenry County, including helping to found and now chairing the Fox River Study Group, an effort to plan for better Fox water quality as the region continues to grow. Before coming to work for the Sierra Club, Cindy was the Executive Director of the McHenry County Defenders, and she is a past president of the Friends of the Fox River.

Sierra Club was the only organization with more than one person honored, and we had five! What a proud day for the Sierra Club, and most importantly, for these five Hero(in)es. Congratulations to Joyce, Connie, Jerry, Verena, and Cindy! You certainly deserve it!

The entire list of honorees and the press release is available at

Happy New Year!

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