The Bushkill Stream Conservancy (BSC) presented the Bennett-Merwarth Award for Excellence in Conservation Leadership to Bill Sweeney at its annual picnic this past Saturday, Sept. 17.
Sweeney, who has served as the program supervisor for the Environmental Education Center at since 1999, was the first recipient of the award.
Members of the BSC named the award after its first two presidents -- Jack Bennett and Sandy Merwarth -- and is given to an individual whose vision has guided the formation and growth of the Conservancy.
Kate Brandes, a former president of BSC, nominated Sweeney for the award. During the ceremony, she noted the many reasons behind her nomination.
“Bill is a passionate and eloquent defender of the value of green spaces," Brandes said. "His tireless work to protect open spaces in our area has been matched by no one. He has dedicated his life to environmental education and the protection of nature.”
In a letter read at the ceremony, Merwarth, who now lives in New York, congratulated Sweeney for the award.
“Without the leadership provided by you and the Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, the BSC would not have taken on the first decade of the 21st Century with the energy, resources and vision that propelled the organization into its predominant role in conserving the abundant resources of the Bushkill Creek and its watershed,” Merwarth wrote. “Please be of good faith in knowing that one person can make a world of difference.”
Sweeney, who did not know he was receiving the award, thanked those in attendance.
“This really has been the highlight of my day," Sweeney said. "Thank you. When we help to protect nature, we’re really accomplishing our job.”
Current BSC president Matt Glennon listed the many duties Sweeney performs in his work. Here are a few of those duties:
- Developed a Bushkill Creek watershed educational program to create greater awareness and appreciation of the watershed’s natural resources.
- Developed and facilitated teacher training workshops, community outreach and educational programs.
- Developed lesson plans and programs for the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) focus on land-use planning.
- Provided programs to local townships interested in establishing local Environmental Action Committees.
- Served on the Bushkill Township Environmental Advisory Council, and as the local DCNR liaison to the Northampton County Conservation District, Bushkill Stream Conservancy, local universities and conservation land trusts.
- Member of the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission Greenway Committee.
- Speaker at the 2005 and 2007 Pennsylvania Native Plant Conference.
Glennon said Sweeney’s knowledge of plants and animals amazes him. He told the story of walking through Jacobsburg State Park with Sweeney, who pointed out an invasive plant. Glennon said he couldn’t distinguish it from the others, but Sweeney could.
“He’s one of the finest naturalists in the Lehigh Valley,” Glennon said.
The Bushkill Stream Conservancy "is a public-private partnership advancing the conservation and enhancement of the Bushkill Creek watershed. The Conservancy sponsors programs of education, public outreach, recreation, environmental research, streamside restoration, and historical documentation."
For more information, visit bushkill.org.