The Kansas Wildlife Federation recently honored Kansas Riverkeeper Laura Calwell with a statewide conservation award.
Calwell, for the second time, received the 2011 Stream Monitor Award. She was one of 13 award winners the federation honored in February for exceptional efforts in Kansas wildlife conservation.
Since 2003, Calwell, a Mission resident, has been dedicated to monitoring the health of the 173-mile-long Kansas River — commonly referred to as the Kaw, according to an announcement from the federation.
Calwell is a founding member of and coordinates activities for Friends of the Kaw, a nonprofit grassroots environmental organization that aims to protect and preserve the river. Among other duties, Calwell helps with writing and administering grants for the group and expanding its website, kansasriver.org.
As riverkeeper, Calwell acts as teacher, scientist, investigator and media spokeswoman.
Her first priority is responding to threats to the health of the Kaw, investigating problems, reporting issues to appropriate agencies, making comments on legislation regulations or educating and involving the community.
Since the early 1990s, Calwell has fought in-river dredging on the Kansas River, a mission at the heart of her conservation efforts. Recently, she helped obtain an $8,000 grant that’s currently helping Friends of the Kaw publicize concerns about the procedure.
She worked for the past two years to obtain the Johnson County Storm Water Management Grant, which has provided more than $70,000 for implementing storm water education in Johnson County.
Calwell has raised awareness about concerns over toxic algae blooms in reservoirs and encouraging the reduction of stormwater runoff. She also encourages the creation of rain gardens to act as water filters, including a recent garden in De Soto. During Friends of the Kaw float trips, Calwell gives Sandbar Seminars to encourage recreation on the Kansas River.
In 2008, Calwell and Friends of the Kaw began the Kansas River Inventory, a comprehensive data project to document the state of the river. Information is hoped to help identify areas in need of restoration as well as quality riparian forests in need of conservation.
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