Head Sentinel wins national award

By Susan Martin, Rio Grande Chapter Executive Committee

The national Sierra Club’s Honors and Awards Committee notified Eric Patterson on June 25 that he was the recipient of the Club’s 2016 Special Service Award, which honors Sierra Club members for strong and consistent commitment to conservation over an extended period of time.

Here’s an excerpt from the award submission from our chapter:

Fighting the causes and results of climate change will take the energy of our next generation to prevent environmental devastation. Eric Patterson is the personification of mentor and coach, engaging diverse youth in environmental protection in Illinois and now in northern New Mexico.

Eric is a genial, humble person who makes others feel comfortable and willing to participate in unfamiliar efforts.

According to Fran Caffee, the 2014 William E. Colby award winner, Eric’s work and personal attention “revitalized the Illinois Chapter’s NorthWest Cook County Group which was lingering on the edge.” Jen Hensley, Director of State Lobbying and Advocacy, said, “I credit Eric’s welcoming nature as the real ingredient to the group’s successful reorganization.”

When Eric moved to tiny, rural, unincorporated Valdez (population 580) in Northern New Mexico, the Illinois Chapter’s loss became the Rio Grande Chapter’s gain. He singlehandedly created a vibrant Water Sentinels — Ríos de Taos program in Taos County that is recognized nationally.

As 2010 One Club Award-winner Norma McCallan said, “Eric has worked diligently with the local youth in the Taos area (a large percentage of whom are Hispanic, and many of whom come from low-income families), providing them a structure and specific tasks with which to not only test the local waters for contaminants, but to better understand the broader implications of the importance of clean, clear water resources for our arid state, now in the midst of a long-term drought.”

Northern New Mexico Group Chair and recognized local educator Teresa Seamster noted that Eric’s work with the Water Sentinels is exemplary in terms of educational outreach and grassroots involvement in testing and analyzing waterways for contaminants in northern New Mexico.

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