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HeartLands Conservancy presents first Green Leaf Awards

From Illinois Business Journal news services

HeartLands Conservancy presented its first Green Leaf Achievement Awards to eight recipients last Thursday evening, recognizing outstanding contributions to the physical environment within Southwestern Illinois.

The awards were given at a dinner at Hidden Lake Winery in Aviston.

In addition to the eight awards, Lester Harnetiaux received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment to conservation in Southwestern Illinois.

“It is exciting to come together, bringing attention to the outstanding work being done in our communities and I applaud all nominees and award recipients for their efforts in sustainability and environmental stewardship achievements,” said Dave Eustis, president and CEO of HeartLands Conservancy.

The Green Leaf Awards are presented by HeartLands Conservancy to area individuals, businesses and civic groups who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing green initiatives and resource conservation in Southwestern Illinois. HeartLands Conservancy, which has dealt with conservation since 1989, works to balance the growth of the region with the responsibility to protect open spaces and natural resources. Efforts are focused on conserving land, building greener communities, and engaging individuals and communities with nature.

Here are the inaugural Green Leaf Award winners, listed by category:

AGRICULTURE: The Weilbacher Family – In December 2014, the Weilbacher family executed three agricultural and conservation easements on properties located between Waterloo and Hecker in Monroe County. This effort permanently protects the conservation and agricultural values on the 1,033 acres forever. These easements contributed to the State of Illinois placing the most property under privately-held conservations easements last year than any other year in history. Collectively, these contiguous easements comprise the third largest in Illinois and the second largest focused on the preservation and enhancement of natural lands. The largest easement is a 718-acre property owned by Rockhouse LLC, a corporation owned by the nine children of Armin H. Weilbacher Sr. and his wife, Rose Ann, while two other easements of 211 acres and 104 acres respectively, are on property owned by Donald Weilbacher, one of the siblings. All three farms are adjacent and encompass a diverse terrain of forest, pasture, river, and agricultural farmland. The family has owned the farm since 1959.

BUSINESS/INDUSTRY: The Material Works, Ltc. – EPS Pickling Line – Beginning in 2005, The Material Works concentrated on developing a technology that could completely replace acid pickling, one of the most, if not the most, dangerous and potentially environmentally harmful operations performed in the steel value chain. The TMW team synthesized and applied techniques and knowledge from disparate fields to arrive at a process it named ‘Eco Pickled Surface’ – EPS for short. The ‘Eco’ comes from the fact that the process is ecologically and environmentally friendly. TMW has evolved and continuously refined EPS technology, investing roughly $10 million to bring it to its present state – a complete replacement for acid pickling that is environmentally friendly, and economically preferable. TMW has been awarded multiple patents on this invention and licenses the technology to equipment builders around the world. There are now eight EPS pickling plants located in five countries, with more being added every year. One is located on the Kaskaskia River, outside of Red Bed. The EPS Achievement is sustainable, cost effective, transcendent and collaborative and is helping others do well by doing good around the globe.

– Granite City Green Community & Housing Authority; Redevelopment Sustainability Philosophy – The Granite City Housing Authority has adopted a philosophy that all development completed by GCHA will include tenets of sustainability, and the first implementation of this was with the construction of the administrative building for the agency. The design included bicycle storage, high solar reflectivity parking lot surfaces, deep overhangs to reduce direct sunlight, HVAC system and high efficiency gas furnace and lighting. These features have led to reduction in natural gas usage and less water consumption. Additionally, GCHA has incorporated business practices driven by sustainability. The Granite City Green Community was developed by the Granite City Housing Authority. The focus is on healthy sustainable living and the site is considered a walkable neighborhood and the construction of the 43 units focuses on reduced energy usage, and improved indoor and outdoor air quality. An orientation is provided to educate residents on the building’s green features.
– OneSTL – The East West Gateway Council of Governments completed OneSTL: Many Communities, One Future, a Regional Plan for Sustainable Development for the St. Louis Metro Area, an eight-county area including Madison, St. Clair and, Monroe counties in Illinois. This planning process was initiated in 2010 with a $4.3 million HUD/DOT/EPA Grant for Sustainable Communities awarded to East-West Gateway and 10 core partners with the goal of fostering economically competitive, opportunity-rich communities that serve as the backbone of a healthy St. Louis region. With the conclusion of the 3-year-long planning process, the St. Louis Region now has a regional framework for sustainable development that citizens, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and local governments can use to make better use of resources and better meet the aspirations and needs or residents.
– Village of Shiloh/Three Springs Park – With support from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, a developer and the Village of Shiloh have developed and implemented a storm water management plan on approximately 111 acres of land south east of the intersection of North Green Mount Road and Frank Scott Parkway in St. Clair County. The plan blended the creation of a lake, bottomland hardwood and emergent wetlands, and a reconstructed streambank adjacent to Three Springs Park in Shiloh. In implementing the project at this site, The village has ensured that stormwater functions within this watershed will be retained, while providing residents the opportunity to engage with, and learn from, this outdoor, living classroom.

INDIVIDUAL/GROUP: Little Bluestem Chapter – Quail Forever – In 2014, the Little Blue Stem Chapter of Quail Forever invested $22,500 on three primary areas: habitat, youth programs, and legislative action. They were No. 1 chapter in Illinois in number of acres of prescribed burns, 691 acres, and 10th in the number of acres of nesting cover planted and 13th in the number of acres of food plots. This chapter also was recognized as a leader in youth activities by being nominated for the regional No Child Left Indoors award. The chapter will be competing for the national award at Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, later this year.

– The Nature Institute (Youth) – The Nature Institute is a non-profit land conservation and environmental education organization based in Godfrey, IL. Since its founding in 1980, The Nature Institute’s board and staff have worked to foster an awareness and appreciation of the natural world through preservation, restoration, and education. Each summer TNI hosts a premier camp for children pre-K through 6th grade and welcomes more that 8,000 area students on field trips throughout the year. TNI also owns and manages over 450 acres of protected land, such as the Olin Nature Preserve, the Mississippi Sanctuary, the Kemp and Cora Hutchinson Bird Sanctuary, and the Heartland Prairie Project at Gordon Moore Park. These natural areas provide unique places for the public to experience the diversity of the Riverbend area. The Nature Institute has and continues to pride itself on providing outdoor and environmental education opportunities to the region at low cost or free for families. With a mission of preservation, restoration, and education, The Nature Institute’s goal is to not only get people outdoors, but to also learn about human connection with nature.
– Edwardsville High School Environmental Club (Education) – The Edwardsville High School Environmental Club is an extracurricular club at EHS that is dedicated to educating the community about ways to help the Earth. They give back to the community through volunteering for environmental causes. The club has taken on a number of initiatives not only at the school, but within the overall district, the surrounding region, and throughout the state. A few examples of activities the Club has participated in include school-wide recycling, providing information and activity booths both at school and outside events and a Watershed Nature Center Partnership. Additionally, the Club planned and implemented a campus-wide “No Idling” campaign, reminding all of us to turn our cars off while waiting at district schools, and brought “Edwardsville Unplugged” Earth Hour concert to the area, where an acoustic concert was established as a symbolic movement to encourage local citizens to “unplug” for one hour, giving back to the earth.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Lester Harnetiaux – Lester Harnetiaux was a lifelong Bond County resident, and graduate of Greenville High School and Greenville College. In Bond County, he was involved in multiple projects in the surrounding communities as as well as owner of Tri-County Appraisal and Bond County Realtors. Lester served as a member of the HeartLands Conservancy board of directors for the past 10 years, filling the role of secretary for eight of those years. He served on the land conservation committee for five years and as chairperson for the past three years. He was the recipient of the 2011 Conservation Leadership Award given by HeartLands.

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