For Jill Jedlicka, what started as a love of nature as a child has grown into a full-fledged commitment to protect her hometown’s precious natural resources. With 20 percent of the world’s fresh water flowing through Western New York, Jill’s commitment will continue to impact a significant community asset for decades to come.
The Buffalo River, which flows into Lake Erie, had once been considered ecologically dead. In the 1990s, Jill began her pursuit of innovative approaches and partnerships to help transform the river into the thriving waterfront community it is today. Starting out as a volunteer for the Friends of the Buffalo River, and eventually becoming Executive Director of its successor organization, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Jill has spent years learning about the science and sociology of managing and restoring a degraded waterway.
She continued to spearhead efforts that led to the formation of the Buffalo River Restoration Partnership, a unique public-private-nonprofit partnership that was formalized by a cost-share agreement. Ultimately, nearly $75 million was secured for the river, which resulted in the removal of over 1 million cubic yards of toxic contamination, one of the largest cleanups in Great Lakes history. Today, Waterkeeper has grown to include more than 25 full-time employees and 3,000 volunteers who oversee 60 different projects across Western New York.
By working tirelessly to protect and restore local waterways, Jill is setting the course for the next generation of water stewards and inspiring engagement for current and future generations.