Winnie Hepler Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From EQC

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Winnie Hepler Receives Lifetime Achievement Award From EQC  Posted: May 15, 2007
Statement of Winnie Hepler On Receiving The
Lifetime Achievement Award
From The Environmental Quality Commission
Earth Day, April 20, 2007

Thank you for the honor of this award. I also want to thank my good friend Kate Cunningham for the kind nomination. If it remains the job of the EQC to advise state agencies, I urge you to emphatically tell the division of water to be resolute and create and graded waters as required by the Clean Water Act and our own stream permits in accordance with the Clean Water Act and our own stream protection law. Deep mining officials should responsibility follow up on inspectors? notices of violations with big fines and/or closings of the violating mines.

Get a handle on the loss of our dwindling wetlands by notifying the Corps of Engineers that Kentucky values the remaining wetlands and marshes in the state and challenge them to obey the spirit of the Clean Water Act and assuring them that mitigation does not work. The wetland is needed just where it already exists.

Tell the Agricultural department you want pesticide use to cease. Citizens want healthful food that is grown in soil that has not been poisoned. Our honeybees and other pollinators are declining because pesticides have weakened their very ability to live.

The Fish and Wildlife Department should hear from you too, in defense of the quality of life in Kentucky, which depends on nature and the presence of other species. Protection of wildlife should not be solely on the sake of hunting and fishing licenses- state tax money should provide land and aquatic habitat and protection of our fellow creatures who reside in Kentucky. After all, they were here first. Humans are not entitled to “take it all.”

Human population growth, always a concern of mine, now threatens all life on Earth, and along with global warming, is the ultimate responsibility we must address quickly. In Kentucky human population growth translates into more sewage in our waterways, more houses built on farmland and forests, more cars and roads for them to travel on, more open space converted to shopping centers, and more industrial parks. I want you to help growth boomers in Kentucky to stop and think “sustainability.” I want you to act to dampen and discourage the growth boosters in the state and convince them that we are better off small, for survival sake.

I also want you to dampen and discourage the coal industry who wants to build more coal-fired plants in Kentucky. Coal production is a dirty ruthless business, both mining and burning it, and we must encourage valid alternatives to fossil fuel conservation, efficiently, solar and hydrogen where possible. Ethanol and other plant sources use energy to produce, to be truly efficient.

Personal efforts for the early conservation movement.

In the 1930’s and 40’s, luckily I had parents who would stop the car and help a traveling turtle across the road. During the 1950’s, 60’s and early 1970’s the National Audubon Society provided a remarkable series of wildlife films by top photographers, monthly at Manual High School in Louisville.

In the spring of 1965 I bought a 60 cent paperback at Woolworth’s titled “The Destroyers of America” by Robt. Cubbedge. In the last paragraph, after describing in 128 pages, environmental outrages by those he called “slobs”, he threw down the gauntlet to his readers and stated “[i]n the end then, you and I and all of those like us – we are the real enemy. For if we permit the continued corruption of our aesthetic values, the distortion of our ideals, the debasement of our divine right, it follows as night the day that we are the biggest slob of all.”

At the same time I met W.D. Duncan, “the bluebird man of Louisville” who became my mentor with his constant stream of environmental newsletters.

In June 1965 the Courier Journal announced that the Corps of Engineers, MSD and the city of Louisville planned to straighten and concrete the three lovely forks of Beargrass Creek. I was horrified! In July 1965 I wrote my first protest letter to the editor and attended my first public meeting in January of 1966. Off and running, I tried to help stop a Dade County airport in the Florida Everglades; protested the Corps of Engineers’ withholding water to the Everglades, then their subsequent deliberate flooding the Everglades, threatening the drowning of land creatures such as the Florida panther, birds, etc; preserve lovely and historic (Lenne Lanape tribal sacred) Sunfish pond in New Jersey in the Kittatiny Mountains, near the Delaware water gap.

Then began an endless number of State water quality hearings (Bernie Carter of Fish and Wildlife was our clean water advocate and hero in the first days around 1966-67). Then came the Red River Gorge dam fight in 1967 with many rallies and visits (H.B. Farmer, the Skidmores, Dena Shepard and others of the Fork Valley, local heroes led the battle), and about simultaneously the strip mining ban effort began, with countless rallies and tours; and always letters, letters, letters, to officials, both State and Federal.

Then came the defending of the early 1970’s Clean Water, Air and Endangered Species Act from constant threats to weaken. Repeated land use and zoning hearing battles to preserve Beargrass Creek and its precious floodplain from the developers (and selfish landowners involved). In 1977 began the effort to stop a nuclear power plant being built at “Marble Hill” across the Ohio from Bedford, Kentucky and 30 miles upstream from Louisville. Thirty-one of us were arrested for “trespassing” and had a hung jury at our trial in Madison, IN in early January 1979.

Helped stop rodeos at the Kentucky State Fair in mid-1980s and continue to protest the inhumane elephant acts in visiting circuses. Wild animal acts are cruel and inhumane, and circus performers should be limited to willing humans. The environmental movement went international very early and efforts to save whales, dolphins, gorillas, rhinos and the oceans themselves took off. Global warming, peak oil alerts, Political threats by various governments to the environment are never ending.

My last major involvement was with the Justice Resource Center and REACT movement to curb toxic air pollution from Louisville’s Rubbertown chemical plants. We won in June of 2005, but some industrial plants and politicians continue to resist the law and try to weaken it.

Over 40 years, hundreds of letters to the editor were written to the Courier Journal and the Voice St. Matthews, and Kate is carrying on that tradition of protest and education.

Winnie Hepler

By Kentucky Resources Council on 05/15/2007 5:32 PM
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