March 2018 Honoree
Jill Spisiak Jedlicka
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper
Executive Director & Waterkeeper
Jill Spisiak Jedlicka life’s mission appears to be hereditary. According to Jedlicka, “My early environmental career was associated with education and outreach on the Buffalo River. Only then did I start to truly understand the significance of my own family history about this waterway. My great-Uncle, Stanley Spisiak, was known as “Mr. Buffalo River”, and he was a tireless advocate as early as the 1940s. His efforts led to groundbreaking state and federal legislation even before the Clean Water Act, and Stanley is renowned to this day for his early activism and success around Lake Erie and the Buffalo River. He worked with Senator Robert F. Kennedy and also hosted President Lyndon Johnson during his historic Buffalo visit in 1966. Through my work, and the work of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, we honor Stanley’s legacy through our own mission and vision of clean and healthy waterways in Western New York. (Coming full circle, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is a member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance – and Waterkeeper Alliance’s Chairman of the Board is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.).”
The non-profit Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper was founded in 1989, and its mission is protect and restore our water and surrounding ecosystems for the benefit of current and future generations. Executive Director & Waterkeeper, Jill Spisiak Jedlicka, says “Our work touches 3,250 miles of waterways throughout the 1,400 square mile Niagara River watershed, including Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.” It currently has 29 full-time employees, but originally started as an all-volunteer, grass roots environmental organization called “Friends of the Buffalo River,” and was run by a volunteer board until 2001.
Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper reflects the organization’s second name change (August 2017). As Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper its work has included: creating a living infrastructure network to support life and vitality in the watershed through large-scale sediment remediation, habitat restoration, greenway development and green storm water management. Its most visible success has been its leadership efforts around the remediation and restoration of the Buffalo River, specifically serving as a cost-share partner and helping secure $75 million in local, state, federal and private corporation resources for contaminated sediment dredging and habitat restoration.
In 2015, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper was awarded the inaugural North American Riverprize, and in 2016 in New Delhi, India, it was awarded the Thiess International Riverprize, a global award for river basin management, from the Australian-based International River Foundation. The organization’s priorities for the next few years will focus on five major initiatives: Headwaters, Scajaquada Creek, Living Shorelines, Waterway Restoration, and Education & Outreach.
Jedlicka says, “Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s mission and work is a core component of my personal life, values and pursuit.” She serves as an appointee of Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature on the regional Great Lakes Protection Fund Board, and the New York State Great Lakes Basin Advisory Council. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Studies and MBA in Business Administration from UB, working previously as an Environmental Education Specialist for the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning.