State honors HVA president

Dec 6th, 2013 | By | Category: Land

The Connecticut General Assembly honored Robert Houlihan at the Housatonic Valley Association’s annual meeting recently with a special citation recognizing his years of dedication to conserving the natural environment of the Housatonic River Watershed and making the state a better place in which to live. Houlihan has just completed a five-year term as HVA president.

Tony Zunino, HVA president, presents Bob Houlihan with the Charles Downing Lay Environmental Leadership Award, HVA's highest honor. (contributed photo)

Tony Zunino, HVA president, presents Bob Houlihan with the Charles Downing Lay Environmental Leadership Award, HVA’s highest honor. (contributed photo)

Houlihan joined HVA’s Board of Directors in 2004, succeeding his friend and mentor Dr. Marc Taylor as president in 2008. State Representatives Arthur O’Neill and Roberta Willis and Senator Clark Chapin introduced the citation for Houlihan, which highlights his success in rallying businesses, friends, colleagues and newcomers to the work of keeping water clean, protecting riverfront land and providing environmental education for thousands of school children.

Houlihan will continue his service on the board as a vice president. In recognizing his leadership to both the organization and the Housatonic River Valley, HVA also presented Houlihan with the Charles Downing Lay Environmental Leadership Award – its highest honor. Lay was HVA’s founder, who, as a professional land use planner, believed passionately that growth and development could be guided in a way that also protects the natural health and beauty of the Housatonic River valley.

In presenting the award, HVA Vice President Tony Zunino said, “Bob Houlihan shares this vision. As an environmental designer, and vice president of Heritage Development Group, Bob believes in working with nature, rather than in spite of her, as communities grow and evolve. He believes in the power of partnership between the people and the land.” Zunino will succeed Houlihan as president this fall.

Houlihan said, “None of us can make a difference alone … and none of us can ever leave the other because this fight – and it is a fight – to preserve and protect the very environment that sustains us, is crucial. The consequences of decades of environmental silence are playing out before our very eyes. The very things we said could happen 30 years ago are happening and no one is really doing anything about it. It’s embarrassing really to know that the only species capable of screwing up the entire planet or not has in fact chosen to screw it up – it’s unbelievable. We are our own worst enemy.”

When Houlihan joined the board in 2004, he said, “I see my role on this board as being an advocate of sound development practices, which, when utilized in conjunction with pure preservation efforts, can result in a powerful form of conservation. I believe that developers can and will create significant open space in their communities if they learn to see it as a value proposition and not a penalty.”

Zunino said, “When Bob accepted the presidency of HVA in the fall of 2008, he did not know that a financial crisis was looming that would tip the country into its deepest economic recession since the Great Depression. However, he faced the shaky future with calm determination, eventually finding the course and leading us all forward. He rallied the entire board of directors, and we are indebted to Bob for his leadership.”

HVA’s annual meeting featured Dr. William H. Schlesinger, president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, who shared the scientific evidence of climate change attributable to the greenhouse gas emissions of carbon-based energy consumption. Upon introducing Dr. Schlesinger, Houlihan, who opened the meeting with a spirited call to action to make a difference “right here in our own watershed, in our own backyard” noted that the entire river valley is fortunate to have Schlesinger and the Cary Institute as a partner.

HVA also presented awards to organizations and individuals for outstanding environmental achievements including:

The Montgomery Hare Environmental Advocate Award to two environmental leaders: Lori Brown, Executive Director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, for her leadership in defending our natural environment in the Connecticut General Assembly on behalf of the state’s entire environmental community in a time of great fiscal and political challenge; and to Greg Bollard for his tireless advocacy on behalf of Lake Lillinonah and the Housatonic River and lakes across Connecticut to reduce nutrient pollution and achieve consensus among different stakeholders.

The Litchfield Hills Greenprint Award to Peter Litwin, Litchfield Land Trust President, for championing significant landholdings as Legacy Properties and being the first landowner to accept Legacy Land designation of his own Arbutus Farm in Litchfield.

The Corporate Environmental Leadership Award to Crane & Company for continuing a long legacy of environmental stewardship on the Housatonic River by completing a river-friendly hydropower turbine at its Byron Weston Mill in Dalton, that reduces the company’s greenhouse gas emissions by 1.4 million pounds annually.

The Volunteer of the Year Award to Lynn Stonebridge of Sheffield for selflessly donating hundreds of hours of time, energy and good humor to river monitoring, paddling excursions and special events to benefit the Housatonic River Valley, and always with a smile.

HVA, a nonprofit citizen’s environmental group founded in 1941, works to conserve the natural character and environmental health of its communities by protecting and restoring the land and waters of the Housatonic watershed from its source in the Pittsfield, Massachusetts area to Long Island Sound. HVA is monitoring water quality throughout the watershed, adding sections to the Housatonic Greenway which links preserved space along the Housatonic River corridor with hiking and biking trails, and is using computer mapping to help towns measure the impact and benefits of land use and development. HVA also sponsors the Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative in protecting more land across northwest Connecticut. It has offices in Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut; South Lee, Massachusetts and Wassaic, New York.

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