2023 River Management Award Winners

The River Management Society (RMS) congratulates winners of its 2023 River Management Awards, individuals whose achievements and leadership among river professionals inspire us. These honors, open to both members and non-members, represent the highest form of peer appreciation. Nominations are submitted by individuals from the river management community, and the selections are made by the RMS Awards Committee, led by the National Secretary. 

Left to right: Kristina Rylands, Steve Chesterton, David Greenwood, Denielle Perry, Bob Ratcliffe

Outstanding Contribution to the River Management Society Award 

This award recognizes contributions to the success of the River Management Society itself. 

Kristina Rylands, President Pacific Chapter, RMS, Mariposa, CA

After many years of being a very active Pacific Chapter President, including hosting two national river management workshops, Kristina continued to support RMS as its primary Facebook administrator for ten years. In 2022, she stepped back in as President of the Pacific Chapter; contributed mightily to the hosting the Pacific Chapter Klamath River trip last June; recruited articles for the Summer RMS Journal and welcomed the National Board at the annual in-person meeting on the South Fork American River; and has offered many creative positive suggestions to help the organization look to the future. She will be helping host the next symposium, as well 

River Manager of the Year Award 

This award recognizes contributions that are field-oriented with a focus on recent accomplishments. 

Steve Chesterton, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC

Over 80% of the more than 13,000 river miles in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system have either unknown or impaired water quality. In 2018, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Interagency Coalition decided to conduct a water quality assessment across the full system. They partnered with Adventure Scientists. Steve Chesterton has been a driving force towards achieving this outstanding goal through collaboration, leadership, and an unwavering commitment to the project.

The Project has a unique citizen science model that has empowered hundreds of volunteers to connect with and learn about Wild and Scenic Rivers through repeat sampling. Through leadership on this project, Steve is helping shift the paradigm of what citizen science looks like. The belief that citizen science can’t contribute to science-based policy or management is becoming outdated as this project’s data is sent to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Quality Portal where state agencies can access the data. Not only are volunteers engaging with science and building connections to the land, they are contributing the data necessary for improved management of our rivers.

Outstanding Contribution to River Management Award 

This award recognizes a history of contributions to the greater field of river management in areas such as science, education, interpretation, research, and/or law enforcement. 

David Greenwood, BLM Merced River District, Midpines, CA 

Along the Merced Wild and Scenic River, David is a one-man show who has spent over 20 years advancing the field of river management through his grass-roots approach to getting stuff done. On a river managed by three federal agencies, David is the face of river management. From establishing a film festival to successfully eradicating an invasive plant that everyone thought was impossible to eradicate, David has done it all. His boss says “BLM has relied on David to manage the Merced as a partnership with all the different agencies and entities in a complex of different management goals and styles. David has always managed to keep the focus on the river, and what is best for the resource. A true steward.” 

Frank Church Wild and Scenic Rivers Award 

This award recognizes contributions focused on the management, enhancement, or protection of designated Wild and Scenic Rivers with a broad geographic scope. 

2023 Winner: Denielle Perry, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ

Starting with her dissertation, “The Uneven Geography of River Conservation in the U.S.: Insights from the Application of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act,” Denielle has dedicated her work to advancing awareness of Wild and Scenic Rivers through her research, teaching, and advocacy. She has taught courses, published papers, mentored students, led the River Studies and Leadership Certificate Program. She is a founding member of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Coalition and used it as a model for co-founding the international Durable River Protection Coalition. She has connected advocacy groups with student researchers. The Student Water Symposium she puts on each year at NAU has featured several Wild and Scenic Rivers focused film screenings, panel discussions, and keynote speakers. As the faculty advisor for RSLC she has recruited and advised over 20 students to become the next generation of river professionals. As one of the Co-Principal Investigators for the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network "The River Field Studies Network" she has been a key player in building a network of over 160 faculty across the country dedicated to immersive river field instruction.

2022 Winner: Bob Ratcliffe, National Park Service, Washington, DC

Bob has dedicated his 40+ year career to being a river champion and advocate including many years playing on and protecting wild and scenic rivers. His seemingly unlimited, boundless enthusiasm for river protection has led to on the ground results and inspired those around him. As Division Lead for the National Park Service Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Programs, Bob’s portfolio of widely recognized programs helps fulfill the agency’s mission with an emphasis on partnerships. Bob builds relationships; his leadership, innovative ideas, and tireless efforts have elevated Wild and Scenic Rivers nationally. He has spent much of the last three decades developing new and progressive national policies and improving best practices sustainably managing increased visitation and emerging recreation activities. He has been a strong advocate for river access, watershed protection, national designations, and connecting young people to the outdoors. 

Bob is enthusiastic and tireless in recruiting, developing, and investing in upcoming natural resource professionals and has created a legacy of individuals who are now involved in managing Wild and Scenic Rivers. Bob has demonstrated his dedication to public service and furthering the missions of all agencies charged with protecting and managing our Wild and Scenic Rivers throughout his career. He is a leader among leaders. He makes things happen without concern toward his own position, but to do the right thing, to get important efforts off the ground, and follow through. In Bob’s own words, “Rivers are the best way to experience what the park system has to offer. Rivers are magical. You are literally immersed in an environment that you can’t get to unless you float through it. I’ve seen people have really transformative experiences on the river.”