By Rick Hiduk
David Buck of Sugar Run, Bradford County, was the recipient of the Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award at the 23rd annual Evening for Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Environment. The Endless Mountains region was well-represented at the banquet, which was held at the Woodlands Inn and Resort in Wilkes-Barre on Oct. 24.
Buck humbly expressed how surprised he was to hear that he was to receive the award prior to the banquet. He admitted that he was a bit nervous about his impending acceptance speech but, when the time came, he easily charmed the crowd, members of which knew of Buck in a variety of ways.
Prior to the meal, guests took in a display by Northeast Environmental Partners’ associates and businesses that were sponsoring elements of the awards event. Buck exhibited a large scale version of the map of the north branch Susquehanna as depicted by Bishop Johannes Ettwein after his 1768 journey to the Moravian village of Friedenshutten in Bradford County. Buck coordinated a paddling sojourn of the same stretch of river in partnership with the Endless Mountains Heritage Region in 2012.
Partnership was the general theme of the evening, as leaders and regular members of scores of heritage and environmentally-friendly groups shared stories of their successes and their challenges. Key speakers included Lackawanna College President Mark Volk and PA DCNR Acting Secretary Ellen Ferretti.
Polluted water and dysentery might have seemed like an unsavory dinner topic to any other group, but to the 1,000-plus guests in attendance, a presentation by P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program Manager Allison Tummon Kamphuis was an eye-opener to the potential for extending the lives of populations with no clean water to drink.
With help from P&G HSE & Energy Affairs Manager Alex Fried, Kamphuis demonstrated how the lives of thousands of children in underdeveloped nations are being saved with the contents of a small packet. Each purification packet can make 10 liters of water drinkable by settling out heavy metals and other pollutants. Kamphuis noted that it is the first product on which P&G has placed its own trademark and has been made available through partnership aid agencies around the globe at no cost to them. P&G was also one of six dinner sponsors for the event, which has been held at the Woodlands since the mid ’90s.
Corey Husic of Monroe County was presented the Emerging Environmental Leader Award, though he was unable to attend as he is busy in his freshmen year at Harvard University. Subsequently, a combination of eight organizations, entities, and individuals were given Environmental Partnership Awards. Among them, ironically, were the Pocono Raceway for running the “greenest” race track in the United States and the Blue Mountain Preservation Association, whose members successfully prevented a race track from being built in their region.
The Thomas P. Shelburne Environmental Leadership Award was the last to be given for the evening, and Joe Demarco, who had nominated Buck, said “No one example fits what this award is about more than Dave Buck,” who was presented with a large plaque that featured a Wyoming County Susquehanna River scene painted by Sue Hand.
Buck related that he was an early recycler, starting with paper drives in the 1950s and his first environmental stewardship projects as a Boy Scout.
“In the 1960s, there was an awareness that the environment was changing and not for the good,” Buck stated, noting that his efforts kicked into high gear in Monroe County and along the Delaware River Basin as he and like-minded people spearheaded the area’s first Earth Day events and environmental protection initiatives. Buck founded and became the first president of the Poconos Citizens for Conservation in 1977.
After three decades of non-stop activism, Buck conceded that he was actually hoping to maintain a lower profile when he and his wife, Melody, moved to Bradford County. As local residents got to know what Buck was about, however, they persuaded him to help with similar initiatives in the area and to join various environmental boards and to sit in on other committees as an environmental spokesperson. He joked that the award was indirectly a result of his inability to say “no” to an invite.
In The Endless Mountains, Buck has found a unique opportunity, as well as strong support to tie together recreation, environmental stewardship, and heritage. As owners of Endless Mountain Outfitters in Sugar Run, the Bucks routinely coordinate river paddle events that commemorate history and connect patrons with the heritage of both the settlers of the region and the Native Americans who preceded them.
In addition to Mrs. Buck and the many friends that Buck has made along his far-from-finished journey, a large contingent of the Endless Mountain Heritage Region and associates of the North Branch Water Trail were present at the awards banquet. Bradford County Conservation District retired District Operations Specialist Mike Lovegreen served on the eight-member reception committee.
The awards banquet was sponsored by the Northeast Environmental Partners, which consists of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, PPL Corporation, P&G Paper Products, PA DEP, PA DCNR, and Wilkes University. For more information about P&G safe water initiatives, interested reader can log on to http://www.csdw.org.