WMEAC Advancement Campaign Generates Growth in Water Advocacy Practice, New Program Director

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The success of its You Are Here Advancement Campaign is enabling West Michigan Environmental Action Council to significantly invest in educational and advocacy programs designed to protect local freshwater resources for future generations.

To date, the campaign has raised two-thirds of its $866,000 goal and has partially funded its water quality objectives through a mix of private donations and a $50,000 grant from the Dyer-Ives Foundation. This will include an immediate expansion of efforts to promote more environmentally responsible community stormwater management and increased advocacy on several key water quality concerns. A student fellowship focused on water quality is also in development.

“We’re at a critical juncture for several key water quality concerns, and this will better enable our community to rise up to these challenges,” said WMEAC Executive Director Rachel Hood. “The Advancement Campaign was developed to better prepare us for these generation-defining concerns.  We’re excited to show our supporters what is coming of their investment.”

To lead the expanded programs, WMEAC has tapped Elaine Sterrett Isely to serve as its Director of Water and LID (Low Impact Development) Programs, a new position. Most recently the project manger for West Michigan Strategic Alliance’s Green Infrastructure Initiative, Sterrett Isely is a veteran of the West Michigan legal and environmental community. She has served as a Research Associate and Assistant for the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University and as a Sea Grant Fellow with the Great Lakes Commission.

Pursuing environmental education and advocacy as a second career, Sterrett Isely was previously a litigation attorney working on behalf of social justice causes in West Michigan.  She served as Staff Attorney for the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project, Inc., and Legal Aid of West Michigan in Grand Rapids.  In 2005 she added a Masters of Science in Biology from Grand Valley State University to her law degree and has since worked exclusively in the environmental field.

“In my previous environmental roles I was working from an academic perspective,” Sterrett Isely explained.  “I managed to affect change, but it’s a different approach, a quieter approach, than what I was accustomed to as a lawyer.  I like to advocate for my cause, to pick the right side, and get in there and fight for it.  WMEAC does a really good job at achieving results that way, and I’m excited to be able to speak out about something I believe in.”

Sterrett Isely highlighted that she is a long time WMEAC member and consistent program customer, having recently participated in the BetterBuildings for Michigan home energy program and previously consulted on rain gardens and native plantings at her residence.

Among other roles, Sterrett Isely will oversee WMEAC’s a team of staff coordinators and volunteers working on programs such as Teach for the Watershed, Adopt a Stream, the Grand River Clean-Ups, and Grand Rapids Community Stormwater Management as well as general water quality advocacy and other special projects, including a partnership with Trout Unlimited focused on the Rogue River Watershed in northern Kent County.

A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Sterrett Isely holds a B.S. in Finance from the University of Maryland and a J.D. from Wayne State University.

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