716 Transformers: The Environmentalist

By Nancy J. Parisi

Published on

Jill Jedlicka, a native Buffalonian, has been working on repairing local waterways since joining the staff of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper in 2003, back when it was known as Buffalo Riverkeeper. Jedlicka was named executive director of the organization in 2012 and has been working to improve the regional freshwater resources that make up the watershed ever since. “We not only made physical changes to the landscape and waterfront but changed what the waterfront can be, making it more accessible and healthier for people who want to walk there, fish there, and enjoy wildlife there,” Jedlicka says. “We have taken a once-dead river in a community that was once a joke and a punching bag and turned it into a thriving waterway, a thriving ecosystem with over 35 species of fish. People come from all over the world to fish here. This whole section of lake is very biologically productive. There’s no shortage of work to be done, to un-do the damage done in the past 100 years. I’m proud that the mindset is shifting in the residents of Western New York and the people who visit here. For a long time, people like me and my colleagues were labeled as ‘tree-huggers’, but we have proven in the past decade that what we do is an economic driver. A blue economy is the shift to embrace our natural resources. It respects and integrates the natural environment and the health of the water systems as part of the quality of life. Water should be accessible for everyone, not like in the past when the waterfront was private for those who could afford waterfront property. It’s an economic justice issue, waterfront access is for everyone who wants to be there.”

716 Tips

“I recommend that everyone visit the islands in the Niagara River. If you have the ability, kayak, canoe, power boat, or take a tour and get on the water and visit Strawberry Island, or Motor Island. All of the islands north of Grand Island make you feel like you’re part of the Great Lakes and what this region used to be. I’d recommend going with a guided tour the first time that you do it. You have to have a healthy respect for the river and the lake.”

Nancy J. Parisi headshot

Nancy J. Parisi

Nancy is a social documentation photographer based in Buffalo, NY.