2019 Environmental Excellence Awards Recipients

The 2019 Environmental Excellence Awards recipients are:

Individual Awards:

  • Catherine Ledec
  • Helen Stevens

Organization Awards:

  • Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
  • Reston Annual State of the Environment (RASER) Working Group

County Employee Award:

  • James Hart
  • Noel Kaplan


Catherine Ledec

Cathy Ledec has worked on many local initiatives regarding natural resource protection, restoration and land use.  Cathy is an indefatigable public advocate, leader and volunteer who inspires others and works to incorporate environmental considerations and impacts into decision-making.

As president of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park, Cathy led two conservation campaigns that resulted in the long-term conservation of natural and historic resources, including rare and globally significant resources.

One campaign challenged a local utility through the State Corporation Commission’s regulatory process, in which a transmission line rebuild project was proposed on Huntley Meadows Park property. Cathy spent hundreds of hours leading volunteers, reviewing the proposal, collecting documents to verify the presence of threatened species and habitats, consulting with experts, preparing and submitting testimony and responding to questions, all under tight deadlines. As a result of her leadership and persistence, the utility company agreed to change the project design to avoid permanent damage to a historic viewshed, reduce the transmission line collision risk for birds and ensure the protection of natural and cultural resources at Huntley Meadows.

Cathy led another campaign to remove two conceptual paved bike trails from Fairfax County plans for Huntley Meadows Park, thereby protecting sensitive park resources. Cathy compiled scientific evidence on the significance of the areas to be impacted, including the presence of rare plants, animals, and habitats. She organized community support and guided those who wanted to provide public testimony, a first for many.  This led to unanimous support from both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for the removal of these conceptual trails from County plans.

In addition to providing public comments to minimize the impacts of development projects, Cathy performs public outreach as a certified Fairfax Master Naturalist, Audubon-at-Home ambassador and member of the Plant NOVA Natives coalition.  She also restores habitats as a site leader for the Fairfax County Park Authority Invasive Management Area program and as the president of her homeowners’ association; participates in citizen science for the Washington, D.C. and Fort Belvoir Christmas Bird Counts; and serves on multiple advisory boards, including Supervisor Dan Storck's Environment Advisory Committee.  She led efforts to restore habitat at the Mount Vernon Government Center, chaired Supervisor Storck's first Environmental Expo in 2018 and was recently elected Chair of the Fairfax County Tree Commission.

Cathy has made significant contributions to the advancement and support of many of the county’s environmental goals with tangible results and motivates others to get more involved, often against difficult odds, to create a more lasting and healthy community for all of Fairfax County’s residents.

Helen Stevens

Helen Stevens is the clinical director of Inova HealthPlex – Lorton Emergency Department.  Under Helen’s guidance, the Lorton HealthPlex has become a leader in sustainability.  Helen has gone above and beyond her clinical responsibilities to educate and engage all staff on environmental efficacy, with a focus on recycling and the elimination of Styrofoam and single-use plastics in the department.

In 2017, Helen noted that the department’s waste hauler was mixing recycling with trash.  Through Helen’s actions, another vendor was selected, which now reliably removes recycling and trash separately. Helen also educated her team about proper recycling of plastic grocery bags, which are now collected and transported to the grocery store for proper recycling. She also worked with her environmental services contractor and material management team to create a recycling process for cardboard and plastic containers, which are used for supplies and disinfection of the department. Helen personally donates 5 cents per recycled bottle/container, with the collected money used for an end-of-year staff party staff. In 2018, more than 10,000 pieces were recycled.

Together with Dianne Kenny (Lorton Radiology Manager), she funded the purchase of a countertop dishwasher, along with reusable plates and silverware.  The department also now uses paper straws for patients and has eliminated all Styrofoam. All disposable napkins, plates, and flatware are biodegradable.

She worked with Mandy Kennedy (Radiology tech) to adopt Lorton Road from Route 1 to the underpass of I-95 as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program. At Helen’s suggestion all recyclables collected during cleanup are brought back to the department and recycled.

Helen worked with the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District to restore native plant communities at the local clock tower at Lorton Station to improve the aesthetics of the area and provide resources for native bees and butterflies.

Under Helen’s leadership, the efficient use of equipment and resources has become an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the Lorton HealthPlex, where staff participate and take ownership of their impact on the environment.  Helen cares not only for her patients, but the community she serves.

Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions

Founded in 2013, the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS) works with more than 70 congregations in Northern Virginia with a shared vision that care for creation is a moral responsibility of people of all faith traditions.  FACS unites people to develop local solutions to the climate crisis and organizes and empowers a large corps of volunteers to become champions of climate change action in their communities.

FACS supports the County’s environmental vision and policies to reduce the County’s carbon footprint, to equitably mitigate the impacts of climate change and to increase resiliency in our community. FACS advocated for climate-related actions approved by local decision-makers, which included:

  • The initiation of a Community-Wide Energy and Climate Action Plan
  • The establishment of the Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination; and
  • The installation of solar panels on Fairfax County schools and government buildings.

FACS builds coalitions and partnerships to tackle climate-change challenges, reduce county-wide greenhouse gas emissions, increase equity and catalyze civic engagement.  FACS accomplishes this through its advocacy teams, candidate forums, energy justice and faith and the environment workshops; programs such as community gardening and zero waste; webinars on reducing your carbon footprint and how to go green in your home and place of worship; and tours, including this past year’s tour of the Covanta incinerator and the I-95 landfill.  Through these and other actions, FACS continues to advance informed climate solutions in Fairfax County.

Reston Annual State of the Environment Working Group

The Reston Annual State of the Environment (RASER) Working Group, established in 2017 by the Reston Association’s Environmental Advisory Committee, is comprised of nine volunteer professionals and citizen scientists, including Doug Britt, Don Coram, Robin Duska, Linda Fuller, Carl Mitchell, Sara Piper, Claudia Thompson-Deahl, Katie Shaw, and Stephanie Vargas.

Since the completion of the RASER in November 2018, the RASER Working Group has presented the findings of the report to the public and evaluated and documented progress toward implementation of the 2018 recommendations.

The report evaluates the status of an array of environmental resources and attributes related to air, water, forests, meadows, wetlands, landscaping, urban agriculture, wildlife, hazardous materials, light and noise pollution, and education and outreach; incorporates information from more than 325 data sources and scientific reports; and describes how each attribute relates to Fairfax County’s Environmental Vision. Nearly 2,000 hours of volunteer time went into the production of the RASER and the implementation of many of its 72 recommendations.

To address the paucity of information about wildlife in Reston, the RASER Working Group recommended that Reston implement a BioBlitz to collect information on biological diversity. During the subsequent event, scientists, citizen scientists, and other interested parties were recruited and then conducted inventories of biological species in Reston.  More than 90 naturalists and volunteers (including the RASER Working Group) identified 608 separate species of plants, animals and other organisms within Reston.

The Working Group also addressed the protection of Reston’s urban forests and residential connections to their environs through 55 miles of paved and natural pathways. The Working Group noted that such connections were central to the growing Biophilic movement, which recognizes that connecting urban landscapes with nature provides physical, mental, and emotional benefits, in addition to many ecological services.

The RASER Working Group recommended that Reston apply for membership into the prestigious international Biophilic Cities Network. Reston subsequently became the first Virginia community and the first unincorporated community to be accepted into this worldwide network, joining such cities as Singapore, Oslo, Wellington, Sydney, Birmingham, Edmonton, Austin, Phoenix, Portland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington DC. Reston now participates in monthly conference calls with environmental managers from other member communities.

The Working Group also drafted a “Biophilic Pledge,” listing actions that residents can take to become more nature friendly. Reston is now serving as a role model for other communities, including Arlington County, to join the Biophilic movement. Based on Reston’s lead, Virginia may soon become the first U.S. state with multiple Biophilic Network communities.

Through these and other actions, the RASER Working Group has established a strong foundation for the assessment and enhancement of Reston’s ecological resources and helped to create well-connected urban landscapes where nature and community members can thrive.

James Hart, Vice Chairman and At-Large Member, Planning Commission

Jim Hart has served as an at-large member of the Planning Commission since 2004 and its Environment Committee chair since 2007. During that time, Jim has been a constant and effective force behind the furtherance of the county’s environmental goals and an invaluable asset to the county.

As chairman of the Environment Committee, Jim has sought consensus among members, often with vastly different perspectives. His leadership and facilitation have ensured the development of consensus positions that are defensible, meaningful, and durable. Jim has been a champion of stakeholder input and has welcomed stakeholder perspectives, particularly during the committee review process.

Significant policy and regulatory issues addressed by the committee during Jim’s tenure as chairman have included:

  • Green building;
  • Stream protection upstream of Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) and Environmental Quality Corridors (EQCs);
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure;
  • Disturbances to EQCs;
  • Building energy technology;
  • Natural landscaping at county facilities; and
  • Stormwater management.

Jim keeps a broad policy perspective in mind when considering site or area-specific issues and always considers the wide-ranging policy implications of individual decisions.He is also dedicated to increasing his own knowledge regarding a range of environmental issues.

With his leadership in developing consensus positions, the patience to explore all perspectives and avenues of inquiry, and the intellect to identify critical environmental policy questions and challenges, Jim continues as an effective environmental champion dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the county environment.

Noel Kaplan, Senior Environmental Planner (retired)

During a career spanning more than 31 years, Noel Kaplan worked tirelessly on a wide array of environmental initiatives and helped define nearly all land use-related environmental policies within Fairfax County that were adopted during his tenure. Noel has demonstrated a firm commitment to the environmental health of the county and brought an environmental awareness to others.

Noel has become a recognized expert in his dealings with local, regional and state agencies and represented the department of planning and development on numerous interagency environmental coordination committees. As liaison to the Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC), he coordinated EQAC’s Annual Report on the Environment with related outreach to 57 separate county, state, federal, and regional agencies.

Over his career, Noel led staff in the development of county policies addressing a host of land use-related environmental issues, including air quality; green building; stream protection; and airport noise compatibility planning.  He led the review of dozens of state and federal environmental assessments and impact statements, many including interagency coordination. He prepared environmental assessments for many legislative applications. His work in development review helped to identify, preserve and protect hundreds of acres of Environmental Quality Corridors. He was the principal author of the original version of the county’s Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance and assisted with the development of the Environment section of the 1990 Policy Plan.  He made numerous presentations to elected and appointed officials, advisory groups and citizens and provided support to other county agencies on their environmental initiatives.

Within the past few years, Noel contributed significant work for environmental initiatives, including those related to natural landscaping at county facilities, coastal resource management, stormwater planning, electric vehicle charging, Health in All Policies, and sustainability.

Through these actions, Noel has demonstrated a legacy of leadership and service leaving long-lasting positive impacts on the county.

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