Conservation efforts earn senators award

Sen. Randy Gardner (left) and Sen. Bob Peterson display their awards.

Sen. Randy Gardner (left) and Sen. Bob Peterson display their awards.

COLUMBUS – The Nature Conservancy has honored State Senators Randy Gardner and Bob Peterson for their steadfast leadership in protecting Lake Erie and clean water throughout Ohio.

For their efforts to advance a new law aimed at reducing harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, and for leading their Senate colleagues on other clean water issues, the two state senators have earned The Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Leader Award. The award was presented July 24 at the Conservancy’s quarterly board of trustees meeting in Columbus.

Both senators were co-sponsors of SB 1, which aims at curbing harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and was introduced after one such bloom led to a three-day shutdown of drinking water in Toledo in 2014. The bill, signed into law in April, limits application of commercial fertilizer and manure in the Western Lake Erie basin when the ground is frozen or saturated; imposes significant penalties for violators; requires state certification for applicators of manure; and phases out open lake disposal of dredge material by 2020.

“These two senators raised their voices in support of decisive action to protect Lake Erie,” said Josh Knights, executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “This new law equips us with powerful tools to reduce nutrients, sediment, and other pollutants in our waters. It builds on existing efforts by lawmakers and the farming community to prevent algae blooms, such as the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program, and licensing requirements for fertilizer applicators.”

Gardner lives in Bowling Green and represents the second Senate district, which includes the most Lake Erie shoreline in the state. Knights said he has demonstrated consistent leadership on water quality and conservation issues during his 30-year tenure in the Ohio General Assembly. He helped create and secure appropriations for the Healthy Lake Erie Fund, and is co-founder and co-chair of the Lake Erie Caucus.

Peterson, who represents the 17th district, lives in Sabina. He is an eighth-generation farmer and former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Appointed to the Ohio Senate in 2012 after a year in the Ohio House of Representatives, Peterson appears to be an emerging leader on water quality and conservation policy tissues. He was a co-sponsor and led the effort in 2014 for approval of SB 150, which requires state certification for commercial fertilizer application on farm land.

Both senators also have been strong supporters of the Clean Ohio Fund.

“Lake Erie provides a safe and plentiful source of drinking water for lakeshore communities, and it’s a tourist attraction that contributes more than $10 billion annually to the regional economy,” said Marianne Gabel, chairman of The Nature Conservancy’s Ohio Board of Trustees. “Senators Gardner and Peterson act on behalf of their constituents and all Ohioans who want to keep the lake healthy.”

“And although they can’t vote, the fish, turtles, songbirds, waterfowl, and other native species that make Lake Erie home also benefit from their leadership.”

The Conservation Leader Award is presented in recognition of exceptional leadership in advancing state conservation and environmental policy issues that improve the quality of life for all Ohioans. It was last presented to Rep. Tim Derickson in 2013.

Sen. Randy Gardner (left) and Sen. Bob Peterson display their awards. Randy Gardner (left) and Sen. Bob Peterson display their awards.