The Spokane Riverkeeper was formed in 2009 by a small group of lawyers fed up with polluters abusing the Spokane River. They recognized the hands on approach that values a presence on the river and uncompromising advocacy. Our pioneering work stopped millions of gallons of raw sewage from entering the river each year and created a pioneering effort to keep toxic pollution out of the River. We quickly expanded by hiring advocates and scientists, who expanded our legal work to protect the river.
Spokane Riverkeeper exists to ensure equitable access to the resources and natural beauty of the Spokane River...and to restore and preserve the river for future generations of our community. We believe that the river is such a cherished asset to all citizens of this community, that equitable use is a matter of justice. And this is why Spokane Riverkeeper is a priority program of the Center for Justice. Our goal is for a fishable and swimmable Spokane River. Spokane Riverkeeper is a vigilant guardian and advocate for the Spokane River and its watershed. We work for the restoration and conservation of the river’s ecological health and aesthetic integrity. As a member of the international Waterkeeper Alliance movement, Riverkeeper’s first priority is to defend the river against pollution and polluters.
Jerry was born in Corvallis, Oregon near the Willamette River. His family moved to Cheney where he grew up exploring the lakes, rivers and forests of the area. From a young age he was raised by wolves, trout, and herons along the Spokane River where they taught him to fish and hunt. He traveled each spring to fish for native Chinook salmon with his grandfather on the Willamette. Jerry has a long history of working to protect rivers in the Inland Northwest. As a former staff member of Save our Wild Salmon, Jerry advocated for the restoration and protection of native Snake River salmon and steelhead. He has worked for native trout as conservation chair and continues to volunteer for the Spokane Falls Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Currently, he is a board member of Inland Northwest Nature Connection. He loves to spend time on the Spokane River fly fishing for trout, rowing his drift boat, shooting one of his longbows or backcountry skiing on the very snow that feeds our River. Jerry lives with his wife, two sons and a barky heeler dog within earshot of the Spokane River.
Jule works on water quality and nonpoint pollution in the Spokane River watershed for Spokane Riverkeeper. Although born in Oklahoma, Jule moved to Anacortes, Washington when he was 12, where he began his lifelong love of the water and all things in it. He graduated with a B.A. in Biology from Lewis and Clark College and then went on to earn his Master’s degree in Marine Biology from the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology in Coos Bay, Oregon. Jule comes to the Center for Justice by way of Olympia, where he helped regulate the shellfish industry for the State Department of Health. Jule is married to the always wonderful Katy Sheehan and has two very active sons.
Lee spent her high school years canoeing lakes and rivers in northern Ontario. By profession, she is a wetland biologist. After spending 25 years climbing mountains, she switched to sea kayaking as many stretches of the Alaska’s inside passage as possible. As the former North Sound Baykeeper in northwest Washington, Lee has been involved with the Waterkeeper movement for over 10 years. While working in western Washington, she patrolled all the lowland streams and northern Puget Sound shorelines with canoes and kayaks. Her specialties include stormwater management and best management practices to prevent stormwater pollution. As our new Outreach Specialist, she will be concentrating on educating local residents about the sources of toxics in the Spokane River, and steps that individuals can take to keep our river clean. Lee is enjoying learning all about the topography, watersheds, geology, and natural history of this area.
LaTisha Conto began working with nonprofits many years ago when she was given the task of bringing the Long Beach Reads One Book festival to life. She used her creativity and passion for the arts to create and produce multiple events in the citywide, weeklong event. She then moved into the role of Development Assistant at American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. In this position she was able to further develop her skills while learning how to fundraise for a divisive organization. In her most recent role at the Spokane Symphony, she served as Manager of Corporate Partnerships and was responsible for reenergizing the concert sponsorship program. LaTisha is also a writer. She is a frequent contributor to the female empowerment website GirlTalkHQ, has appeared on Huffington Post Live and writes a political fan fiction blog about an 8 year old girl who serves as President Obama’s aide. She is so happy to be working in an organization that respects and advocates for the rights of all individuals.
Rick is the environmental council for the Spokane Riverkeeper and the Executive Director of the Center for Justice (CFJ), the Riverkeeper's parent organization. He joined CFJ as a staff attorney in 2004, specializing in environmental and land use litigation. He became the first Spokane Riverkeeper in 2009 and served in that position for over a year. Prior to joining the Center, Rick had the honor of representing the Nez Perce Tribe in Idaho for seven years on a variety of environmental, natural resource, cultural resource, and treaty-rights protection cases. Rick received his J.D. and a certificate in environmental and natural resources law from the Northwestern School of Law of Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Rick is a graduate of Leadership Spokane class of 2013. When he’s away from work, Rick is focused on his son Noah and his daughter Violet and occasionally has time to whitewater raft, hike, or cross-country ski.
Waterkeeper Alliance is an environmental organization founded in 1999, responding to a growing movement of organizations with the name Riverkeeper, Baykeeper, Soundkeeper, and other related "keeper" names. The original Riverkeeper was organized in New York in 1983, as a response to the destructive industrial pollution that was destroying the Hudson River.
Today, Waterkeeper Alliance unites all Waterkeeper organizations; coordinating and covering issues affecting Waterkeepers that work to protect bodies of water around the world. It's the fastest growing grassroots environmental movement in the world, spanning six continents. Each Waterkeeper organization is devoted to the preservation of specific watersheds.
SPOKANE RIVER FORUM
The Spokane River Forum serves as a clearinghouse and information exchange for all things related to the Spokane River. Initiatives include: Spokane EnviroStars, recognizing businesses which properly manage hazardous and other wastes...Meet Me at the River Raft....and Kayak Eco-Tours in which community members explore the 111 mile Spokane River. Spokane River Forum Conferences are held every 18 months to maintain a regional dialogue regarding protection of water quality. The water trail web site, www.spokanewatertrail.org was visited by over fifteen thousand people in its first year and is growing, making the Spokane River a destination attraction for locals and visitors alike. It has set an extraordinary standard for being highly interactive as well as providing informational pages for fishing, paddling, safety, stewardship, and other support resources.
CENTER FOR JUSTICE
The Center for Justice is the parent organization of the Spokane Riverkeeper. The Center helps thousands of people in Spokane with civil legal services such as getting their driver’s license back, filing or requesting public records, navigating or reducing Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs) or dealing with landlord abuses. Their programs work to preserve and protect our natural environment for the wellness of our planet and community, to overcome barriers to employment and to assist those who have been previously incarcerated to get back on their feet. They advocate to keep our local governments accountable for things like police misconduct, public safety and enforcing land use laws. They also work to improve medical and legal access for the disadvantaged, working with community partners and governments to create better polices and practices that will equitably serve people from ALL economic and social strata. These innovative approaches meanwhile, save taxpayers thousands of dollars.