HOUSTON (Covering Katy News) – The Bayou Preservation Association presented its 2018 Terry Hershey Bayou Stewardship Award to Mary Anne Piacentini, president and CEO of the Katy Prairie Conservancy at a luncheon held May 14 at the Junior League of Houston.
The award, named after long-time conservationist and Bayou Preservation Association founder Terry Hershey, recognizes individuals from the public, non-profit, and private sectors who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to aiding in the conservation, preservation, restoration and/or advocacy of our region’s waterways.
County Judge Ed Emmett, an advocate for preserving the Katy Prairie, gave the keynote address, followed by Bayou Preservation Association Board Chair and acting CEO Robert Rayburn, who presented the Terry Hershey Bayou Stewardship Award. Judge Emmett emphasized that he much prefers to “work with nature rather than against it” as we develop flood resiliency programs. Rayburn noted that Piacentini has been a strong voice and successful force for conservation and preservation efforts of the Houston area’s lands and waters for more than 30 years.
When Piacentini joined KPC in 1999 there were 1,300 acres of the prairie protected. The Katy Prairie Conservancy now preserves, through ownership and easements, more than 25,000 acres of coastal prairie and wetlands in Harris, Waller, Matagorda and Fort Bend counties.
“The Katy Prairie is indeed the headwaters of most of the Houston area bayous, but what brings this award is Mary Anne’s broad vision and inventive work toward the preservation of the natural benefits that prairie lands and other open spaces contribute to the region’s waterways and to the quality of life for its residents,” says Rayburn.
Piacentini helped develop a “flood zones to green zones” concept which eventually spurred the Bayou Greenways Initiative and led a multi-year collaboration for a Headwaters to Baywaters Initiative to protect riparian corridors along tributaries to upper Galveston Bay, which is now part of Houston Wilderness’s Regional Conservation Plan. She is also currently spearheading a coordinated plan among conservation groups to address the impacts of Hurricane Harvey and the many proposed responses to it.
“It’s hard to imagine our community without the tireless work of such an incredible advocate for our natural spaces,” Rayburn continues. “Mary Anne’s strategic thinking and dedication over the years have delivered results that have helped to celebrate, protect and restore Houston area bayous and watersheds.”
In accepting the award, Piacentini focused her remarks on the award’s namesake, Terry Hershey, noting that it is “really pretty humbling to walk in Terry’s footsteps” and that “people called Terry a force of nature, but I called her a force for nature.” She spoke eloquently about the prairie as the area’s “first landscape” and asked the audience to work with her to save it.
Travis Bubenik, energy and environment reporter for Houston Public Media, served as emcee. Among the attendees were Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, City of Houston Council Member Brenda Stardig and Uptown Houston President John Breeding. The event was chaired by Michael Bloom, P.E., Manager of the Sustainability Practice at R. G. Miller Engineers and member of the executive committee of the Bayou Preservation Association.
Piacentini’s family members and many in Houston’s “green community” came out to honor the winner of the 2018 Terry Hershey Bayou Stewardship Award. Among those represented were Armand Bayou Nature Center, Bayou Land Conservancy, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, Cypress Creek Flood Control Coalition, Harris County Precinct 4 Parks, Houston Audubon Society, Houston Parks Board, Galveston Bay Foundation, Hermann Park Conservancy, Katy Prairie Conservancy, SPARK School Park Program and The Nature Conservancy.