The Ohio Environmental Council: Empowering Citizens to Protect Ohio’s Environment

The Ohio Environmental Council: Empowering Citizens to Protect Ohio’s Environment

By: Molly Flanagan

In each issue of the newsletter, GLAHNF profiles one of its Advisory Panel Members or Hub coordinators. In this issue we are pleased to tell you about Molly Flanagan and the Ohio Environmental Council. Molly has served as a GLAHNF Hub Coordinator since January 2003.

As Water Program Associate for the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and GLAHNF’s Ohio Hub, Molly Flanagan has been able to fulfill a dream of working to protect and improve Ohio’s environment. Molly began her work as an environmental advocate at the tender age of four when she used to chastise her friends for throwing their gum on the ground, calling them litter-bugs. Her environmental ethic blossomed throughout grade school and high school and eventually landed her at Denison University where she pursued a degree in environmental studies. Molly explains,“The natural world has always been awe inspiring to me. I knew from an early age that I wanted to work to protect it for future generations. I feel honored to have a job I love that allows me to do the work that I always dreamed of doing. I believe that every single person can make a difference and that is what I aim to do every day; to make a difference for Ohio’s lakes, streams, and groundwater, and the people and wildlife that depend on them.”

Molly has been with the OEC since June of 2002 and has realized how important it is to be able to work with a variety of stakeholders on environmental issues throughout the state and in the Lake Erie basin in particular.“Working at the OEC allows me to be a strong advocate while partnering with diverse interests in Ohio—sports and recreation enthusiasts, families, local environmentalists, family farm advocates, local and state government, and local, state, regional, and national environmental groups—to improve water quality policy for all Ohioans. It’s so important to have a strong environmental voice for the conservation of Ohio’s environment and the conservation of our natural resources.”

Molly’s work in the OEC’s water program is focused primarily on issues affecting Lake Erie. In September 2002, Molly helped to organize and launch the Northeast Ohio Watershed (NEOW) Council with a two-pronged mission to provide networking and mentoring opportunities for watershed groups in Northeast Ohio and to provide a forum for advocacy positions to be taken on local, regional and state water quality issues.

Additionally, Molly is actively involved in the OEC’s fish consumption advisory program that aims to educate the public about potential risks from eating contaminated fish and to empower them to make educated decisions regarding their health and the health of their families. Molly has helped the OEC take the lead role in the State of Ohio on creating an enforceable water management system for the protection of Ohio’s water supplies from overuse, exploitation, and diversions from the non-binding principles established in the Great Lakes Charter Annex– a regional Great Lakes campaign.

Molly was delighted to become GLAHNF’s Ohio Hub because she realized the close relationship between GLAHNF’s mission and the OEC’s own mission, which is to inform, unite, and empower citizens to take action to protect and restore Ohio’s wetlands, streams, rivers, and lakes. She continues to be impressed by the critical support that GLAHNF provides to grassroots groups throughout the Great Lakes Basin. As the Ohio Hub, Molly hopes to be able to bring value to the network by sharing the many experiences that the OEC has had with Ohio’s watershed groups. The OEC’s Clean Water Program provides conferences and one-to-one assistance to local groups on organizational development, technical, regulatory, and political issues. In her ongoing involvement with these groups, Molly sees the challenges they face in dealing with the media, in building their memberships, in mounting successful campaigns, and in choosing winning strategies. She believes that GLAHNF can help Lake Erie groups to meet and overcome these challenges, so that they are even better prepared to fight for the lakes, streams, and wetlands they love.

Molly is excited about her role as the Ohio Hub for GLAHNF. Molly recalls, “It was a pleasure to attend my first GLAHNF Hub meeting in January 2003. I was really impressed by the commitment of other attendees to protect and restore the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes Basin. It was obvious to me from the very beginning that GLAHNF has the expertise and commitment to be a positive, effective force in the Great Lakes environmental community.”

For more information about the Ohio Environmental Council, please visit www.theoec.org or contact Molly Flanagan at molly@theoec.org or (614) 487-7506.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.