John Torgan, director of ocean and coastal conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Rhode Island, was today honored with an individual Environmental Merit Award from Region 1 of the Environmental Protection Agency, for his decades of effort protecting Narragansett Bay.
“It shines a light on the great work that we’ve accomplished. At both Save the Bay and The Nature Conservancy, I’ve been honored to work with great people to move ocean and coastal conservation forward,” said Torgan, who was among more than 30 New England individuals and organizations to be recognized at a ceremony at Faneuil Hall this afternoon.
A leading environmental advocate and trusted voice for Rhode Island's waters, John is a native Rhode Islander who grew up spending summers on the South County coast, working on charter fishing boats and on Block Island. He earned an undergraduate degree in environmental studies/biology at Union College in New York. Before returning to Rhode Island, John worked for a consulting firm working on rivers in Upstate New York and Michigan.
Torgan began as director of ocean and coastal conservation at the Rhode Island chapter of the Nature Conservancy in 2011, after 18 years at Save the Bay serving as Baykeeper for Narrangansett Bay. Save The Bay protects, restores and improves the ecological health of the Narragansett Bay region, including its watershed and adjacent coastal waters, through an ecosystem-based approach to environmental action; defends the right of the public to use and enjoy the Bay and its surrounding waters; and fosters an ethic of environmental stewardship among people who live in or visit the Narragansett Bay region.
He joined Save the Bay in 1993 and became Narragansett Baykeeper in 1994, becoming one of the nation's first and longest-serving Waterkeepers in what is now a global organization of more than 200 programs. As Baykeeper, John advocated for clean water and communicated the importance of Rhode Island's waters to broad audiences and policy makers. During his tenure, an oil-barge tragedy spurred Save the Bay to lead a successful drive to toughen state oil-shipping laws.
Torgan also waged a campaign to force the Brayton Point Power Station to minimize its impact on Mount Hope Bay. He advocated for combined sewer-overflow improvements to reduce raw sewage from being dumped into the bay during heavy rains. And he fought efforts to create a deep-water port at Quonset Point and a liquefied natural gas terminal in Fall River.
Despite being Baykeeper, Torgan sought to broaden the agency's focus to include inland rivers, the ocean and coastal waters. At the Nature Conservancy, he continues to work to protect and restore the ecological health of the state's waters and to integrate these efforts across the regional ecosystem.
More information about the Environmental Merit Award is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region1/ra/ema/2012recipients.html.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.