Founded in 1993, National Wildlife Federation’s Kentucky affiliate, Kentucky Waterways Alliance (KWA), celebrates their 30th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, friends and supporters gathered at the Waterfront Botanical Gardens next to Beargrass Creek in Louisville on a beautiful summer evening in August. The event kicked off with remarks from Michael Washburn, KWA’s Executive Director; U.S. Congressman Morgan McGarvey (KY-3), who represents the Louisville Metro area; Nicole George, Louisville’s Deputy Mayor of Public Health and Services; and oSha Cowley-Shireman, Director of Policy & Development at the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, the event’s presenting sponsor.

The sold-out event featured honkytonk music performed by Will Oldham, who usually performs as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Joan Shelley, and other musicians, and guests quickly made their way to the dance floor. The second half of the evening was dedicated to the 15th Wild & Scenic Film Festival featuring short films that highlighted the beauty of our planet’s wild and scenic places as well as the urgent need to protect them.

In their remarks, presenters lauded the accomplishments of KWA over the past 30 years while also recognizing that the work is far from over. KWA’s mission is to protect, restore, and celebrate Kentucky’s 90,000 miles of waterways as a source of cleaner and safer drinking water, to protect wildlife and endangered species, and to preserve the beauty of our greatest natural resource.

This work is even more critical now with ongoing attacks on clean water protections nationally, both in the Supreme Court with the recent Sackett v. EPA decision and in Congress, at the same time that we have increasing concern about the prevalence of and health impacts of forever chemicals like PFAS. Furthermore, the 14-state Ohio River Basin, which includes 97% of the state of Kentucky, receives $0 in dedicated annual federal funding for restoration in contrast to other well-known waterways like the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, or Florida Everglades that collectively receive hundreds of millions of dollars in appropriations each year and have a proven track record of success to show for it.

National Wildlife Federation is working closely with KWA and our other affiliates and partners to change that. We’re collaborating on the development of a restoration plan to restore and protect the waters of the Ohio River Basin, based on science and input from hundreds of community members across the region, and developing a coalition that can make the case for federal funding in Congress.

To learn more about how to get involved, visit our Ohio River Restoration page. To learn more about Kentucky Waterways Alliance, visit our website.