Atchafalaya Basinkeeper receives top honor as 2011 National river hero award winner

Dean A. Wilson, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper was named by River Network as a 2011 Tom’s of Maine River Heroes Award winner at a ceremony during the annual National River Rally conference in North Charleston, South Carolina. The awards celebrate those who have dedicated their lives to protecting the nation’s water supply and their respective campaigns to do so.
Wilson’s success conserving thousands of acres of cypress-tupelo swamps throughout coastal Louisiana and the nation as well as large tracts of wetlands within the Atchafalaya Basin earned him this top, national honor.

Dean A. Wilson: Dean is the founding executive director of the Atchafalaya Basinkeeper.  He came to South Louisiana in 1984, at the age of 24, from Spain, and for 16 years, he made his living as a fulltime commercial fisherman.  He began to notice that the dredging of oil and gas-industry canals, illegal development, sedimentation and poor water quality were threatening this idyllic existence, not only for him, but for the mostly Cajun fishing families and the countless fish and wildlife species depending on the Basin.  The last straw for Wilson was discovering that landowners and timber companies had plans to clear-cut all of the Atchafalaya’s cypress forests—that’s when he decided it was time to stand up and protect his beloved Basin.  He became active as the Chair of Sierra Club’s Atchafalaya Basin Committee and later founded Atchafalaya Basinkeeper.  Since then, Dean has dedicated his life to conserving cypress-tupelo swamps everywhere and to protecting the environmental health and productivity of the Atchafalaya Basin for today and for the future.  Wilson’s work has helped saved thousands of acres of cypress-tupelo swamps and other wetlands.

In the year 2000, when the logging of our second-growth cypress began, whole trees were being shredded into garden mulch and nobody was doing anything to stop it until Wilson stepped in.  He worked tirelessly to save the cypress swamps: researching environmental regulations, finding allies within state and federal agencies, following log trucks, staking out mulch plants and conducting numerous flights to determine where the logs were coming from, and where they were being processed and sold, proving that cypress mulch was not the forest-friendly product that the bags claimed it was.  Although the logging has been reduced from 20,000 acres per year (at its peak in 2006) to almost nothing, heavy logging could start again at any time.  Dean’s monitoring flights (provided by SouthWings) are the only things standing between the loggers and Louisiana’s coastal cypress forests.  Dean uses the same environmental laws that save cypress swamps also to protect thousands of acres of Atchafalaya wetlands from illegal and destructive development.  

“Dean Wilson has selflessly given us a level of hope and optimism, often at the expense of his own safety and well-being, in a situation that I and many of my friends had deemed hopeless.  He has brought new life to the Atchafalaya River and its people, its trees, it fish and wildlife, and he has done it with equal levels of energy and humility,” states crawfisherman and Atchafalaya Basinkeeper board member, Greg Guirard.

About Atchafalaya Basinkeeper
Founded in 2004, Atchafalaya Basinkeeper is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the ecosystems within the Atchafalaya Basin.  Atchafalaya Basinkeeper is a Waterkepeer Program under the Waterkeeper Alliance, which is a grassroots advocacy organization consisting of over 200 Waterkeeper Programs and dedicated to protecting your water from polluters.  To become a member or for more information go to

About River Network

For 20 years, River Network has provided organizational, technical and networking assistance to people working for watershed protection at the local, state and regional levels. In addition, River Network serves as a catalyst and coordinator for major projects, such as this one, that require national leadership and collaboration among widely separated organizations and agencies. With more than 700 partner groups in all 50 states and beyond, River Network is helping build a powerful new watershed protection movement in the United States. To learn more about River Network, visit

About Tom's of Maine 

Tom's of Maine is a leading natural care company that sells high-quality toothpaste, mouthwash, dental floss, deodorant, bar soap, and body wash products.  Most of TOMs products are Kosher and Halal certified. The company has a long-standing commitment to supporting people, communities and the living planet.  For 40 years, Tom's of Maine has sponsored hundreds of non-profit efforts by giving 10% of its profits back to the community and encouraging employees to use 5% (12 days) of employee time to volunteer.  Tom's of Maine employees regularly contribute suggestions for improving the company’s high sustainability standards. Their ideas, from wind power to ways to improve recycled and recyclable packaging options, are critical to the company's sensitive way of doing business. Tom's of Maine enjoys partnering with its consumers, vendors and many community organizations to support lasting, positive change that is good for the earth and us all. Visit us online at or on Facebook at www.facebook/tomsofmaine .

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