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Environmental Justice awards

The Bill Iwen Environmental Justice Award was established by MEA in 2019 to honor local leaders who make a lasting difference in Wisconsin by advocating for the rights of all people to live in a clean and healthy environment.

About the Award

The award is named in honor of Bill Iwen, a Kewaunee County native who touched the lives of many people in his community and beyond through his tireless work to ensure that all Wisconsinites have access to clean water. 

A Call for Nominations!

Do you know someone who deserves to be recognized for their work to advance environmental justice in Wisconsin? Midwest Environmental Advocates is seeking nominations for the 2024 Bill Iwen Environmental Justice Award. 

Anyone can make a nomination, and self-nominations are permitted. Awardees will be honored at MEA’s Environmental Justice Awards Event in October. Each awardee will have the opportunity to direct a $500 contribution to the community organization of their choice. 

The nomination deadline is June 15.

Annual Awards Celebration

Our virtual awards celebration will take place on Tuesday, October 22. Check back soon for more information.

Meet our 2023 Awardees

Deanna Branch

Deanna Branch is a co-founder of Coalition on Lead Emergency (COLE), which seeks to end childhood lead poisoning in Milwaukee through education, policy changes, legislative action and governmentaccountability. Together with her son Aiden, Deanna has also authored a children's book, Aiden the Lead-Free Superhero, to educate young readers about the dangers of lead exposure while instilling a sense of empowerment and resilience.

Maria Powell

The late Maria Powell was a co-founder of Madison Environmental Justice Organization (MEJO), an organization dedicated to working with low-income communities and communities of color throughout the Midwest to identify and reduce sources of toxic contamination. She worked tirelessly to break down cultural and language barriers between community members and decision makers.
MEA supported Polk County officials threatened with criminal charges by corporate industry lobbyists over efforts to protect water.

Lisa Doerr

Lisa Doerr is a proud part of Wisconsin's family farming tradition. She and her husband produce hay in Polk County for family-owned livestock producers. Early in 2019, corporate developers began looking for land in Polk County where they could build a massive hog confinement facility. Lisa played a central role in organizing a coalition of six towns to develop cutting-edge local ordinances. Through her work with the Sustain Rural Wisconsin Network, Lisa continues to support communities looking to hold livestock factories accountable for their environmental, health and social costs.

Meet Awardees from Previous Years

Huda Alkaff

Huda Alkaff is an ecologist, environmental educator, and the founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims, a grassroots organization working to address environmental justice issues related to climate change, clean air and water, healthy food, solar energy, energy efficiency, waste reduction and transportation equity.

Guy Reiter

Anahkwet (Guy Reiter) is a traditional Menominee who resides on the Menominee Reservation. He is the executive director of the grassroots community organization Menīkānaehkem, also known as Menominee Rebuilders. He is a community organizer, author, amateur archaeologist, lecturer, and a member of the Menominee Constitutional Taskforce. As a water activist, Anahkwet has worked to protect the Menominee River from the Back Forty project, a proposed open-pit metallic sulfide mine near the banks of the river.

Dana Churness

Dana Churness has been involved in resource extraction resistance since she was 16 years old, beginning with efforts which successfully stopped the Crandon Mine. Most recently, Dana has been a leader in working to stop water extraction schemes from an artesian well only a few miles from her home, in the Town of Clover. This work led her and others to form Lake Superior Not for Sale, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about water exploitation and organizing opposition to the commercial sale of water from the Lake Superior watershed.
MEA submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Coalition on Lead Emergency, who advocated for fair maps in Wisconsin.

Richard Diaz

Richard Diaz is a co-founder of COLE (Coalition on Lead Emergency). In his work with COLE, Richard advocates for solutions to Milwaukee's lead crisis that address racial and economic justice, as well as environmental justice. Richard also works as Midwest Regional Field Organizer of BlueGreen Alliance, where he engages partners and allies in solving environmental challenges in ways that create and maintain quality jobs and build a clean, thriving, and equitable economy

Edie Ehlert

Edie Ehlert is founder and president of Crawford Stewardship Project, an organization based in southwest Wisconsin’s driftless region that is dedicated to protecting rural communities from the harmful impacts of industrial animal agriculture and other extractive industries. In addition, she has helped catalyze the formation of a number of other grassroots organizations confronting a wide range of environmental justice issues including water extraction, frac sand mining and fossil fuel infrastructure.

Brenda Coley

Brenda Coley has served in various positions in the non-profit and academic sectors and brings a long-standing commitment to social justice and community organizing. She currently serves as Co-Executive Director of Milwaukee Water Commons, where she works to catalyze Milwaukee as a true model Water City— a place where we all have a stake in the health of our waters and all share in their stewardship and benefits.

Philomena Kebec

Philomena Kebec is an attorney and policy analyst with Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission where she focuses on protection and implementation of reserved hunting, fishing and gathering rights. Philomena is an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and a member of the Ashland County Board of Supervisors.

Rafael Smith

Rafael Smith is Climate and Equity Director at Citizen Action of Wisconsin where he focuses on the way climate change disproportionately impacts people of color on the north side of Milwaukee. Rafael is also a member of the Milwaukee City-County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity.

Charolette Baierl

Charolette Baierl is a grassroots organizer living in Door County. She was the first recipient of the Bill Iwen Environmental Justice Award. Charlotte worked closely with Bill and continues his legacy of fighting for citizens’ rights to clean water in Northeast Wisconsin.