As the Illinois River Watershed Partnership, we thrive on propagating ways to improve our watershed.  The best method by far (in our book) is to bring awareness to individuals and organizations who do remarkable things to protect our rivers, lakes and streams.  You know – Leading by example.  Making a difference.  Some would call it outstanding stewardship.  We call it Golden Paddle worthy!


Each year,  IRWP Golden Paddle Award recognizes leaders in watershed stewardship and natural resource conservation in the Illinois River watershed.  Six awards are given annually to individuals or entities that practice excellence in stewardship in the protection, preservation, and enhancement of the watershed.

Eligibility in six stakeholder categories of agriculture, business, conservation, construction, government, and technical/research/education fields are awarded to individuals, farms, nonprofit organizations, local governments, schools, and businesses that are actively involved in education, projects, and/or programs to protect, preserve, or improve the water quality and wildlife habitat in the Illinois River watershed.

Actions that exemplify excellence in watershed stewardship can include:

  • Improved public awareness of water quality issues in Illinois River watershed.
  • Demonstrated to others the importance of good resource stewardship and/or provided incentives to promote good stewardship in the watershed.
  • Initiated or improved best management practices on a project(s) to reduce negative impacts on water quality and/or wildlife habitat in the Illinois River watershed.
  • Coordinated a project(s) with local government, nonprofit groups, agencies, citizens, and/or students to involve stakeholders and maximize resources.
  • Provided funding for and/or sponsorship of a significant project to protect or improve water quality in the Illinois River watershed.
  • Dedicated a significant amount of time, energy, and support to promote, preserve, and protect the Illinois River watershed.
  • Initiated new programs to improve their environmental impact in the Illinois River watershed.



On October 3rd, the Illinois River Watershed Partnership recognized the 2013 Golden Paddle Award winners during our awards banquet in conjunction with the Restoration of Our Rivers Conference at Crystal Bridges Museum.

2013 IRWP Golden Paddle Award winners are:

Dr. Ralph Weber

Volunteer of the Year :  Dr. Ralph Weber, NWA Master Naturalist

Jerry Hunton

Agriculture:  Jerry Hunton, Lincoln, AR agricultural producer and ANRC Commissioner

Archie Schaffer

Business:  Archie Schaffer, consultant and retired Executive Vice President, Tyson Foods

Steve Sampers

Conservation: Northwest Arkansas Chapter of Master Naturalists

Tom Hopper

Construction: Tom Hopper, Crafton Tull Associates

John Sudduth and Teresa Sidwell

Government: Benton County Planning and Environmental Dept.

John Sudduth and Teresa Sidwell

Dr. Josh Payne

Technical/Research/Education:  Dr. Josh Payne, Oklahoma State University

Dr. Andrew Sharpley

Technical/Research/Education: Dr. Andrew Sharpley, University of Arkansas


Our many thanks to these award recipients for all they have done to preserve our watershed. And, as importantly, to set the example for each of us!


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