David Caldwell and many like him are heroes for our N.C. environment.
Caldwell, 57, is the Broad Riverkeeper and, by definition, is the primary protector and spokesperson for the rivers and streams of the Broad River watershed in the Western and Piedmont regions of North Carolina.
Caldwell, who loves being outdoors, is with MountainTrue, an environmental conservation group based in Asheville.
"We have 23 full-time employees including four River-keepers," he said. "We have programs for Clean Waters, Resilient Forests, Healthy Communities, Green Energy, and a Creation Care Alliance. We all work within and across our programs to support each other. We also rely heavily on volunteers who get involved in our efforts."
They also, noted Caldwell, "...work with communities and citizens to monitor water quality and advocate for best management practices that will improve our waters for drinking, swimming, and fishing." His jurisdiction starts in the headwaters along the Blue Ridge Escarpment and in the South Mountains and goes downstream to the S.C. state line.
Caldwell said he has been fishing, swimming, paddling, and exploring the Broad River and its tributaries for over 30 years. Additionally, he started the Broad River Paddle Club (a Facebook group page) in 2011, began doing river cleanups in 2012, started Broad River Alliance, a Water-keeper Alliance Affiliate program in 2015, worked part time and mostly on a volunteer basis for 3.5 years, and in 2019 became a fully licensed Riverkeeper.
He said no particular training is required to become a Riverkeeper, but added, "A good understanding of science and ecology is helpful. Mostly, one needs to be passionate about the work of protecting our waters, diligent in the pursuit of science, truth, and environmental justice, and willing to stand up and speak out for the communities who depend on these resources."
For Caldwell, a memorable moment occurred when he and others helped bring about Duke Power's coal ash re-moval from the banks of the Broad River in 2020.
His advice on keeping the rivers and forests clean and clear?
"Don't pollute and don't accept pollution as a normal part of our world. Simple things like 'pack it in, pack it out', or joining a stream-side or roadside litter cleanup make a difference. If you see pollution, report it. NCDEQ has a great website with plenty of opportunities for citizens to get involved. Get in touch with me if you have concerns about pollution or water quality in our streams and rivers," he said.
For those interested in keeping up with or donating to MountainTrue, Caldwell said to visit https://mountaintrue.org/.
"Any donation you can make would be greatly appreciated and help to fund the work that I do," he said.
Follow his work at Broad Riverkeeper on Facebook and Instagram.
If you are interested in this type of work, he said to find out what programs/organizations are already doing work in your area, and start volunteering.
For more information on what Mr. Caldwell does, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 704-284-9002.