Partner Spotlight | The Women of Wild and Scenic (VT)

by Cassidy Quistorff, NPS Communications Fellow

Above: the forces at work behind the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers. From left to right: Carol Hickey, Cynthia Scott, Ellen Fox, Karrie Thomas, Lindsey Wight, Misty McCartney, Shana Stewart Deeds, and Wendy Scott.
Above: the forces at work behind the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers. From left to right: Carol Hickey, Cynthia Scott, Ellen Fox, Karrie Thomas, Lindsey Wight, Misty McCartney, Shana Stewart Deeds, and Wendy Scott.

Carol Hickey
Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers (UMATR) Wild & Scenic Committee Member

“I saw the river every day as a teacher. As I would come from home to school, we always went past this one tree. Even my kids who are in their thirties would say, ‘Oh that’s mom’s tree.’ Because I would watch it. Some days it would be dry, dry, dry but it survived. I would enjoy watching the flood waters and see how high they came up but it would keep surviving.” Carol survives and thrives in the Missisquoi watershed, just like her tree. As a valued committee member, Carol brings enthusiasm to learning and teaching about the river. “I love learning new things about, and I’m fascinated by, the river. I come away after every meeting in awe of the commitment and enthusiasm everyone has.” Looking back on this year, Carol has some positive thoughts on the connection of these strange times and how they’ve tied people to the outdoors, “I think 2020 is going to be a blessing in disguise. I believe people will look back on this year and remember fondly the outdoors and the enjoyment of movement.” Carol has been part of the UMATR community since joining the study committee for the river and her dedication and enthusiasm has been a gift to everyone involved.

Cynthia Scott
Treasurer of the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers (UMATR) Wild & Scenic Committee and the Missisquoi River Basin Association (MRBA)

“Rivers bring diversity and texture to our landscape…it just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have rivers.” Cynthia has been a role model for many of those who followed in her path. In particular, her success in organizing the committee. Cynthia is the rock foundation both MRBA and UMATR are built on. “How she works successfully with people in the region and how Cynthia navigated the work and learned from lessons, she was really a mentor. She’s always happy to help with the mundane jobs,” Shana Stewart Deeds said. Cynthia views the committee as more than just a group of which she’s a part. “I stay involved because it’s my family; I want to stay involved because I want to see how they grow up.” Her patience also allowed her to see the value in the time it took for the designation to come through. “I think that because the study took a number of years that by the time the vote came, people were able to understand and [the vote got the support needed] to get it passed.” Cynthia loves to see the progress the watershed and wild and scenic committees have made, as well as the difference it makes in the community. “I see how the committee as an entity has evolved over the years, and it’s so exciting, I feel like I have to stay around and see what happens in the next chapter. And if I can help in any way to see us get there, I’m happy to help.” Looking forward, Cynthia says, “I’d love to see another Wild and Scenic River in Vermont! If enough people know we have a designated river in the north, maybe other parts of the state will be interested.”

Ellen Fox
Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers (UMATR) Wild & Scenic Committee Member

Ellen Fox is a valued member of the UMATR Committee and representative from Westfield. As a sheep farmer, Ellen is a bridge that connects various communities with the river, and knows who to reach out to get the participation and expertise needed to complete projects. She loves all the perspectives she gets spending time on the river. “The differences between walking along the riverbank compared to being on the water, they’re two totally different experiences. That’s one of the things I love about a river: you can sit in one place and it’s like pieces of the landscape go by or you go on the river and you get to go through those pieces of the landscape. It offers two different perspectives.” Ellen is excited about the upcoming farmers in the surrounding areas who are prioritizing the river and sustainability, and using alternative farming techniques such as agroforestry. “They’re asking questions like, What kind of agriculture can I do that inherently preserves water quality?” Looking forward, Ellen would love to see the river have a preserve one day. “A Wild and Scenic base that would have an outfitter to get people on the river, an agricultural project that could be demonstrative on how to use riparian forest, a residential component, a place with walking trails that go into the wetland… it would be a really large tract of land and would be a decades-long project, but someplace like that where it could be the Wild and Scenic preserve.” Ellen finds purpose and keeps coming back to help because of “the people, the camaraderie, and the beauty of the river itself.”

Karrie Thomas
Executive Director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

“At the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, we help, support, lend good energy to the effort; we’re strong and proud partners with the committee.” Looking for new ways to make it a better place and encourage people to visit, Karrie has worked with UMATR and other organizations in achieving these goals with an emphasis on projects that provide access to the river. Being a part of this nationally recognized water trail benefits UMATR immensely, and the support provided by Karrie, Noah and the rest of the NFCT organization is invaluable. It was a pleasure to celebrate the designation of the upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers along with the NFCT’s 15th anniversary. Karrie has a special appreciation for rivers that has been a guiding force throughout her career and life. “I value the view from the water. It is completely a unique perspective to float down a river or just sit next to a river; to get intimate to what it feels like to be with, on, around a river and I think you see the world in a very different way on the bottom of the proverbial canyon. People climb mountains for the view, but I like to go to the bottom of the valley for the view. I love paddling through a community and looking through the backdoor at the back of the community that faces the river. I love paddling past a farm, and hearing the sounds happening around the river but not being able to see any of it. It’s a remarkable and different perspective that you don’t get from any other place on Earth and every river is valuable in that perspective.”

Lindsey Wight
Coordinator of the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers (UMATR) Wild & Scenic Committee

Lindsey Wight, stalwart leader of UMATR, is a lover of rivers and firm believer of partnerships. “I value the way the river connects everybody. Having been at this position for five years, I appreciate nothing more than the relationships that I’ve formed – with our towns, with our towns’ representatives, but also with the great partners that we have with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail or at our conservation districts or our regional planning commissions; the fact that the water flows and captures every bit of our landscape is why we are able to group together and make these large projects and large improvements happen.” Lindsey thrives in her role by valuing different perspectives and undertaking diverse projects. “There’s always more to do and there’s enthusiasm enough that there are so many avenues we can go. I love just saying ‘Yeah, that’s a great idea! Let’s see how far we can take that.’ Sometimes I think I might get myself in trouble because I have too many fishing lines out there…but so far we’ve managed to focus enough that we’ve been able to accomplish small things. It’s awesome to have strong partners and strong committee members that have different knowledge bases and interests. I really love that, especially about our committee…they interact with the river in different ways. And those perspectives make our meetings so much richer because I come into meetings with ‘This is what I see,’ and then walk away thinking ‘Wow I hadn’t thought of it that way!” Lindsey is a perfect example of leadership grounded in active listening, and someone who has opened the doors of the rivers to multiple groups and individuals. Her hard work is a strong testament to the love she has for rivers, and the support she gets from the UMATR communities.

Misty McCartney
Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers (UMATR) Wild & Scenic Committee Member

Growing up in a mountainous watershed full of rivers, streams, swimming holes, and waterfalls, Misty acquired a deep sense of what enormous beauty the world has to offer, and her place in it. “In the crazy world we live in, the rivers offer stability, peace, and serenity.” As one of the younger committee members, Misty brings a perspective that is valuable to the future of the committee as well as a passion to promote the river’s valuable resources. Community and conservation are what really bring Misty back to the effort time and time again. “Seeing children enjoy and respect the rivers like many generations before and even better understanding of mother earth [and] conservation - these rivers need ongoing stewardship and protections. We want to promote responsible use of the rivers as much as possible.” Misty hopes that other rivers will also take a watershed approach. “Because what happens within the watershed directly affects the health and wellbeing of rivers. To do this, promote responsible use of your wild and scenic rivers and their watersheds. Build connections, relationships, cooperation. These protections will be stronger if we do it together.”

Shana Stewart Deeds
Study Coordinator for Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers Wild and Scenic Study; Consulting Partner for the National Parks Service on Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers

“Everybody plays a role [in designation],” Shana stated. According to Cynthia Scott, Shana’s role as Study Coordinator for the Wild and Scenic Study made the designation possible. After coordinating designation, despite moving to be closer to family, Shana still remains close with UMATR and highly involved with the Partnership Rivers Program. “Being in coastal Maine has really made me miss a river valley with mountains, in a way that I did not realize how much it was ingrained as part of my days. To not see it…I miss the vista from the river, the mountain coming out from the distance, seeing the river come through the valley. It’s a working landscape in Vermont, and there’s so much beauty there. There’s beauty in the work, too, and conservation,” Shana said as she remembered fondly her time in Vermont. Shana agrees with Cynthia, and considers the river, and those that work to protect it, family. Shana’s dedication and love of the rivers and support of the partnership program has inspired others to get involved and keep working for the future of these special waterways. “Shana creates an environment that inspires you to work just as hard as she does,” says NPS fellow Cassidy Quistorff. Shana’s continuous appreciation for others’ work allows for a strong foundation of compassion, understanding, and teamwork she brings to her work on Wild and Scenic rivers.

Wendy Scott
Secretary of the Missisquoi River Basin Association - “Vermont’s Mother of Wild & Scenic”

Though she will humbly gloss over her role - from that first invitation by the National Park Service to a cocktail party at River Rally to learn about Wild & Scenic rivers, to her strong determination and commitment to the Missisquoi River, it could easily be said that the PWSR designation of the Missisquoi and Trout Rivers would not have happened without Wendy Scott. She not only brought the idea back to VT along with John Little, but also brought her experience in river trips and her creative way of thinking about the river to bear on its protection. Wendy also doesn’t shy away from physical work, such as planting trees. Wendy saw how we successfully overcame hurdles in pursuing designation, such as misinformation campaigns and concern over federal involvement in the region, by listening to people’s concerns and gaining support through outreach and education. Looking to the future, Wendy says that she wants more community involvement in the waterway through art projects as well as conservation initiatives. “I would really like to see more conservation of land on the river and surrounding the river, as well as more educational programs for all ages – kids and adults. Increased family and local involvement would be amazing [including] an increase in art projects, whether it’s painting along the river or other kinds of supporting artists.” Wendy also believes in the power of experiencing the river first-hand. “Getting people on the river is just a huge, great selling point. People just love it.” When asked about what keeps her coming back to participate in MRBA and UMATR activities, she says that a primary goal of hers would be to work towards truly cleaning up the river. “The river is so.. dirty. It makes me really sad. I would love to see a difference in water quality in my lifetime. The people are huge for me, and the beauty and the love of the land and the river and the animals and fish and birds (laughs). That all keeps me coming back.”

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Last updated: January 4, 2021