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Black River Action Team

posted Sep 8, 2014, 5:54 AM by Lyn Munno   [ updated Sep 15, 2015, 10:47 AM ]

    Kelly searches for stream critters in February

“Why doesn’t somebody do something”, sputtered Kelly Stettner when she and her husband noticed the shopping carts dumped from a bridge on their home river. “You’re somebody”, he replied. Mother of two and girls’ wrestling team manager with a full-time job on the side, Kelly didn’t need a hobby. Yet she soon became the dynamo behind the Black River Action Team – an aptly-named all-volunteer group that hauls garbage from the river, samples water quality, plants trees, manages invasive plants, and otherwise helps bring their river back to health.

Kelly recruited four friends to help pull tires and shopping carts from the river that first spring of 2000. Since then, the BRAT river sweep has grown to attract dozens of enthusiastic volunteers each year. This year, Kelly initiated a “voluntourism” package with local inns, offering discounted accommodations to river cleanup volunteers.

Thanks to Kelly’s boundless energy, BRAT has expanded well beyond its original one-day cleanup event, and now protects and restores their river in as many ways as Kelly and her volunteer corps can imagine, including:

Collecting water samples
            Collecting water samples

  • Monitoring 11 sites in the lower Black River watershed each month from May through September
    (tests are for E. coli, nitrates, phosphates, turbidity, pH and temperature, with weekly E. coli checks at two additional swimming holes  - E. coli results at

  • Educating the public about exotic invasive plants…

    Investigating bugs at the local library

  • Exploring aquatic organisms in schools and at public events…

  • Helping state technicians stock trout…

    Planting trees in Cavendish, post-Irene

  • Planting trees (pictured here at Twentymile Stream in Cavendish, after a severe wash-out from Tropical Storm Irene,
    with partner Vermont Youth Conservation Corps)

Moira Stettner at Mile Brook beneath
  • Addressing stormwater problems at Mile Brook in Springfield…

  • Establishing a restoration tree nursery plot on donated space at Imerys Talc in Ludlow…

Armando Stettner with
BRAT linekeeper

  • Collecting used fishing line at two special recycling stations…

  • Stay tuned for the next inspiration…

Kelly accepts award at the state house
       Kelly accepts award at the state house

In the spring of 2014, Kelly won the GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award, named for Meeri Zetterstrom - a force behind the return of Vermont’s ospreys. With the $2,500 funds, Kelly plans to purchase a dissecting microscope, pay for swimming hole monitoring at Greven Field, and expand BRAT’s tree nursery. 

Somehow, Kelly finds time to represent BRAT as a Watersheds United Vermont advisor. With her positive energy and insightful ideas, she keeps us focused on WUVs core mission – to support and enhance (and admire!) the work of the many dedicated watershed advocates around the state.

When asked why she decided to take on this new role, Kelly explains:
"I joined the effort to create WUV because I believe I can do my work as director of the BRAT much better if I am connected to a dynamic network of other organizations doing similar work around the state. Learning from others who are successful at what I want to do means I can work smarter, not harder!"