R. John Dawes

A billion dollars for watershed protection is quite the accomplishment but is just one of the accomplishments of John Dawes, who served until November 2023 as the Executive Director of  the Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds.  

Dawes served as the FPW inaugural Executive Director, dedicating more than 30 years to building the organization into a well-organized, strategic philanthropy, providing matching grant funds to both small and large groups and organizations throughout much of the Commonwealth.

Through FPW’s grantmaking, assistance is provided to conservation organizations to achieve their restoration goals, while ensuring enough clean water for future generations of Pennsylvania children, families, and wildlife.

Under John’s leadership, FPW has provided grants to more than 175 environmental organizations across Pennsylvania. 

Among Dawes’ key accomplishments–

— Was appointed as a mediator by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to work with the environmental community and industry to establish better regulations for water quality monitoring in areas impacted by coal ash.

— Worked with the Environmental Integrity Project to clean up Brunner Island in the Susquehanna River.

— Advocated for many key regulatory and legislative initiatives to protect Pennsylvania’s waterways, including the reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Lands Fund in 2006.

Dawes says, “All of this work taught me that a group of citizens can change national public policy for the benefit of all.” He will continue in a consultancy role to the FPW over the next year.

Dawes has been the recipient of the PA Environmental Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award, a recognition by colleagues and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania agency secretaries for service to improve Pennsylvania’s environment.

Additionally, he received the ECHO award (Environment, Community, Humanity, and Ownership) given by the U.S. Department of Interior and the Statewide Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference bestowed the first ever “Mayfly Award” on John for his work in reauthorizing the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.

He was also recognized with the PA Land Trust Association [WeConservePA] Lifetime Conservation Leadership Award, the PA Association of Environmental Professional’s Karl Mason Award, the PA State Conservation Commission Conservation Leadership Excellence Award, and his Huntingdon Farm was honored as a regional winner of the NRCS Environmental Stewardship Award.

Former DEP Secretary David Hess had this on the contributions of John Dawes–

“John’s leadership has been critical to so many watershed restoration programs in Pennsylvania, it’s hard to think of one where he didn’t play a leading role.

“Reauthorization of the federal Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program up to and including the most recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law would not have been possible without John’s leadership and his early work with Louise Dunlap.

“These initiatives alone have brought billions of dollars to Pennsylvania to reclaim our mining past.

“The Growing Greener Watershed Restoration Program and each version after the original benefitted from his critical support to get them passed and later providing matching funds to watershed groups to implement projects.

“Again, thanks to John, over a billion dollars have supported watershed restoration projects.

“John’s amazing legacy to us is hundreds of miles of clean streams where we can fish, boat and swim.  We all owe him our thanks for these wonderful achievements.”

(Photo: Martha Rial Photography)