Sierra Club stories from the front lines

Steve Pawlowski: In Memoriam

Steve-Pawlowski

Steve Pawlowski, Arizona Water Sentinels coordinator for the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, died yesterday while waiting to testify at the state Capitol in Phoenix. He collapsed while standing in line to speak at a hearing organized by U.S. Representatives Paul Gosar and David Schweikert. Pawlowski was 61.

"Steve was there to speak up for having Clean Water Act protections for our many streams that don't flow year-round," says friend, colleague, and Grand Canyon Chapter director Sandy Bahr.

In an op-ed he submitted to the Arizona Republic last week, responding to Congressman Schweikert's attacking the EPA and its proposed rulemaking that would ensure consistent implementation of Clean Water Act protections in Arizona, Pawlowski closed by saying, "Simply put, the Clean Water Act is the only law that protects surface water quality in Arizona. Our state would be in a world of water pollution hurt without it."

In a letter to Pawlowski's wife Jeanie, U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema wrote, "[Steve] was an extraordinary man, a passionate champion for the environment, and he will be deeply missed by all who knew him."

A native of Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, Pawlowski earned a law degree from Arizona State University and worked for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality for 21 years, specializing in surface water monitoring and assessment, before joining the Sierra Club staff in 2009.

Pawlowski-water-testing

Above and below, Pawlowski doing water-quality testing on Arizona's Verde River with students from a local community college. The Verde, which flows freely for 125 miles through private, state, tribal, and U.S. Forest Service lands, is one of the longest perennial streams in Arizona.

Steve-Pawlowski

Among the many Arizona waterways Pawlowski worked to protect is the San Pedro River, the last major, free-flowing undammed river in the American Southwest, and considered one of the most important riparian areas in the country. The San Pedro is of major ecological importance as it hosts two-thirds of the avian diversity in the U.S., including 100 species of breeding birds and 300 species of migrating birds.

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Above and below, Pawlowski in the field with Arizona Water Sentinels volunteers.

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"We cannot think of a kinder person than Steve," says Bahr. "He helped people and our environment. He was knowledgeable about water and other environmental issues and passionate about Arizona's rivers. Steve was dedicated to making this a better world -- and he did. He led our Arizona Water Sentinels for the past five years, during which time he developed a strong and dedicated team of volunteers to protect our rivers. He was also an accomplished musician. Our hearts go out to his family, to his wife Jeanie and daughter Sarah. He was a good friend to us and to our environment. We will miss him immensely."

Steve-Pawlowski