Simon J. Mitchell: Working for the river we love
Simon J. Mitchell wakes up every morning to a view of the St. John flowing through fields and hardwood forests, bald eagles soaring overhead.
“That’s why a lot of people live in New Brunswick,” says the forester-come-water-conservationist. “They appreciate the quality of life, and our rivers are a big part of that.”
The new adviser to WWF’s Living Rivers Initiative is no stranger to the issues surrounding this historic waterway. Mitchell spent six years working for the St. John River Society and a further eight years with the Meduxnekeag River Association. Over the last half-century, the natural flows of the St. John River have changed drastically. Left as is, this will continue to negatively impact the river’s health and will only be exasperated by the changing climate. Salmon numbers have plummeted, while much of the river is too polluted to swim in.
“To me, that’s a sad state of affairs,” says Mitchell.
He now sees the community appetite for change and the opportunity to develop plans for the St. John River that respect the needs of residents, users, and nature.
“It’s not going to be an easy task,” Mitchell acknowledges, “but the timing is right to have this important conversation.”
“People get it,” he says. “We are a river nation. We are a river province. And those water bodies need to be in good condition in order to support us and everything that lives in them.”