FACETIME- Water man: Rivanna is Schuyler's mission
We drink water, clean with water, and bathe in water– but Ridge Schuyler is immersed in it. The 45-year-old Nature Conservancy executive has been on a mission to save the water.
He was a key player in the Conservancy's collaboration with the Dave Matthews Band to plant over 900 trees at the forks of the Rivanna River to offset the pollution caused by their tour busses around the country. He led the charge to solve Central Virginia's water shortage with an inter-reservoir pipeline.
But the accomplishment that put all of his senses on liquid overdrive might just be the Rivanna River Basin Commission, which he hopes is on its way to saving the watershed.
"The watershed covers many jurisdictions," Schuyler explains, "and there was no entity to protect it."
Although the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission spearheaded an effort to create a "Rivanna River Roundtable" in 1998, the project stalled without a dedicated funding source.
At Schuyler's prodding, the Conservancy revived the venture as the "Rivanna River Basin Commission" in 2001. In 2004, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to create the commission, but it was Schuyler who finally brought home the liquid assets.
"I had to get the localities to join," he says. "They all loved the idea but said they had no funds to contribute."
As Schuyler began lobbying the various local governments, some local citizens saw things his way. "Private people," he says, "stepped up, donating $450,000."
That generosity allowed the commission not to have to ask the jurisdictions for any initial funding, prompting Albemarle last month to join Greene, Fluvanna, and Charlottesville in protecting the Piedmont's beloved watershed.
Another group, Charlottesville Tomorrow, assisted on local water supply issues, and director Brian Wheeler– praising the "science, creative research, and smart ideas"– was impressed. "Ridge's leadership has been a huge benefit to the community," Wheeler says.
Schuyler, a native of Charlottesville, graduated from the UVA School of Law and initially took the well-worn path, taking his litigation skills to a big law firm in New York City. However, after returning to Virginia, Schuyler experienced a professional change of heart.
"I found that trial work is backward looking," he says. " I didn't want to spend my life looking back."
Schuyler's search for a face-forward career took him to Capitol Hill, where he kept his environmental focus in mind throughout 10 years of legislative work.
Before having their first child, Schuyler and his wife decided to move back to Charlottesville, where he jumped on the opening for director of the Conservancy Piedmont program.
Despite the years of tackling obstacles to make the Rivanna River Basin Project idea viable, Schuyler is happy that he gave up litigation for the Conservancy.
"I get to work in Charlottesville and walk around in streams," he says. "My law school friends are very jealous of the work I do."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO