Updated: Jun 15
Petey Brucker: The River Runs Through Him
It is with great honor that the Environmental Protection Information Center presents Petey Brucker with the 2023 Sempervirens Lifetime Achievement Award for lifelong activism by advocating for the forests, rivers, wildlife, people, and salmon of the Klamath and Salmon River watersheds.
Born in Nyack, New York in 1952, Petey followed his older brother Phil to Northern California. Arriving 50 years ago, Petey met his life partner Geba Greenberg and never left. Living in the remote community of Forks of Salmon, nestled along the Salmon River, he vowed to protect this extraordinary wilderness. As a caring husband, father, and friend; a mountain adventurer, a musician, an activist, Petey shows love in everything he does.
Petey was tenacious in his pursuit of ways to repair the damage that resulted from the extractive industries of mining and logging, including the use of toxic herbicides. Fish populations were plummeting. Working with long-time local residents, Petey shepherded the community to come together to restore the health of the forests and rivers.
In 1989, Petey founded the Klamath Forest Alliance (KFA) with half a dozen others to mitigate harm from forest management practices like clear-cut logging and old growth liquidation. Petey led by developing science-based analysis of adverse ecological effects, reworking proposed timber sales through dialogue, litigation and appeals.
In the following years, along with harm reduction, Petey devised creative stewarding solutions, co-founding the Salmon River Restoration Council (SRRC) in 1992 with Jim Villeponteaux. SRRC programs include fisheries restoration, monitoring, and habitat restoration; noxious weed management; water quality monitoring; fire and fuels management, including prescribed burning; watershed education; and river cleanup. By promoting sustainable practices, fostering community engagement, and educating residents, it continues to thrive.
After the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, the aerial spray of herbicides along the Salmon River threatened the health of the people, wildlife, and forest itself. Petey launched the manual removal of noxious invasive plants as an effective alternative to herbicides. Non-native plants quickly take over habitats, making it difficult for native species to thrive. To persuade land management agencies to abandon toxic chemical herbicides, the SRRC employed and recruited volunteers to pull noxious invasive species and restore native plant vegetation.
One of Petey's goals has been dam removal along the Klamath River to revive the salmon that for millennia depended on its natural flows. Dam construction was catastrophic for crucial salmon spawning. Petey joined with the local Karuk, Yurok, and Hoopa tribes to lobby for Dam Removal to bring salmon back, and after several decades of struggle, the salmon will return.
Petey leads with the belief that stewardship is our responsibility; and that working together is the only path to achieve lasting change. The name Brucker means bridge keeper, and Petey is a bridge builder. He has had the capacity to make powerful alliances with Karuk, Yurok, and Hoopa tribal members as well as congressional representatives.
He has been instrumental in holding agencies accountable for best forest practices through persuasion and litigation. He has served on the Board of the Forks of Salmon Volunteer Fire and Rescue, and the local branch of Riverkeepers. As a gifted guitar player and singer, Petey has also made gatherings and meetings more joyful.
Petey was recognized in 2017 when he was awarded the Unsung Hero Award by the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services for his work in environmental conservation and disaster response.
Petey’s commitment, imagination, and collaborative skills are exemplary. Devoted to his partner, children, grandchildren, and community, Petey has passed his passion for environmental activism on to the next generations. His mentorship has inspired others to form organizations to preserve and protect the forests, rivers and wildlife along the Klamath and Salmon Rivers. Petey shows how one changemaker can cause a cascade of good downstream.