Toddi Steelman

I grew up in Kingwood, West Virginia (population 3,000) in the United States- a small coal mining town in the Appalachian Mountains.  My dad was a coal miner and my mom was a social worker.  While I was growing up, I spent a lot of time in the woods and on the rivers.  We ate a lot of deer, wild turkey and other critters growing up.  I worked as a white water raft guide for 10 years and paddled a lot of really great rivers and creeks during that time.  Out of my interest in rivers and their health I ended doing river advocacy work and was a founding member of a community based group—Friends of the Cheat—and a state level group—WV Rivers Coalition. 

Water is important to me because it defined where I grew up—the Cheat River ran through our town.  It was and still is one of the largest free flowing rivers in the Eastern United States.  Coal mining polluted many of the waterways in West Virginia and created a lot of terrible conditions in the rural communities near where I lived.  My dad was a coal miner, so I understood that coal mining put food on our table and provided a house for us to live in.  That said, I didn’t feel like we had to pay such a high price environmentally, culturally and socially for that economic wellbeing.  Reconciling, integrating and balancing these conflicting values has become the watermark of my scholarship as an academic and practitioner.  One thing I have learned over the years is that working with rural people is very similar all over the world. 

My husband (Joe), daughter (Lina, age 11) and dog (Krissy) keep me busy when I am not at work. We garden, ride bikes, read, walk and generally like to be outdoors.  Fun facts:  I have a really small head and have to wear children’s hats and glasses.  I also have a terrible sense of direction and can get lost just about anywhere.  NEVER take directions from me!  I can’t touch peaches or sometimes even look at them.  Their fuzz makes me crazy.  I LOVE pie—any kind of pie. 

My area of expertise is community and public involvement in environmental and natural resource policy making, with an emphasis on how science, policy and decision making come together.  I have worked across a variety of  fields including watersheds, biodiversity protection, community forestry, climate change, wildfire and land use.  I like bringing people together to address difficult problems.  As the lead for the Delta Dialogue Network, I hope to keep us moving together to achieve our collective goals.  The DDN excites me because it gets me working with rivers and communities again.   It provides the opportunity to learn about new places and new people and to get to know my new Canadian home better.

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