Sound Rivers welcomes new Neuse Riverkeeper

Environmental advocate. Organizer. Coalition builder. Conservation and climate activist.

Samantha Krop brings a host of skills to her new role as Sound Rivers’ Neuse Riverkeeper.

Sam comes to Sound Rivers from the Pacific Northwest, where she led campaigns to stop the clearcutting of forests, worked to oppose new, destructive fossil fuel proposals and fought for healthy drinking water supplies alongside community members. Prior to her full-time role as an environmental organizer, she taught undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in environmental justice and pedagogy at the University of Oregon. She now brings her strong skills in communication, facilitation, organization and public speaking to the Neuse River watershed.

Her love of nature dates back to childhood.

“I’m originally from the Gulf Coast of Florida, where I first became keenly aware of watershed issues after the Gulf oil spill changed our home forever,” Sam said. “I grew up swimming, boating and kayaking in the brackish waters and swamps and have always, always, been in love with rivers.”

But it was her experience in the North Carolina mountains that cemented her future in advocacy. From ages 7 to 21, Sam attended Camp Celo on the shores of the South Toe River in the Black Mountains, first as a camper, then as a counselor. Attendance a generation-spanning tradition in Sam’s family, Camp Celo was founded on Quaker values, simplicity and appreciation of nature.

“This is where I first learned how to survive with little, work in community and care for the land — this was also where I was first inspired to become an environmental advocate,” she said. “I always credit the North Carolina mountains for teaching me what I wanted to be; what I wanted to do.”

Now she’ll put past experience to work for the Neuse River watershed.

“I’m honored to be joining hands with Sound Rivers and the people of the Neuse to advocate for the river and all those who rely on it. After spending a decade fighting for watersheds in the Pacific Northwest, I couldn’t be more excited to bring my experience and energy to the Neuse River, where I’m committed to giving my all to the challenging, yet hopeful, work ahead,” Sam said.

Of particular concern to her are the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) so prevalent in the river basin, as well as the lack of transparency, and regulation, of industrial poultry facilities — which is, essentially, none.

“I’ve been looking at maps and checking out how that’s playing out on the watershed. It’s pretty shocking,” she said of the lack of regulation for poultry facilities. “I’m looking forward to digging into the CAFO issue.”

Sam will be getting to know the watershed, its issues and people, over the first few months of her tenure as Neuse Riverkeeper. But she’ll bring with her to the job the tenets that have driven her throughout her life: justice, equity and inclusivity.

“The environmental justice issues are different, but it’s essentially the same story: you have these big operations, unregulated industry, taking advantage of our most vulnerable communities, and I’m in for that fight,” she said. “I’m looking forward to applying all the skills I’ve learned to do good work, in a place I want to be.”

Sam comes aboard during an organizational shift at Sound Rivers: Lower Neuse Riverkeeper Katy Hunt is transitioning to the role of staff scientist, working alongside Riverkeepers in both the Neuse and Tam-Pamlico watersheds, while Sam will take on the Neuse riverkeeping job, from the Triangle area to the Pamlico Sound.

“With Sam coming aboard as Neuse Riverkeeper, Sound Rivers is restructuring roles to better advocate for the Neuse and Tar-Pamlico watersheds.  I’m excited by the opportunities we will have to better serve both our watersheds from the Triangle to the Pamlico Sound with a dedicated staff scientist. Our Riverkeepers, Jill on the Pamlico-Tar and Sam on the Neuse, will have more time to dig into local and regional water and environmental justice issues. Katy’s science work will generate data and evidence that will help us highlight the grave challenges we are facing from pollution, flooding, development, and wastes from industrial agriculture — challenges exacerbated by climate change. Clay will oversee projects in both river basins that help alleviate environmental challenges and increase access to our waters, and Corinne, Grace, Vail and I will support all these vital efforts.” 
Heather Deck, Sound Rivers’ Executive Director

According to Heather and Katy, the shift means more coverage for the Neuse and support for Sound Rivers’ Riverkeepers.

“Taking on the job of staff scientist allows me to focus more on the science-based part of our advocacy. My passion is science, and I feel, through this avenue, I’ll be able to better understand and communicate our rivers’ issues,” Katy said. “I’m looking forward to the transition, continuing to work in the Lower Neuse, and diving more into my scientific background.”

“We’re excited for the move,” Heather said. “Sound Rivers will continue our presence on the Lower Neuse and, with the addition of Sam, be adding a strong voice for the entire watershed.”