Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Thanks, and Signing Off

As of December, 2011, I am no longer working for Save The Bay. After 18 years as your Narragansett Baykeeper, I have accepted a new position as Director of Ocean and Coastal Conservation at the Rhode Island Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for having had this opportunity to serve you as Baykeeper. My time with Save The Bay has been extraordinary in every respect. I look forward to continuing this important work from my new post.

Together, we have accomplished so much to clean up the Bay and rivers and return them to their rightful owners- the people who love them- to use safely and with peace of mind. And while we've come so far, the job is never done.

Below, I am re-posting the Providence Journal story by Richard Salit on my job change. I do this not just because the story is flattering, but because I think Rich tells the story better than I ever could.

Thanks. And please stay in touch. Love, JT



Torgan moves to Nature Conservancy

He’ll join conservancy as director of ocean and coastal conservation efforts


John Torgan had been with Save The Bay for only two years when a stormy January night
in 1996 brought him out to Point Judith in the early hours of the North Cape oil

Coast Guard crews were scrambling about in oil-smeared clothing. The governor arrived
to deal with the unfolding crisis. And the media was in a frenzy covering the
chaotic scene.

Reporters looking to interview experts turned to the 26-year-old Torgan, the lone Save The
Bay official present at that point.

“I had to do it by myself,” recalled Torgan. “The next day I was on TV around the

Ever since, Torgan has remained one of the most visible advocates for the marine
environment in Rhode Island. Only now, 18 years after joining Save The Bay, is
he stepping down from the high-profile Baykeeper post that he has held for most
of his time at the environmental organization.

“It’s the greatest job in the world for the right person,” said Torgan, 42. “But it’s
not all fun. It can be very contentious. I am Save The Bay’s front line. Being
the point of a spear can be a difficult place to be.”

But Torgan isn’t giving up on his passion for the water a
passion inspired in his youth fishing with his dad on the Bay and taking summer jobs on
charter fishing boats, in a fish-processing plant and on Block Island. On Dec.
5, he’ll begin working in Providence for the Rhode Island chapter of The Nature
Conservancy, serving as its director of ocean and coastal conservation.

“It’s a global organization, and there are amazing offices and amazing people all around
the world,” Torgan said. That stature, he said, will allow him to elevate his
pursuits “to a new level and look beyond Narragansett Bay to coastal waters and
the ocean and neighboring states and the region.”

His departure, announced last week, gave him an opportunity to reflect on the
accomplishments he took part in at Save The Bay over the years.

The North Cape oil-barge tragedy spurred Save The Bay to lead a successful drive to
toughen Rhode Island’s oil-shipping laws, which remained in effect until federal
standards caught up with them, Torgan said.

Torgan also waged a campaign to force the Brayton Point Power Station to minimize its
impact on Mount Hope Bay, resulting in a cooling system that relied not on Bay
waters but a new pair of $600-million towers. He advocated for combined
sewer-overflow improvements to reduce raw sewage from being dumped into the Bay
during heavy rains.

And he fought efforts to create a deep-water port at Quonset Point and a liquefied
natural gas (LNG) terminal in Fall River.

Despite being the Baykeeper, Torgan sought to broaden the agency’s Bay-oriented focus to
include inland rivers, the ocean and coastal waters. Since they are all
connected, he said, “you are only shoveling against the tide” when you try to
improve one without addressing the others.

That’s why he helped establish a Coastkeeper staff in Westerly to monitor the South
County coastline and why Save The Bay has been addressing storm-water runoff
that carries pollutants into local waters.

“He really embodies the mission of Save The Bay. When I think about John, I think
about this great combination of knowledge and passion for protecting
Narragansett Bay,” said Christopher “Topher” Hamblett, a longtime Save The Bay
staff member who now serves as a policy director. “He loves to share that
knowledge with staff and volunteers.”

Hamblett also credited Torgan with working well with coalitions on very contentious

At The Nature Conservancy (where he replaces Kevin Essington), Torgan expects that he
and his staff will concentrate on developing strategies and programs to prepare
for climate change, sea-level rise and proposals for renewable-energy projects.
Another priority is protecting marine life, including the shellfish-restoration
project the Conservancy administers with funds from the North Cape spill.

“What I am doing with The Nature Conservancy is an expansion of what I do with Save The
Bay,” said Torgan. “It’s a natural and graceful transition ... that allows me to
stay true to my values.… Change is good for organizations and individuals.”

In fact, he said, he has been assuring colleagues at Save The Bay and elsewhere in the
environmental community that he is not going away.

“I’m going to be here with you,” he tells them. “We are going to work together. I’m
not disappearing.”


(401) 277-7467
Save The
Bay’s baykeeper, John Torgan, shown holding a blue crab in August 2010, will
broaden his concerns beyond the waters of Narragansett Bay as a director of The
Nature Conservancy.

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