River Sustainability Director, Cahaba River Society

— the application period for this position is now closed and the screening process is underway.

Birmingham, AL

Application Due December 9, 2020

Download a printable Job Description for River Sustainability Director

Position Summary: 

The River Sustainability Director leads the Cahaba River Society’s advocacy programs to protect and restore water quality, freshwater habitat, and drinking water to achieve our mission. The position’s focus is to lead the community to improve best practices design of urban development and strengthen water resource policies, regulations, management and compliance, while relying on, advancing, and communicating river science.  Reflecting values of Cahaba River Society, the River Sustainability Director uses a range of engagement methods, leading with collaboration and education.

About the Cahaba River Society:  

Founded in 1988, Cahaba River Society (CRS) leads our community to restore and protect the Cahaba River watershed and its rich diversity of life. The diverse lives depending on the Cahaba include the people of Birmingham and central Alabama as well as the River’s globally significant biodiversity of freshwater wildlife. The Cahaba, the heart of “America’s Amazon,” has more fish species per mile than any other river in North America and a similar rich diversity of other river life.  The Cahaba is a major source of the Birmingham area’s drinking water, and CRS’ service area – the “peopleshed” of those whose lives are affected by the River – is larger than the watershed, including Jefferson, Shelby, Bibb, Perry and Dallas County, stretching from Birmingham to the Black Belt.

Through collaboration, river restoration advocacy, and bringing people to the River for hands-on education, guided recreational opportunities, and volunteer stewardship projects, we have been building community support and making a lasting positive impact on the health of this valuable resource for over 30 years.

Core Functions:

  • Lead CRS strategy to promote Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development approaches towards becoming standard practice in development. Pursue policy and regulatory advocacy, best practices education, and watershed planning to reduce urban stormwater impacts, the leading cause of damage to Cahaba water quality, water supply, and habitat.
  • Evaluate specific development proposals and collaborate with developers, local government officials, and citizen interests, offering information and best practices to protect the ecological health of the Cahaba River, mitigate impacts to aquatic wildlife, and provide recreation access and habitat restoration.
  • Proactively seek and respond to policy and regulatory opportunities from federal, state, and local agencies on water quality issues, stormwater management practices, land use and development practices, the efficacy of agency regulations, or other policies to restore the Cahaba River.
  • Respond to pollution events (potential and ongoing) by investigating sources, notifying appropriate regulatory agencies, and working with responsible parties to address them.
  • Assure that policies, recommendations and decisions made by CRS are firmly seated in the best available science, and communicate river science to decision-makers and the public in ways that are engaging and translate clearly into policies and practices.
  • Assure that considerations of equity, diversity and inclusion inform policies, recommendations, and decisions made by CRS, our outreach to and collaboration with partners, and who we serve.
  • Communicate with the public and media and give presentations before decision-makers (for example, city councils, county commissions, agency staff, development professionals) and civic groups (Rotary Clubs, Garden Clubs, student groups) to build understanding and support for CRS’ vision and strategies for River restoration.

 Supporting Functions:

  • Support educational/recreational outings that highlight the qualities of the Cahaba River and build support among the public, youth and special interest groups. This requires reasonable facility in outdoor skills such as paddling, evaluating paddling hazards, and outdoor safety. See more under “Physical Requirements.”
  • Lead and participate in stream cleanup activities and streambank restoration efforts and support staff and Board to track restoration needs and effective methods.

Staff and Board relationships:

The River Sustainability Director is supervised by the Executive Director, and works collaboratively with the ED to develop strategies and approaches for the position’s focus areas.  All CRS staff members work closely with members of the CRS Board of Directors in their areas of expertise. This position provides staffing for committees of the Board of Directors, currently including Policy and Science Committees as lead staff, and as support staff for Stewardship, Education, and others. The River Sustainability Director is prepared to fulfill a wide variety of tasks to support other program areas in team with the staff, including youth and adult education, recreation, volunteer habitat restoration, and events. This position often supervises interns.


  • Undergraduate degree and 3 years of experience in fields related to environmental management/science/policy/law, environmental engineering, sustainable development, urban planning, landscape architecture, political science, natural resource management, or field biology is required. Advanced degree in one of these fields is desirable.
  • Strengths in strategic program development, collaboration, and self-directed work are essential.
  • Skills in research and in public speaking and written communications that are clear, visionary, convincing, and pitched for a range of audiences are essential.
  • A familiarity with the natural history of the Cahaba River, its aquatic wildlife, and urban impacts to freshwater systems is desirable.
  • Experience in local, state and federal government regulatory processes and governmental relations is desirable.
  • Ability to use GIS, currently Esri’s ArcMap software for map-making and analysis, is desirable.

Physical Requirements:

Investigation of pollution sources and support of educational, recreational, and stewardship outings requires an ability to carry and paddle a canoe and walk on uneven terrain and in a river. Capabilities to lead recreational outings are desirable, including ability to safely drive a pickup truck with a 10-haul canoe trailer, to ‘back’ the trailer if necessary, to load and unload 85 pound canoes with the help of a co-worker, conduct water rescues, or a willingness and ability to learn those skills, and a willingness to adopt outings-leadership practices that minimize injury risks to participants.

Salary and Benefits:

Salary is negotiable based on qualifications.  CRS pays full cost of single-rate health insurance, or this amount can be applied to family rate. Flexible work hours, generous vacation and leave policies.

Fair Labor Standards Act Status:

Exempt.  This a professional, salaried position with evening and weekend activities commonly required, offset by flexibility in required office time.

Applying for the Position: 

Send resume and cover letter telling us more about your qualifications and why working in this position and for this organization would be meaningful to you, By December 9, 2020, addressed to:   Beth Stewart, Executive Director, [email protected]. Questions about the position may also be sent there.  Applications may also be mailed to 2717 7th Avenue South, Suite 205, Birmingham, AL, 25233.

Non Discrimination Policy:

The Cahaba River Society is an equal opportunity employer. We will not discriminate and will take affirmative action measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment for any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, gender, gender identity or gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, age, religion (creed), disability, or military status.  We also will not discriminate in selection of volunteers and vendors or provision of services. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, clients, volunteers, contractors, vendors, and program partners.