Since 1999, the John V. Kabler Award has been bestowed on someone who has worked to organize and educate the public and generate grassroots support for Everglades restoration.
John Kabler's activism began in 1979 when he learned of government plans to dump contaminated wastewater from the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident into the Susquehanna River. Kabler gathered signatures on petitions and spoke at rallies to halt the plan. In 1980 he was hired by Clean Water Action, where he subsequently headed chapters in Maryland and Virginia, and was named its southeast regional director. His devotion to nurturing other activists and new organizations led him to found and direct local environmental programs in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
His tactics included sending staff door-to-door to educate the public about the politics of clean water. He monitored legislatures and published voting charts to track support for environmental bills and was one of the first environmental leaders to form alliances with organized labor. He played a crucial role in pushing politicians to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
In the late 1980s, when the environmental restoration community asked Clean Water Action to help organize support in Dade County, he became involved in Everglades issues. He met with Brien Culhane, Charles Lee, Joe Browder, Jim Webb, Theresa Woody and George Barley to design a grassroots campaign to reinforce the environmental community's political work. When Clean Water's hard-hitting campaigns made some state and federal leaders uncomfortable, it was John who defended Clean Water's people against personal attacks from politicians in West Palm Beach, Tallahassee and Washington.