This Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting Wonder Women in our Watershed currently making history by impacting the environment and communities within our James River watershed in positive and important ways.

We’ll be featuring four women whose work aligns with the four pillars of delivering our mission – Action, Advocacy, Appreciation, and Awareness.

This highlight is all about Advocacy (achieving policy changes to drive actions needed to protect the James and connect people to it) and the wonderful Jessica Sims! Not only does Jessica currently work for Appalachian Voices, she has been volunteering for JRA and raising her voice to protect the James for years. Read more about the difference she’s making advocating for our waterways, and her call to action for young women to get involved!

Tell us about your current role and how you incorporate the James River in your work.

I’m currently the Virginia Field Coordinator for Appalachian Voices, and my work centers around fighting fossil fuel projects that would harm Virginia communities and waterways. Before my time at AV, I’d spent a number of years working and volunteering on issues that impact our waterways like fracked-gas pipelines that would cross waterways like the James River, and the impacts of coal ash ponds, like in my home county of Chesterfield. I’ve had the privilege to work with communities around the state as they protect their water, and am currently supporting the amazing group Friends of Buckingham, who discovered a large-scale gold mining operation is intended for their county. After the welcome cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (which would have crossed the James River in Buckingham), potential gold mining and its byproducts present a new, unwelcome threat to local groundwater, personal wells, nearby tributaries and the James River. Friends of Buckingham, along with other partners, are helping get the word out about this issue, which could impact much of the James River watershed.

What originally sparked your passion for protecting our natural resources?

I was very lucky to grow up close to the James River, in Chesterfield County, and I’m from a family that is very interested in environmental issues, the sacredness of the natural world and preventing ecological harm. In youth, I saw what overdevelopment can do to a county’s water resources, I had access to a very impactful ecology course while in middle school and learned about water monitoring, and I got to spend time in and around the James River growing up. Over the years, I participated in a lot of very fun regional James River cleanups, which led me to becoming a proud James River Association “RiverRat,” monitoring a stretch of the James River in Goochland County. I first learned about the important work of the James River Association from my dad, Mike Sims – a fellow JRA River Rat!

Do you have any advice for young women who wish to make a difference for our environment, especially young women who see themselves underrepresented in the environmental field?

The environment needs you, your passion and talents! My advice is to research your own watershed and things that may be negatively impacting it, and reach out to organizations near you working on water quality issues. Look for free programming offered by those organizations, and come on out! There are so many ways to plug in and to focus on the relationships between communities and their local water resources, join the fight against fossil fuel infrastructure that negatively impacts Virginia waterbodies, and to connect directly with local rivers + streams – there is always an opportunity to help with cleanups.

What is your favorite thing to do on or around the river?

I love canoeing on the James with my Dad, and friends. Each trip is a chance to connect with and honor nature, and, to haul away garbage from the river.

We are so grateful to Jessica and all our women James Changers, and we know there are many other Wonder Women out there making a big difference for our waterways! Please share a story about a Wonder Woman you know by emailing us at, and we’ll share your story with our community!