Bill McCoy Recognized with Hoosier Wildlife Award
Refuge Manager Bill McCoy was honored with the 2014 Hoosier Wildlife Award at the Indiana Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s spring meeting. McCoy has worked at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Erie National Wildlife Refuge, and Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. McCoy is currently the Refuge Manager at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area and was instrumental in its establishment in 1994.
McCoy is the force that built the Patoka River from the idea of a potential wildlife haven to the reality of an 8,500 acre (and growing) refuge that contains some of the last remaining bottomland hardwoods in Indiana. He shows the local community that the habitats along Patoka River are indeed important, interesting, and above all worth saving. McCoy is very creative when tackling a problem, and if something does not work, he will try another approach. He continues to build trust and garner support from once adamant critics of the refuge. This may be due to his eternal optimism and McCoy’s undying belief that he can accomplish whatever needs to be done in spite of all the obstacles that stand in the way.
McCoy is the master of partnerships and has forged countless relationships with a variety of organizations ranging from government to non-profits to international corporations to help add land to the refuge. Some of the most significant partnerships are with Ducks Unlimited, Duke Energy, Sycamore Land Trust, Izaak Walton League, Purdue University, McCormick Farms, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Each partnership is unique; Ducks Unlimited has helped add thousands of acres to the refuge through awards from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant proposals. McCoy’s partnership with Duke Energy helped with the establishment of Cane Ridge Wildlife Management Area near Duke’s Gibson Power Plant, even though the property is more than 20 miles outside of the original refuge acquisition boundary. Now Duke Energy is the foremost partner in the protection of the federally endangered interior least tern that nests there. The partnership that McCoy has created with Sycamore Land Trust allowed the fast acting non-profit to quickly purchase 1500 acres that were in danger of being sold and developed.
McCoy does not stop once the land is purchased; typically 50% of the acreage needs active restoration of habitat. Bill develops innovative partnerships for funding to restore forests, wetlands and prairie restorations, from North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants and partnerships with Duke Energy for carbon credits to plant trees on the refuge.
McCoy’s conservation ethic is not limited to Patoka River, it spans well beyond the refuge boundaries. He was one of the true believers that kept pushing until Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, now Indiana Department of Natural Resources owned, became a reality. McCoy also was influential in the project that has become Tern Bar Slough Wildlife Management Area, a 1,000 acre mosaic of wetland, forest, and prairie restoration, along with a tern nesting island.
As a citizen, McCoy has been a part of numerous groups to raise awareness about topics ranging from acid mine drainage to air quality. McCoy’s efforts encouraged the Abandoned Minelands Program to focus their efforts on cleaning up acid water leaching from the headwaters of the South Fork Patoka River. The South Fork had been completely devoid of life for more than 50 years, within the past 15 years life has returned and it now contains a viable fishery and river otters.
McCoy continues to share his conservation ethic with others and is always there to listen and to offer advice on how to make other people’s conservation dreams become reality.
By Dr. Joe Robb