National Recovery Champions -- 2008
The Southeast Region celebrates the contributions and significant achievements of all of our nationally recognized Recovery Champions and regionally recognized Leaders in Recovery. We are grateful for their continued hard work and dedication to the recovery of endangered and threatened species.
As the Service’s National Sea Turtle Coordinator since 2000, Sandra MacPherson has served as a respected voice and major contributor to all substantive sea turtle conservation policies and management issues in the United States and its territories. While sea turtle conservation and recovery cannot be attributed to any one person, MacPherson has ensured that the Service provides strong, competent, and visible leadership. Her continuing efforts have enabled the leveraging of many partners’ efforts for the recovery of sea turtles throughout the southeastern United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As the owner of Rachel’s Lighting, Gradi Morgan has helped property owners and developers install sea turtle-friendly beach lighting, providing a model for ways that private citizens and business can make a positive difference for Florida’s endangered sea turtles. This initiative has improved conditions for nesting success for almost one quarter of all sea turtle nesting habitat in northwest Florida. Morgan’s work to educate others, her enthusiasm for sea turtles, and her willingness to provide lighting at a reasonable cost has allowed the Service, the State of Florida, and area partners to distribute information and make sea turtle lighting easily obtained by the general public.
Regional Leaders in Recovery
Chris, Endangered Species Coordinator for FWS in Conway, AR, has been working on landscape level recovery plans, some for multiple species for the past five years. This nomination is for his leadership role in developing a regional conservation plan involving Ft Chaffee, the Ouachita National Forest, the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, and private lands with state wildlife easements for the recovery of the American Burying Beetle (ABB). His vision is to build upon (expand) the ABB population at Ft. Chaffee onto private and public areas with suitable habitat. Ft. Chaffee has a large existing population that will be the core of the restoration effort. Chris has been instrumental in taking a leadership role in convincing the Forest Service to plan for ABB conservation. The national forests have small populations of ABB that have been monitored since the early 1990s, but they have not focused habitat management (restoration and preservation) as a means to recover ABB. Chris has made that apart of their forest management plans. That will allow ABB to expand their range from Ft. Chaffee, through the states quail management area and onto Forest Service lands. Chris has also obtained the support of the St. Louis Zoo, they will support the recovery actions with augmentation efforts, primarily through captive breeding and post-release monitoring on Forest Service lands. Chris also completed and started to sign property owners up on a Safe Harbor Agreement/Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (SHA/CCAA) in the Upper Little Red River basin. The agreement will help recover the Speckled pocketbook and the yellowcheek darter species. It was one of the first SHA/CCAAs that had multiple partner involvement- the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, USDA – Natural Resource Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy. He will begin another SHA/CCAA for additional species in the Upper Ouachita, Saline, and Caddo watershed.
Darren LeBlanc is a senior fish and wildlife biologist in the Endangered Species Program at the Alabama ES Field Office. Darren’s primary responsibilities involve section 7 consultations and incidental take permits for listed coastal species, especially the endangered Alabama beach mouse. ABM conservation activities, including consultations, permitting, and recovery efforts, have often been complicated by poor information on the subspecies’ status and distribution stemming from varying trapping methods and the general difficulty of determining the abundance and density of small mammals. Darren recognized these problems and decided to design and implement better trapping methods. Armed with a recent USGS report critiquing past trapping efforts and suggesting improvements for the future, Darren designed a rangewide trapping protocol for the subspecies. Working with researchers for the USGS and Harvard, he designed a 15-day trapping event, using both single line transects and more robust grid based sampling, that will allow the office to make statistically sound inferences beyond the areas trapped. After carefully designing the program, he organized its implementation. In early November 2007, Darren successfully implemented the continuous 15-day event with the help of other Service biologists from the Alabama Field Office, the Panama City Field Office, and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The trapping was wonderfully organized and “went off without a hitch,” thanks to his leadership and careful planning. Thanks to Darren we now have good information regarding current ABM status and distribution, and we will soon have new data regarding genetic diversity, all of which will be invaluable to beach mouse conservation planning and recovery. The Alabama ES Field Office plans on adopting Darren’s new protocol, or some variant thereof, for future ABM trapping efforts.
Karen Kilpatrick is a Fisheries Biologist at Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery. Karen is nominated for a Regional Leader in Recovery Award in appreciation of her efforts in endangered species conservation in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. We particularly want to recognize her efforts in founding the Lower Basin Work Group for pallid sturgeon recovery and the Louisiana Pearlshell Mussel Recovery Work Group. Her dedication and enthusiasm are an inspiration to us. Therefore, she is nominated for her work by her peers in FWS in both Louisiana and Mississippi.
Keith Bradley and The Institute for Regional Conservation (IRC) are active, integral parts of conservation efforts to protect listed and imperiled plant species in south Florida. As Assistant Director / Senior Biologist with IRC, Keith Bradley has provided steadfast assistance to the Service’s South Florida Ecological Services Office, the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex, the National Park Service, and Miami-Dade County. Over the past several years, he has led numerous projects to benefit listed and candidate species and imperiled habitats, working closely and cooperatively with stakeholders and private landowners.
The South Florida Ecological Service’s Office routinely relies upon Keith Bradley’s expertise regarding the current status of at least 12 federally listed plants and 14 federal candidate plants and their habitats. His work directly benefits the Service’s recovery efforts, and his regional conservation approach inspires varied stakeholders in south Florida. He has a talent for coordinating a wide array of rare species issues among a multitude of partners and landowners. His work with private landowners is particularly important because private lands are an essential component of recovery, and many landowners are hesitant to work with federal, State, or local government agencies.
Over the past four years, Lora has made an outstanding contribution towards Carolina heelsplitter conservation as well as other significant accomplishments with threatened and endangered species. Lora has taken a pro-active approach to working with many State, local and NGO partners along with the Asheville Field Office to address the significant threats facing the Carolina heelsplitter. Lora has continued to promote various mussel conservation activities while focusing extensive energy on collecting new and updated data on mussel occurrence across the state. She has actively participated in reviews of various commercial and residential developments, showing a willingness to work with developers, county and state partners to develop solutions for mussel conservation while providing for development interests. Her interest in protecting and restoring the endangered Carolina heelsplitter has led to the development of the first T&E species Conservation Bank in the Southeast; one that is support by Lancaster County and many development interests. The conservation guidelines that she has developed along with the Bank will continue to allow development interests to proceed and still be protective of mussels and other aquatic organisms. Lora was also instrumental in developing a new partnership with TNC, the State Heritage program and others to focus on protection of heelsplitter habitat in the 40-acre Rock watershed. Her efforts were critical in helping the partners secure a $1 million Recovery Land Acquisition Grant for the purchase of lands necessary to ensure protection of the species.
Lora helped develop the first ever mussel symposium for the Carolinas which has continued yearly and has broadened into this years Atlantic Slope mussel workshop with personnel from at least 5 states participating. She has also worked to secure funding from multiple sources to address a various species survey needs.
And, although Lora is a mussel biologist by training, she has actively contributed to other endangered, threatened and at risk plants resource needs including:
- Participated in monitoring and recovery efforts for the Rocky Shoals Spiderlily in the Congaree River. Lora helped develop survey methodology, participated in surveys, seed collection, and planting of propagated plants.
- Worked with Water and Sewer Districts and a big box developer to salvage 2 populations of Schweinitz's sunflower for relocation. This project did not have a federal nexus and would have otherwise destroyed the plants. One population had about 500 individuals and was moved to Andrew Jackson SP and the other had over 700 individuals and was used to augment one of our recovery populations on Anne Springs Close Greenway.
- Worked with DNR Heritage biologist and volunteers to relocate several hundred relict trillium from a site that was developed for a gas station in North Augusta. Also worked with Riverview County Park to protect a population of relict trillium found on their disk golf course. There was no federal nexus on either of those projects
Lora's many accomplishments stem from a strong emphasis on partnerships and cooperation and demonstrates the value and success of a proactive approach to conservation.
Melissa was instrumental in getting a significant grant for our multi-partner South Carolina Shorebird Project which has addressed some of the tasks in the Piping plover recovery plan. This grant and overall project design will serve as a conservation model for all states that have wintering piping plovers. At a time when Cape Romain was reducing staff, Melissa stepped up and volunteered to assist the Cape Romain NWR biologist conducting loggerhead sea turtle nest protection activities. In conjunction with the biologist, she also initiated a research project on Cape Romain to determine if the use of hatcheries is affecting sex ratios or nest success.
As a result of the multi-partner shorebird project, we have detected more piping plovers wintering in South Carolina and identified to population the majority of the banded birds. This information is extremely valuable because the birds are being detected on their breeding grounds and their wintering grounds which closes the gap for measuring when mortality occurs and where problems are. We have integrated outreach opportunities into this project via promotional items and brochures printed and a display made. The results of the research project on Cape Romain are extremely important to the resolution of a concern elative to nest relocation. Her work on nest relocation will help to determine if the use of hatcheries is affecting sex ratios or nest success. Nest productivity is calculated at the end of each season and is the most significant measure of the northern subpopulation status. This information will play an important role in the ongoing work on the loggerhead sea turtle recovery plan.
Ouachita National Forest and Ozark-St.Francis National Forests
The Ouachita National Forest and the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest have been working on a Conservation Plan for American Burying Beetle (ABB). This nomination is for their willingness to step up and take a leadership position for the recovery of the ABB. Both the national forests are currently developing a conservation plan. The conservation plan is intended to delineate specific areas of opportunity for management, research, inventory and monitoring, and education that should be addressed by natural resource managers and cooperators on the national forests. The conservation plan will eventually include significant progress towards maintaining and increasing ABB populations and habitat to assure that they remain a healthy functioning component of the National Forest lands in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The national forests currently have small populations of ABB that have been monitored since the early 1990s, but they have not focused habitat management (restoration and preservation) as a means to recover ABB. The Forest Service will develop effective means to protect (no net loss of optimum ABB habitat) and restore (provide a net annual increase of optimum suitable ABB habitat) habitats at important sites designated as ABB areas. They will enhance outreach efforts to improve dissemination of information to decision-makers and the public about issues relevant to conservation of ABB populations. The Forest Service has also worked with the St. Louis Zoo to release captive bred ABB and the post-release monitoring on Forest Service land.