May 5, 2003
Washington D.C. - In a special award ceremony today in Washington, D.C., Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management, and Budget, presented a Department of the Interior Customer Service Excellence Award to Randy Cook representing the staff of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s West Tennessee Refuge Complex in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Refuge staff received the award for involving federal and state agencies, educational institutions, businesses, private landowners, and community organizations in developing a comprehensive conservation plan for 6 million acres and dozens of bird and fish species.
“By seeking the expertise of their western Tennessee community, the staff of the Western Tennessee Refuges have forged a strong and lasting partnership to achieve a landscape-level plan for habitat and species conservation,” said Scarlett. “Their work establishes a precedent for other communities to follow and is a perfect example of Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s four C’s --communication, consultation, and cooperation, all in the service of conservation.”
“West Tennessee Refuge Complex Project Leader Randy Cook and his staff have demonstrated the best of what can be achieved by a citizen-centered government focused on improving the management of natural resources,” continued Scarlett.
Recognized on the award certificate were Cook; Rob Martin, West Tennessee Refuges’ natural resources planner; Aaron Johnson, former West Tennessee Refuges’ operations specialist. Donald Orr, supervisory wildlife biologist for the Division of Migratory Birds; and Marvin Nichols, refuge leader for Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge in Brownsville, Tennessee.
These employees, along with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Director Gary Myers and staff, served as members of a core planning group which spearheaded the initiative for the development of a biologically-driven conservation planning process. This initiative is focused on the habitat needs of fish and wildlife in west Tennessee, including 599,000 ducks and 61,000 Canada geese. It involves a multiple species approach including waterfowl, shorebirds, migratory landbirds, big game, reptiles and amphibians, fish, farm wildlife, and mammals. Several federally-listed migratory bird species will benefit including the threatened bald eagle and the endangered interior least tern. The endangered pallid sturgeon will also benefit, as well as songbirds such as the cerulean warbler and the swallow-tailed kite.
Also included in the west Tennessee conservation plan are assessments and recommendations for increasing compatible wildlife-related public use opportunities, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography, environmental education, and interpretation. Collaborative State-federal strategies for increasing public use facilities for these activities are included.
“We are very proud of the ongoing progress that people in west Tennessee are accomplishing,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Their vision may inspire other communities to work together to conserve their natural resources.”
More than 75 representatives from many agencies and organizations shared their talents and expertise to develop the conservation plan. Among them were individuals from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee State Parks, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other included The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, the Reelfoot Lake Tourism Council, the Tennessee Ornithological Society, The Anderson Tully Company, and the Friends of West Tennessee National Wildlife Refuges. College professors from the University of Tennessee at Martin, the University of Memphis, and Dyersburg State Community College also participated, along with many county commissioners, private landowners, farmers, business people and sportsmen from the community.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 541 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
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