July 1, 2003
Ask MerRouge, LA., agri-businessman Elton Kennedy which is most important - farming or conserving the quality of the land and its wildlife, he'll tell you the wise stewardship of both is a win-win situation. After finishing high school, Kennedy began farming in the 1960s. He now manages or owns more than 150,000 acres in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. Yet, for more than 20 years, he has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to pioneer and maintain successful waterfowl and wetlands management techniques. For his efforts, Kennedy was honored today in Washington, D.C. as the national winner of the 2002 National Wetlands Conservation Award for an Individual Accomplishment.
"Elton Kennedy's style of land management illustrates the compatibility and profitability of good land stewardship," said Steve Williams, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "He is a hunter and an outdoorsman who has combined a love of wildlife with his keen business sense, and we are proud to have him as one of our partners."
In July 1990, John Turner, the Service Director at that time, created National and Regional National Wetland Conservation Awards to honor outstanding wetland restoration and protection accomplishments by individuals or groups in the private sector. In addition, to Kennedy's national award, the Southeast had two winners of Regional National Wetlands Conservation awards for 2002, both from Louisiana.
Chad Courville of the Ducks Unlimited Louisiana South Office in Lafayette was the Southeast Regional winner of a National Wetlands Conservation Award for his ongoing contributions toward restoring wetlands along the Louisiana Coast.
Entergy Corporation from New Orleans was Regional Runner-up for a National Wetlands Conservation Award. Partnering with The Conservation Fund, Entergy Corporation purchased 600 acres of farmland in the Red River floodplain of Natchitoches Parish and replanted it with bottomland hardwood trees. The land was then donated to the Service to establish the Red River National Wildlife Refuge.
Both the Regional and Regional Runner-up awards will be presented at a time and place to be announced.
For his pioneering model of wetlands conservation that combines farming and winter water management, national award winner Elton Kennedy is known throughout northeast Louisiana as a leader in waterfowl leases. His ground-breaking example of combining rice production and wetland wildlife habitat has resulted in the restoration of thousands of acres of cropland and has allowed for winter water management on farmland that was formerly dry during winter migration. His example is now being copied by other Louisiana landowners, and in 2002, Kennedy held and managed winter water on more than 30,000 acres of rice and soybean land in north Louisiana. His wetland management strategy has provided additional farm income and recreation for waterfowl enthusiasts, and has created before and after season waterfowl habitat for wading birds and shorebirds.
"Wetlands and wildlife conservation are very important and worthy causes," said Kennedy. "The best part about it is that we are saving the taxpayers money and restoring the land bringing marginal farmland back to its natural state."
Kennedy has worked closely with the Service in the growth and establishment of five National Wildlife Refuges: Lake Ophelia in Marksville; Upper Quachita in Farmerville; Black Bayou in Farmerville; Tensas River in Tallulah; and the new Red River National Wildlife Refuge in Natchitoches Parish. Working through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the Wetland Reserve Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program, Kennedy also helped reforest more than 4,000 acres of land, improving the water quality of the Tensas River and providing valuable wildlife corridor habitat for the Louisiana black bear and neotropical birds.
Kennedy's "wildlife first" land management philosophy is evident on his private land holdings. On his properties in Alabama and Oklahoma, he has reforested several hundred acres of former croplands and pastures, created food plots for wildlife, and controlled grazing. In west Texas on his 2,400-acre ranch, Kennedy has established food plots, salt licks and water holes for wildlife and reduced grazing. His ranch is considered a model for western wildlife management. On his property in Colorado, Kennedy, working with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, placed a conservation easement on more than 3,400 acres to preserve elk habitat for calving and winter grazing.
An active lobbyist for conservation easements and farm bill provisions, Kennedy is a member of Safari International, the Black Bear Conservation Committee, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. He is a life sponsor of Ducks Unlimited.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service is the principal federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses 541 national wildlife refuges, thousands of
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
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
state fish and wildlife agencies.
NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at http://southeast.fws.gov. Our national home page is at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases/.
Atlanta, GA 30345