of Interior Norton Announces Awards for Outstanding Service and Valor
at 62nd Awards Ceremony in Wasington, D.C.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton today announced awards being presented to three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees in the Southeast Region at the 62nd Department of Interior Honor Awards Convocation.
Roger L. Banks, retired Field Supervisor of the Charleston, South Carolina Ecological Services Office received a Distinguished Service Award, which is the highest honorary recognition an employee can receive within the Department of the Interior. It is granted for an outstanding contribution to science, outstanding skill or ability in the performance of duty, outstanding contribution made during an eminent career in the Department or any other exceptional contribution to the public service.
Ralph Costa, the Service’s red-cockaded woodpecker coordinator based at the Clemson, South Carolina Field Office and James J. Slack, Field Supervisor of the Vero Beach, Florida Field Office, each will receive a Meritorious Service Award. The Meritorious Service Award is the second highest honorary recognition granted to employees in the Department of the Interior. It is presented for an important contribution to science or management, a notable career, superior service in administration or in the execution of duties, or initiative in devising new and improved work methods and procedures.
Banks, who retired in from the Service in August 2003, will receive his Distinguished Service Award for his leadership in bringing people together from federal, state, and non-governmental organizations, as well as private landowners, in the interest of natural resource conservation. His efforts resulted in the protection of more than 200,000 acres of wetlands and other habitats in coastal South Carolina. One successful project led by Banks was the permanent protection of the nationally significant Sandy Island, setting aside over 17,000 acres of bottomland hardwood wetlands in the Waccamaw/Pee Dee Rivers Basin as mitigation for important South Carolina highway programs.
Costa will receive a Meritorious Service Award for his leadership in demonstrating that the recovery of the red-cockaded woodpecker is a national example of how endangered species management can work. Costa’s innovation and perseverance have enabled a diverse cadre of federal, state, and private landowners to forge a common vision for the recovery of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Through his guidance, military installations are now at the forefront of this species recovery in ways that are compatible with training necessary to assure national security. Today more than 23 percent of all red-cockaded woodpeckers are being managed at Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Fort Stewart, Georgia, and other military installations. Costa also has been instrumental in enabling private landowners to manage the red-cockaded woodpecker and other listed species, and he co-developed the Service’s safe harbor policy. The Service now has 139 private landowner partners, 347,439 acres of habitat, and 509 red-cockaded woodpecker groups in partnerships through safe harbor agreements, habitat conservation plans, and memoranda of agreement.
Slack will receive a Meritorious Service Award for his contributions to the restoration of the Everglades ecosystem. The greater Everglades ecosystem is one of the most diverse and species rich environments in the world and is home to 68 federally protected threatened and endangered species. Slack led the completion of a multi-species recovery plan to provide a road map identifying these species and their habitats. He assembled a multi-disciplinary team of the best scientists and managers to develop an implementation strategy. Slack also recruited more than 50 of the most highly qualified scientists and engineers from around the country to aid the Service and its partners in developing and implementing the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. This plan ensures that the recovery needs of the species are woven into all aspects of the greater Everglades restoration.
“Those being honored today have made all of us proud. They have gone beyond the decision to serve. They have made their choice their calling,” Secretary Norton remarked in opening the ceremony in the Sidney Yates Auditorium. “For some, the choice was made in a heartbeat. They stepped up into a firestorm or jumped into a rescue. Others spent decades in service: Doing more than required — or even desired — day after day, year after year.”
Secretary Norton lauded individuals from across all Interior agencies today including park rangers, geologists, firefighters, information managers and private citizens and volunteers who heeded the call of duty.
For more information on the Department Of Interior Awards Ceremony, please go to www.doi.gov
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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 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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