U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Honors Partners’ Outstanding Efforts with 2009 Regional Director’s Conservation Awards
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 5, 2009
Tom Mackenzie, Tom_MacKenzie@fws.gov, 404/679-7291
It has been almost four years since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the nation’s Gulf coast.
Since then, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Environmental Resources and Services group, headquartered in Muscle Shoals, Alabama helped restore canal systems, roads, levees, pumping stations and water control structures on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuges hit by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. Because of this group’s efforts, visitors are able to visit these refuges and observe wildlife from new or repaired parking lots, observation towers, trails, or boardwalks. Habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife is protected by new or repaired water control structures and pumping stations.
For their efforts, Paul LaPointe and the TVA Environmental Resources and Services group were among 18 partners honored with Southeast Regional Director’s Conservation Awards by Sam D. Hamilton, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southeast Regional Director. The awards were presented in Atlanta today.
“The Service accomplishes its conservation work with the help of many, diverse partners,” said Hamilton. Their assistance takes many forms - - everything from teaching a kid to fish to helping save entire ecosystems. All contributions are valuable.”
Other conservation partners of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service receiving awards included:
The Alabama Department of Conservation, Montgomery: Stanley Cook, chief of the Fisheries Section, William Nichols, assistant chief of the Fisheries Section, and Paul Johnson, director of the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center led the establishment of the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center in Marion, Alabama. The Center conducts research and cares for rare aquatic species. Life history and habitat information developed at Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center is essential for aquatic habitat protection and restoration. The Center’s hatchery progeny will be used to re-establish and expand the ranges of species most vulnerable to drought, spills, and other random events, including the effects of climate change. The Center’s staff also developed comprehensive propagation plans for more than 130 imperiled aquatic mollusks of the Mobile Basin and Cumberlandian Region.
The Alabama Department of Transportation, Montgomery: D.J. McInnes, Montgomery director, John Shill, Montgomery assistant environmental coordinator, and Vincent Calametti, P.E., Division engineer, 9th Division, Mobile, led the establishment of an 800-acre conservation bank for the threatened gopher tortoise and a protective fence along the Mobile Bay Causeway (U.S. Highway 90) to exclude endangered Alabama red-bellied turtles from the roadway. Since the fence was installed by the fall of 2008, red-bellied turtle mortality decreased 75 percent. More than 100 gopher tortoises have been moved to the conservation bank, and the population is healthy and reproducing.
Dr. Maurice Mettee, PhD, senior scientist, Biological Systems, Geological Survey of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Dr. Mettee, PhD, recently supported and conducted fish passage studies on the Alabama River. During, his 35-year career, he also conducted research and published results on fish movements in the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, primarily for paddlefish and southeastern blue suckers. Dr. Mettee worked with the threatened Gulf sturgeon and conducted research on the endangered Okaloosa darter in northwest Florida. He published the Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile River Basin.
Luke Naylor, waterfowl biologist, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Little Rock, Arkansas: Naylor spearheaded the Commission’s wood duck banding efforts. Since 2001, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission banded 8,500 birds. The wood duck is the Southeast’s most common breeding duck, and banding is critical to its continued conservation.
Anngeolace Blue-McLean, Friends of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Crystal River, Florida: Anngeolace Blue-McLean led the efforts of the Refuge complex’s Friends group. This group of volunteers established a Friends Group for the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges Complex, including Egmont Key, Passage Key, and Pinellas National Wildlife Refuges. The Friends also secured a grant from the Lastinger Foundation for $152,000 to provide land base access to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, and is helping to develop public use facilities on the refuge. In addition, the Friends group is leading the effort to acquire the 57-acre, Three Sisters Springs Property which is planned for the Crystal River Refuge.
Avian Reconditioning Center, Apopka Florida: Scott and Carol McCorkle reach more than 10 thousand people annually by providing educational programs featuring live hawks, falcons, kites, owls and eagles. The Center assisted the Service in evaluating a bald eagle for possible release to the wild that had been previously considered non-releasable and was in captivity for over five years. The eagle was successfully released into the wild after more than six months of reconditioning in a gradual release program.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Division of Law Enforcement, North Central Region: Captain John Burton and his staff assisted the Service’s manatee protection efforts during the 2007-2008 manatee season when the Service had some law enforcement staff vacancies. The Commission provided two officers each in the Kings Bay and Homosassa River areas. During busy week-ends, it also detailed officers from other counties who normally patrolled state waters offshore. These efforts ensured manatees received protection in their wintering areas.
Kenneth Haddad, executive director, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Haddad provides leadership and support for Service projects, such as the Manatee Forum, bald eagle management, the Interagency Florida Panther Response Team, Manatee law enforcement efforts, and the Southeast Aquatic Resources Partnership. He coordinates with the Service on such responsibilities as permit reviews, strategies for species management, and the joining of state and federal resource priorities.
Terrence Salt, former senior advisor to the Secretary of the Interior on Everglades Restoration, Miami, Florida: Salt has worked for over two decades on large landscape scale restoration projects in South Florida. His experience enhanced the Department’s leadership role in Everglades Restoration and allowed the Service to achieve maximum conservation benefits for trust resources including Refuge lands, threatened and endangered species, wetlands, migratory birds, and fisheries. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan program consists of 68 integrated water management features affecting more than 13 million acres in south Florida. Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan’s overarching purpose is to restore the south Florida ecosystem while addressing water-related needs for south Florida’s growing population. Salt’s guidance consistently provided on-the-ground benefits for fish and wildlife resources. A retired Army Colonel with over 30 years of military service, Salt now serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army overseeing civil works projects.
Matt Van Paepeghem, president and owner of WenMarr Management Company, Fairburn, Georgia: Paepeghem, supports the Service’s programs by teaching children how to fish. He provided food, prizes, raffle items, as well as other invaluable services and goods to the Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery’s Kids Fish for Fun days, and the Big Brother and Big Sister Atlanta Chapter fishing event. Paepeghem also heads and is a major contributor to the Camp Sunshine Bassmaster Tournament. This past year’s event generated more than $75,000 to provide services to children with cancer.
U.S. Army Garrison, Natural Resources Branch, Fort Gordon, Georgia: Biologists Kenneth Boyd, Allen Braswell, Steve Camp, and Robert Drumm implemented an intensive red-cockaded woodpecker and longleaf pine ecosystem restoration on Fort Gordon resulting in an increase of its red-cockaded woodpecker population from zero birds in 1990 to about 40 birds by 2009 and restoration of over 2,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Atlanta and Washington D.C. Offices: Tanya Code, and Palmer Hough of the Washington D.C. Office and Tom Welborn, Jim Giattina, and Bill Ainslie, of the Atlanta Office showed the detrimental effects that the Yazoo Pumps project would have had on the lower Mississippi Delta eco-region. On August 31, 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency issued its Final Determination and vetoed the Yazoo Pumps project. The Final Determination means continued protection of at least 67,000 acres of forested wetlands and many species of fish and wildlife. Additionally, four National Wildlife Refuges located within the project area (Yazoo, Theodore Roosevelt, Panther Swamp, and Holt Collier) will continue to be able to be managed for wildlife.
American Airlines, Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas: Peter Dolara, senior vice president, Aimet Ardin, Jose Rucabado, Carlos Santana, Julio Sotero, and Minett Velez led efforts to build and donate 13 artificial nests for the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot’s Recovery Program. The staff also improved the design of the parrot nests to better withstand rough weather conditions. In addition, American Airlines also provided cameras powered by solar panels so biologists can continue to monitor reproduction with minimal disturbances to chicks and adults. The airline also helped the Service by transporting an injured hawksbill sea turtle -- at no cost -- from the U.S. Virgin Islands to a rehabilitation facility in Florida.
Josh Raglin, Brosnan Forest land manager, Norfolk Southern Corporation, Norfolk: Norfolk Southern recently donated a conservation easement to the Service on Brosnan Forest, a longleaf pine forest in South Carolina. The easement on Brosnan Forest constitutes the largest easement ever donated by a corporation in South Carolina history, perpetually protecting over 12,000 acres of forest, approximately half of which is in longleaf pine. Some of the trees are well over 100 years old. Also at Brosnan Forest, Norfolk Southern increased its red-cockaded woodpecker population from a baseline of 67 groups to more than over 80 groups. This population is thought to be the largest population on private land throughout the entire range of the red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Ducks Unlimited South Atlantic Field Office, North Charleston: Craig LeSchack and Billy Webster led Ducks Unlimited’s significant monetary contributions and in-kind services to Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. These efforts have led to the enhancement of eight managed wetlands (impoundments) totaling 1,429 acres and directly lead to a two to three fold increase in waterfowl use on the affected refuge wetlands.
Santee Cooper Public Service Authority, Moncks Corner: Santee Cooper supports the Santee National Wildlife Refuge through donations, professional expertise and resources, and efforts to expand the refuge’s boundary. The Authority’s actions include mitigating urban development, and directly participating in refuge programs, to include the refuge Wetland Management and Enhancement Review Team and the steering committee for the Santee Birding and Nature Festival.
Joseph Cole, resident agent-in-charge, Environmental Protection Agency, Knoxville, Tennessee: Cole heads The Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigations Division’s office in Knoxville, Tennessee. He partnered with the Service to create the Service’s first law enforcement field station in Knoxville, and included the Service in the East Tennessee Environmental Crimes Task Force. The Task Force, led by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, is responsible for detecting, investigating, and prosecuting major polluters of East Tennessee’s waterways. The Environment Protection Agency offered office space and support at no cost to the Service at its Knoxville Field Station. Together, Service and Environmental Protection Agency special agents have investigated several violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.