U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces National and Regional Endangered Species Recovery Champion Awards
John Fridell. Credit: USFWS
Carolina Heelsplitter. Credit: USFWS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2010
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould today announced the 18 recipients of the Service’s 2009 Recovery Champion awards. The Recovery Champion awards recognize Service employees and their partners who contribute to the recovery of federally-listed threatened and endangered species
Three Southeastern leaders in conservation are being honored for their work.
- John Fridell of the Service’s Asheville, North Carolina, Ecological Services Field Office has been named a Champion for his contributions toward the recovery of federally-listed mussels, fish, and snail.
- The Plant Ecology Lab at Archbold Biological Station in Venus, Florida, has earned a Champion award for its work with endangered scrub plants and habitats on Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge
- The International Crane Foundation (ICF) in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and its founder George Archibald received recognition for pioneering work toward the establishment of a non-migratory whooping crane flock in Florida and the reintroduction of a migratory flock into the crane’s former range within the eastern United States.
The Plant Ecology Lab at Archbold Biological Station . Credit: USFWS
“The Recovery Champion awards both recognize the exceptional conservation accomplishments of the honorees and highlight the importance of strong and diverse partnerships in species conservation,” Gould said. “Recovery Champions are helping imperiled species regain their place in the natural resources fabric of our country while focusing attention on the importance of conserving our nation’s biological heritage for future generations.”
The 2009 Recovery Champion honorees are working to benefit a range of endangered and threatened plants and animals. From whooping cranes to mussels, Service employees and partners such as universities, conservation agencies, and private organizations are devoting their resources to a shared mission. Habitat restoration, public awareness campaigns, and species’ monitoring programs are just a few examples of this year’s Recovery Champion honorees’ efforts.
“The Southeast Region’s 2009 Recovery Champions achieved lasting contributions to endangered species recovery,” said Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director. “We are honored to recognize their proven track record for many years of dedicated stewardship, strong partnership skills, and in-depth knowledge that each of these champions has provided to endangered species recovery.”
Biologist John Fridell leads efforts to save two critically endangered mussels, the Carolina heelsplitter and the Tar River spinymussel. He partnered with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and North Carolina State University to propagate both species in captivity. He also works with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences researching the genetic health and distinctiveness of existing Carolina heelsplitter populations in preparation for reintroducing the species into suitable watersheds where it once lived. Thanks to recent survey work led by Fridell, the Green ramshorn snail -- a candidate species for federal listing -- was discovered in the wild for the first time in more than five years. The snail was previously only known to exist in captivity. Fridell also spearheaded efforts, to captively reproduce and reintroduce the Sicklefin redhorse fish -- another federal candidate for listing -- into its historic range in North Carolina.
George Archibald. Credit: The International Crane Foundation
Whooping Cranes. Credit: The International Crane Foundation
Since 1988, Archbold Biological Station’s Plant Ecology Lab has monitored the populations of 14 federally-listed plants found only on the Lake Wales Ridge. Particularly notable is the lab’s work with Florida ziziphus, an endangered spiny shrub. The lab researched the species’ life history and reproductive system, performed genetic analyses, and successfully reintroduced several plants in collaboration with state and federal partners. The plant lab also established a Florida ziziphus recovery team and gained the cooperation of five private land-owners who agreed to protect ziziphus populations on their land. They also helped establish a 160-acre Florida scrub restoration project on sites degraded by the invasive bahia grass pasture and poor-quality scrub. Additionally the plant lab and the Service often put on workshops about rare species and land management practices.
For more than 25 years, George Archibald and his staff at the International Crane Foundation have worked toward the recovery of the whooping crane, federally-listed as endangered. The foundation breeds cranes in captivity to release into the wild. Currently, 29 adult cranes, housed at the foundation’s Crane City in Wisconsin, continue to produce chicks. The foundation also pioneered “isolation rearing” and “costume rearing” techniques to raise captive cranes for release without imprinting on humans. Since 1993, the foundation has contributed cranes to a non-migratory flock in Florida. In 1999, the foundation joined in all of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership’s (WCEP) efforts to reintroduce whooping cranes back into the eastern United States. The foundation also helped WCEP develop a Direct Autumn Release method of releasing cranes able to learn the migration route from other cranes. So far, more than 100 whooping cranes are in the reintroduced, wild, eastern flock.
For additional information on the other award winners in the rest of the nation, please visit the Service’s Recovery Champion website at: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/recovery/champions/index.html
Southeast Region Recognizes Regional Endangered Species Recovery Champions
The Service also announced today eight regional Recovery Champions for the Southeast. (Photos below.)
Bob Butler is the lead recovery biologist for the pink mucket and seven other species of mussels with the Asheville Ecological Services Field Office, Asheville, N.C. He has long been a leader in aquatic conservation efforts crossing state and regional boundaries. For several years, Butler led the Ohio River Valley Mussel Group, coordinating and guiding mussel conservation from Alabama to Ohio. With the group, Butler recently led the development of a mussel restoration plan for the Cumberlandian region which includes 57 mussel species, 25 snail species, and dozens of potential stream restoration sites across five states. He also helped key partners - Conservation Fisheries, Inc. and Virginia Tech - secure funding to captively propagate mussels and fish.
Carolyn Wells is the lead recovery biologist for twelve plants in the Asheville Ecological Services Field Office, Asheville, N.C. Wells has been an aggressive advocate of standardized and regular monitoring of key plant species. Across the Blue Ridge Mountains, two areas stand out for their concentrations of imperiled species, especially plants – Southern Appalachian bogs and the high elevation communities found on the tops of the highest mountains in the eastern United States. She guides and advises field biologists from a variety of organizations to recover federally listed plants in these and other habitats.
Chris Belden is the lead recovery biologist for the Florida panther in the Service’s South Florida Ecological Services Field Office in Vero Beach, Florida. Joining the Service in 2005, he brought his impressive 30 years of experience with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission with him and has achieved measurable conservation goals that will have lasting benefits for the Florida panther and its habitat. His scientific contributions supported conservation efforts for the Florida panther in South Florida and his strong working relationships with panther conservation partners are unmatched.
Tom Augspurger is a biologist with the Raleigh Ecological Services Field Office, Raleigh, North Carolina. He helped secure over $250,000 to investigate the Tar spiny mussel’s sensitivity to pollution. Augspurger made significant advances to the species recovery with his leadership of the office’s Tar spiny mussel conservation team working with the critically imperiled mussel. He is fostering conservation actions by working with local governments to proactively address Little River corridor protection to mitigate future reservoir construction impacts.
Richard LeBlond is a retired botanist and volunteer with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Richlands, N.C. He first collected the golden sedge in 1990, recognizing it was distinct from other sedges known from the southeastern United States. He described it as a new species in 1994, and it was subsequently listed by the Service as an endangered species in 2002. He has led important conservation efforts to educate others about the species, find new populations, protect habitat where it occurs, and restore habitat in areas that have been degraded.
Hervey McIver, a protection specialist with The Nature Conservancy’s North Carolina Chapter Office, Durham, N.C., has worked closely with Richard LeBlond, a retired botanist with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, to protect important habitat for golden sedge, Cooley’s meadowrue, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and many other rare species. During his 12 years with The Nature Conservancy, he worked to protect land on the North Carolina coastal plain. With his unique combination of skills, background and work experience, he bridges the gap between conservation interests, private landowners, funding sources, and government agencies.
Kevin Mooney, the Florida projects manager for the Trust for Public Land in Tallahassee, Florida, works to acquire lands to promote the recovery of two subspecies of endangered beach mice, four species of nesting sea turtles, and non-breeding piping plovers along the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast. Along with helping the Service, Mooney also works with local governments to secure and manage lands for endangered species and provide passive public recreation opportunities. He was instrumental in protecting three parcels with nearly seven acres of beach and dune habitat at Walton County Preserve, Garfield Beach Access and Perdido Key County Preserv
Scott Belfit is the endangered species program manager for the Department of the Army in Washington, D.C. He plays a key role in almost every effort to stabilize and conserve listed species at Army installations across the United States. He was a key member of an Army team convened to develop, and subsequently revise, the science-based Guidelines for Management of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers on Army Installations, which standardized management and conservation measures at Army installations across the entire southeastern United States including major training installations such as Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, and Fort Polk in Louisiana. For the past 15 years, he has helped resolve conflicts between military training and endangered species recovery by developing innovative and successful collaborative conservation approaches that are now models for Army installations across the country.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people, visit http://www.fws.gov/ or http://www.fws.gov/southeast/.