US Fish & Wildlife Service 2017 Recovery Champions

Service celebrates contributions of staff and partners whose work advances the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals in the U.S.

By Pam Bierce
May 18, 2018

Sacramento, Calif.— On Endangered Species Day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service celebrates the contributions and achievements of our nationally recognized Recovery Champions. These dedicated individuals have devoted themselves to recovering endangered and threatened animals and plants.

For 2017, Connie Rutherford and Dr. Barbara Kus are the award winners for their efforts in the Pacific Southwest Region. 

“Dr. Barbara Kus and Connie Rutherford are true conservation heroes,” said Paul Souza, Director of the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region. “Their collaborative approach to finding solutions is an example for resource stewards looking to take positive steps toward recovering listed species.”

Connie Rutherford-U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office

A respected member of our Service family, Rutherford has worked for more than 30 years to recover dozens of federally listed plant species in central and Southern California.

Connie Rutherford. Credit: Chris Kofron/USFWS

Her leadership, professionalism, and commitment to collaboration helped foster highly-successful partnerships both within the Service, and with state and local partners.

Her decades-long, active engagement with the plant research and conservation community has enabled her to communicate directly with species experts to quickly address questions that contribute to the conservation of taxa in the region.

These relationships have been critical to help Service partners recognize what steps are needed to recover listed plant species.


Dr. Barbara Kus-USGS Western Ecological Research Center

Dr. Kus is recognized as a 2017 Recovery Champion for her leadership and contributions toward the recovery of the least Bell’s vireo.

Dr. Barbara Kus. Credit: Suellen Lynn/USFWS

Her research on the vireo over the past 30 years has guided effective restoration of its nesting habitat and the appropriate management of the brown-headed cowbird, a brood parasite.

Thanks in large part to her efforts, the vireo has responded vigorously to the improved nesting conditions in Southern California, and its population has increased roughly tenfold since the species was listed in 1986.

Kus’ research on the vireo and its habitat has been highly valuable to the Service and partner organizations, facilitating informed management decisions.

The Recovery Champion awards began in 2002 as a one-time recognition for Service staff members for their achievements in conserving listed species. However, in 2007 the program was expanded to honor Service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.


For information about the 2017 Recovery Champions, please visit: