Newsroom Midwest Region

News Release
March 26, 2010

Contact:  Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203

Midwesterners Receive National Endangered Species Recovery Champion Awards

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould today announced the 18 recipients of the 2009 Recovery Champion award.  Among them are the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin; two Ohio conservationists working with the threatened Lake Erie watersnake; and a Service biologist who encouraged Iowa landowners to create and conserve habitat for the endangered Topeka shiner.

The Recovery Champion award recognizes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and their partners for contributions to the recovery of threatened and endangered species in the United States.   Recognized from the Midwest for their work in 2009 were Dr. George Archibald and staff of the International Crane Foundation; Kristin Stanford and Dr. Richard King of Northern Illinois University; and Kraig McPeek, Service Private Lands biologist.

“The Recovery Champion award both recognizes the exceptional conservation accomplishments of its honorees and highlights the importance of strong and diverse partnerships in species conservation,” said Gould.  “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.”

International Crane Foundation staff, and founder George Archibald, were recognized for their successful efforts to increase the captive population of the endangered whooping crane, and for developing innovative techniques rearing cranes in captivity for release without human imprinting.  The Foundation has been a key player in the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, which is establishing a population of whooping cranes in the eastern United States through teaching young whoopers migrating routes by following ultralight aircraft.

“As part of the partnership, ICF has helped create a flock of more than 85 whooping cranes that migrate between Wisconsin and Florida,” said the Service’s Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius.  “Their efforts are far-reaching – not just in the eastern states but throughout the entire whooping crane recovery program.”

Stanford and King received the Recovery Champion Award for their combined 35 years of work to conserve the threatened Lake Erie watersnake.  King’s studies, which began in the 1980s, identified early population declines and threats to the species.  Stanford, known as “The Snake Lady,” has worked tirelessly to reach out to residents of the Lake Erie islands where the snake is found, to provide an understanding of the snake’s needs and to build support for its conservation.

“The dedication of Ms. Stanford and Dr. King to the conservation of the Lake Erie watersnake, through both scientific methods and strong public involvement, has recovery efforts for this species to the point that the next step is  to propose removing it from the list of endangered and threatened species.  There is no greater measure of recovery success,” said Melius.

McPeek, now the Service’s Private Lands Coordinator for  Ohio, was recognized for his efforts in Iowa to recover the Topeka shiner, an endangered fish.  From 2005 to 2009, McPeek was instrumental facilitating restoration of almost 40 off-channel oxbows in habitats for the shiner.  McPeek’s design for restored habitats had almost immediate results: follow-up surveys showed young Topeka shiners where none had previously occurred.  Just as important were McPeek’s strong efforts to recruit large numbers of landowners who participated in shiner restoration efforts in Iowa’s North Raccoon River watershed.

“Kraig always goes the extra mile for the resource and for the landowners who made this habitat restoration effort so successful,” Melius said. “Kraig and his work are making huge contributions toward improving the Topeka shiner’s status and habitat in Iowa.”  

All the 2009 Recovery Champion honorees are working across the nation 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.   

For additional information, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Champion website at:


Photo by R. King

Photo by K. Stanford

Photo by ICF - George dancing with whooper


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