Newsroom Midwest Region

May 20, 2016

Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service salutes Midwest champions for endangered species recovery

(left) The Neosho National Fish Hatchery team. Photo by USFWS. (right) Bob Hess with a Karner blue butterfly. Photo courtesy of Anna Hess.
The Neosho National Fish Hatchery team. Photo by USFWS.                             Bob Hess with a Karner blue butterfly. Photo courtesy of Anna Hess.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today recognized individuals and teams across the country for their exceptional efforts to conserve and protect the nation’s rarest fish, wildlife and plants by designating them 2015 Recovery Champions. Award winners honored for their work this year include a Wisconsin biologist and staff at Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Missouri.

"Conserving our nation's imperiled species is one of the toughest challenges of our time," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. "The recipients of this award have dedicated their lives to this task and we are eternally grateful for their tenacity, dedication and passion for safeguarding hundreds of species of native wildlife and the wild places they call home."

Robert J. Hess, recently retired from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, was honored for his efforts to conserve the federally endangered Karner blue butterfly in his role as the state’s recovery coordinator for the species for the past 9 years. Hess fostered support for the Karner blue in developing partnerships and coordinated Karner blue population monitoring at recovery properties across the state.  He also secured a number of habitat restoration grants, including a $500,000 State Wildlife Grant, which will support a 3-year collaborative effort to restore habitat for the Karner blue in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

Hess’ accomplishments include several publications with results from his collaborative research, including a publication in the Journal of Insect Conservation of research he conducted with his daughter, Anna, and state wildlife managers that revealed the link between habitat disturbances caused by American bison and improved habitat for the butterfly.

 “The work Mr. Hess has conducted in butterfly research and habitat restoration has directly contributed to an increase in available habitat and has led to increased Karner blue butterfly populations,” said Tom Melius, Midwest regional director for the Service. “His leadership in rallying support for the Karner blue recovery program has been crucial in raising awareness and support for the program.”

The Service also recognized staff at Neosho National Fish Hatchery in Missouri for their endangered species recovery work in the Midwest.  Members of the Neosho staff focus recovery efforts on endangered fish, including pallid sturgeon and, more recently, the Topeka shiner. Working in partnership with Missouri Department of Conservation, Neosho staff in 2015 successfully reared 3,100 endangered Topeka shiners, releasing 2,200 of them into the wild in Missouri. Neosho has also stocked nearly 57,000 pallid sturgeon in the Missouri and Mississippi river systems.

“Over the past 12 years, Neosho’s work and leadership on the pallid sturgeon and Topeka shiner have led to great strides in the recovery efforts for these endangered fish species,” Melius said.  “The staff’s experience and expertise in capturing wild broodstock, spawning and rearing these endangered species has proven to be priceless for Neosho National Fish Hatchery recovery efforts.”

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 2015 Recovery Champions, please visit:

More information on the Recovery Champion Awards is available at You can find information about Karner blue butterflies, Topeka shiners, pallid sturgeon and other endangered species in the Midwest at To learn more about Neosho National Fish Hatchery, visit