May 19, 2020
Georgia Parham, 812-593-8501 Georgia_Parham@fws.gov
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honors midwest endangered species recovery champions
2019 Endangered Species Recovery champions Rich Baker and Tamara Smith.
We at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are pleased to announce biologists Rich Baker and Tamara Smith as the 2019 Endangered Species Recovery champions for the Great Lakes Region. Baker and Smith join individuals and teams across the United States recognized for their work last year with endangered and threatened species.
Rich Baker, recently retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, won the recovery champion award for his years of work on behalf of imperiled species in Minnesota. Baker created and led multiple field surveys and research projects, moving the needle toward recovery for listed butterflies, bats, freshwater mussels and fish.
“Throughout his distinguished career, Rich Baker has been a fierce defender and a committed advocate for some of Minnesota’s most imperiled species,” said Charlie Wooley, the Service’s Great Lakes regional director. “Rich is a trusted colleague and a true leader in the recovery of threatened and endangered species native to Minnesota.”
During more than three decades with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Baker launched and led multiple field surveys and research projects. His work shed light on the steep declines in prairie species occurring within Minnesota and surrounding states. Baker also worked to secure more than $1 million from Minnesota’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to monitor northern long-eared bats. His research fostered crucial conservation partnerships whose efforts helped pinpoint roost locations for the threatened bat.
Tamara Smith, wildlife biologist with our Minnesota-Wisconsin Ecological Services Field Office, also received the 2019 recovery champion award. Smith leads or supports a range of efforts to stave off extinction for species like the rusty patched bumble bee, Poweshiek skipperling (a prairie butterfly) and freshwater mussels.
“Her drive to seek new conservation and recovery opportunities, and the generous donation of her time and talent with other Service staff, as well as domestic and international partners, make Tamara a model for true conservation leadership and well deserving of this award,” Wooley said.
Smith’s efforts to develop a status assessment for the rusty patched bumble bee led to listing the species as endangered in 2017. She also spearheaded a prairie butterfly conservation meeting that resulted in a reintroduction plan for the endangered Poweshiek skipperling and wild release of the first captive-reared skipperlings in 2018. Smith has also made significant contributions to freshwater mussel recovery in Minnesota and Wisconsin rivers, working to advance recovery of species like the winged mapleleaf, Higgins eye pearlymussel, and spectaclecase.
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 non-Service partners as well, recognizing their essential role in the recovery of threatened and endangered species.