Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Horne receives national Land Legacy Award
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Realty recognizes refuge complex project leader for his significant contributions to land protection

February 26, 2019


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

A view of wetlands and a mountain ridge at Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

A view of the Kittatinny Ridge at Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which Horne has helped to grow by working strategically with partners. Credit: Marilyn Kitchell/USFWS

Michael Horne, Project Leader for the Lenape National Wildlife Refuge Complex — encompassing refuge lands in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania —  has received the national Land Legacy Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Realty for significant contributions to land protection, amounting to 2,422 acres and counting.

“Mike has a way of making land-protection projects happen,” said Mark Maghini, Chief of Realty for the Northeast Region. “He’s got a great network of partners, and he is able to leverage those partnerships to help us to stretch our land-protection dollars further,” he said. In the past two years, 95 percent of the land acquisitions in Horne’s jurisdiction have been the result of donations or bargain sales.

But Horne’s land-protection portfolio is more than the sum its parts.

“He really has a vision for the possibilities that lands represent,” Maghini said, noting Horne’s forward-thinking acquisition of a former golf course adjacent to Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Within just a few months of the Cherry Valley deal closing, Horne had spearheaded initiatives to restore natural flow to a creek on the property, transform the fairways into habitat by planting warm-season grass species, and repurpose the golf cart paths to create ADA-accessible trails.

For Horne, that vision for the land is a direct reflection of the partnership that makes it happen. “We don’t draw lines in terms of agencies and organizations,” he said. “We are all part of one big team, and we work together to figure out how to make things work.”

When evaluating a potential acquisition, Horne looks for more than just conservation value. “I look for opportunities to connect partners to get meaningful work done, not only by protecting land and restoring habitat but also making it accessible to the public,” he said, pointing to a 60-acre acquisition last year that encompasses some farm fields and a section of Cherry Creek that has benefited from a diverse team of contributors.

“We have partners who specialize in finding funding, grant writing and competing for funds, doing on the ground habitat restoration, getting permits in place, telling the story, and engaging the public through public events,” Horne said. “Starting every project with an idea of how each partner will contribute is key to our success.”

As such, he considers the Land Legacy Award to be an affirmation of their shared accomplishments. “That’s not my award,” he said. “It recognizes everything we have gotten done on the ground by working together.”

Raised on a farm in central Pennsylvania, Horne’s conservation ethic has grown out of a personal connection to the land that enables him to relate with different constituents. “He is able to talk to people in their terms about what land acquisition is, and what it isn’t, and what it would mean to have a wildlife refuge as a neighbor,” Maghini said.

His ability to communicate with, and listen to, stakeholders was instrumental to the acquisition of the parcel establishing Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge in 2016 to protect shrubland and young-forest habitat in 10 target areas of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. Horne drew on the level of trust he’d developed over time with a town board to turn their initial concerns into support for this acquisition.

“Mike was integral to developing a relationship with the board, and explaining how a refuge could complement a town’s needs both for recreation and economic development,” Maghini said.

Horne was presented with the Land Legacy Award by the Service’s national Realty Chief Eric Alvarez, in a surprise event at Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters — located in the former golf course clubhouse — attended by staff, partners, and members of the refuge’s multiple Friends groups.

One of three awards established as part of the National Realty Awards Program in 2001, the Land Legacy Award recognizes Fish and Wildlife Service employees or volunteers outside of the Division of Realty for significant contributions to the Service’s land-protection mission. Horne is the second individual from the Northeast Region to earn this honor. Andrew French, manager of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, received the award in 2006.

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