2012 Recovery Champions

Recovery Champions are U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and their partners whose work is advancing the recovery of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals.

Region 1

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Ginger Phalen
Curtis Tanner

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Recognizing the potential of National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants, Ginger Phalen and Curtis Tanner have shown leadership, teamwork, and initiative – with impressive results – protecting key Puget Sound habitats, including forests, in perpetuity especially benefiting the bull trout, marbled murrelet, and Chinook salmon. Among the partners is the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe. During the last 11 years, Ginger Phalen and Curtis Tanner have preserved and restored almost 9,400 acres of coastal habitats and, since 2006, an average of 30 percent of coastal grant funds has been directed to Washington projects!


Northern Spotted Owl Modeling Team, Pacific Northwest

Bob Anthony, Ph.D.
Oregon State University

Ray Davis
U.S. Forest Service

Katie Dugger, Ph.D.
Oregon State University

Jeffrey Dunk
Humboldt State University

Betsy Glenn, Ph.D.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

David LaPlante
Natural Resources Geospatial

Bruce Marcot, Ph.D.
U.S. Forest Service

Martin Raphael, Ph.D.
U.S. Forest Service

Nathan Schumaker, Ph.D.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Jim Thrailkill
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Brendan White
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Brian Woodbridge
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

To create a strategy to implement the revised recovery plan for the northern spotted owl in view of its continuing decline, a team developed state-of-the-art modeling tools to use in designing and evaluating habitat conservation networks—the first time that such tools had been so used. By synthesizing more than 20 years of data from on-the-ground demographic surveys, models made possible analyses of the efficacy of different scenarios to compare the performance of network designs as they evolved. A review by the Society for Conservation Biology and the American Ornithologists' Union termed the team's habitat and viability modeling methods "sound and innovative." The process has the potential to benefit decision making on behalf of a range of species.

Region 2

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Gila Trout and Chihuahua Chub Recovery Team

Jim Brooks, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Julie Carter, Arizona Game and Fish Department
Jerry Monzingo, Gila National Forest
Kirk Patten, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
David L. Propst, Ph.D., Albuquerque, New Mexico
Thomas Turner, Ph.D., University of New Mexico

Responding to the Whitewater Baldy Complex Wildfire, the worst recorded in New Mexico's history, the team acted quickly to prevent catastrophic fish losses during a three-month event that burned almost 300,000 acres. Pushed by the monsoon rain season, crews accessed streams as mud and ash flows threatened to bury habitat and kill Gila trout, spikedace, loach minnow, Gila chub, and headwater chub. Aware of potential flooding and unstable trees, rescuers entered dangerous areas on foot and by horseback, evacuating more than 600 fish to safety by backpack, mule, and helicopter. The team was comprised of representatives of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Gila National Forest, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, University of New Mexico, Museum of Southwestern Biology, and Fish and Wildlife Service.


New Mexico Chiricahua Leopard Frog Conservation Working Group

Diane Barber, Fort Worth Zoo
Jack Barnitz, Bureau of Land Management
Tawnya Brummett, Gila National Forest
Bruce Christman, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Martha Cooper, The Nature Conservancy
Beverly deGruyter, Cibola National Forest
Steve Dobrott, Ladder Ranch
Amanda Gehrt, Gila National Forest
Rene Guaderrama, Gila National Forest
Randy Jennings, Ph.D., Western New Mexico University
Carter Kruse, Ph.D.,Turner Biodiversity Division
Ron Maes, Cibola National Forest
Magnus McCaffery, Ph.D., Turner Endangered Species Fund
Jerry Monzingo, Gila National Forest
Charlie Painter, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Rosa Romero, Gila National Forest
Justin Schofer, Gila National Forest
Hanne Small, Turner Endangered Species Fund
Art Telles, Gila National Forest
Johnny Zapata, Gila National Forest

Committed to changing the trajectory of the Chiricahua leopard frog, projected to go extinct in New Mexico in a decade because of disease and predation, a team rescued populations and then used captive-breeding and head-starting for conservation. Comprised of representatives of the Turner Endangered Species Fund, Fort Worth Zoo, Bureau of Land Management, Gila and Cibola National Forests, The Nature Conservancy, Western New Mexico University, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and a private citizen, the team created backyard tanks and a "ranarium," and reintroduced frogs into the wild. This action rescued four populations, established a new wild population on private land, augmented two others, and reintroduced the species at three locations.

Region 3

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Mike Coffey
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Through partnerships in Indiana and Illinois, Mike Coffey has increased the populations of endangered mussel species such as the northern riffleshell and clubshell, generated research breakthroughs, and expanded support for conservation. He engaged partners in using Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration settlement funds to reintroduce these species into the Vermillion River. Recognizing the sensitivity of mussels to hazardous substances and their role in the health of aquatic ecosystems, Mike Coffey achieved a commitment to water quality criteria for chloride and sulfate chemicals. Thanks to his leadership, biomonitoring studies are underway to determine whether water quality is the cause of reintroduced Higgins' eye declines and, if so, the exact nature of the issues. Partners include the State Fish Hatchery in Fairport, Iowa; Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Natural History Survey, and private landowners.


Nancy Sather
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

As leader of the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid Recovery Team and as a member of the recovery teams for the Minnesota dwarf trout lily and prairie bush-clover, Nancy Sather has been a major figure in conserving endangered and threatened plant species with partners such as The Nature Conservancy and the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The life-history information that Nancy Sather documented serves as a framework for tailoring prescribed fire and other management practices. By engaging landowners, along with students and volunteers, in monitoring, Nancy Sather continues to generate data and analyze it to provide insight into the complicated relationships between listed plants and associated species, land uses, and climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

Learn more about climate change

Region 4


U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Florida Grasshopper Sparrow Working Group

Mary Peterson
Sandra Sneckenberger

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

With vision and purpose Mary Peterson and Sandra Sneckenberger engaged a working group to create an emergency action plan to address the decline of the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow, whose total population is a few hundred birds. Thanks to collaboration, Mary Peterson and Sandra Sneckenberger have secured funding and have gotten contracts awarded. Critical elements of the plan are underway to reverse the trend and increase the numbers of the sparrow, found only in the dry prairie region of the state. By building relationships and leveraging resources, working group partners are evaluating land acquisition, habitat restoration, translocations, captive-breeding and further research to determine the causes of the decline of the sparrow and develop recovery strategies. Causes may include altered fire regimes and hydrology, predation by invasive fire ants, disease, and inbreeding.


Magazine Mountain Shagreen Team

Greg Butts
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

Ron Caldwell, Ph.D.
Lincoln Memorial University

Richard Carpenter
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

Chris Davidson
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Rob Kopack
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

Ralph Odegard
Mountain Home, Arkansas

Bill Posey
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

Clark Reames
Malheur National Forest

Keith Whalen
Ozark-St. Francis National Forests

A team comprised of State and Federal agency representatives, working on behalf of the Magazine Mountain Shagreen – a half-inch snail found only on the wooded, rock-covered slopes of the highest point in Arkansas – addressed threats and established protected areas that have made possible the delisting of the first invertebrate under the Endangered Species Act! Through important life-history information, the team used sound science to resolve land use and management conflicts and provide direction for priority recovery actions. The species is now secure in Mount Magazine State Park and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests. Partners include the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, Lincoln Memorial University, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Region 5

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Joris Naiman, Esquire (In Memoriam)
Office of the Regional Solicitor, U.S. Department of the Interior

The first Regional Solicitor to be recognized as a Recovery Champion for conserving federally listed species, Joris Naiman may be known best for his accomplishments in ensuring a sound legal basis for recognizing the success of the West Virginia northern flying squirrel recovery program and in establishing the recovery needs of the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment of Atlantic salmon. Joris Naiman's skill as an attorney and attention to detail were instrumental in developing and defending the delisting rule that resulted in critical national precedents for the Endangered Species Program.


Steve Koenig
Project Salmon Habitat and River Enhancement

As the executive director of Project Salmon Habitat and River Enhancement, Steve Koenig has provided invaluable contributions towards the recovery of Atlantic salmon in the Gulf of Maine. Under Steve Koenig's leadership, Project SHARE has corrected road-stream crossings to restore fish passage fish passage
Fish passage is the ability of fish or other aquatic species to move freely throughout their life to find food, reproduce, and complete their natural migration cycles. Millions of barriers to fish passage across the country are fragmenting habitat and leading to species declines. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Fish Passage Program is working to reconnect watersheds to benefit both wildlife and people.

Learn more about fish passage
and natural stream function in the Downeast Maine watershed. During many hours of field work, Steve Koenig recognized the detrimental effects of remnant log-drive dams on Atlantic salmon habitat and developed innovative restoration techniques to address the effects. By engaging volunteers in these projects, along with increasing awareness of the way that removing structures improves stream habitat, Steve Koenig has provided a team-building that fosters collaboration.

Region 6

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Laura Romin
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Among Laura Romin's accomplishments are initiating the Utah Prairie Dog Habitat Credit Exchange, translocating animals to sites on U.S. Forest Service land, and acquiring more than $2,000,000 in Section 6 and mitigation funds from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Aviation Administration to purchase habitat. Habitat includes an 800-acre Garfield County property, to be managed under an agreement with The Nature Conservancy. Laura Romin has worked closely with Federal and area partners to address controversial issues such as fencing the Parowan Airport and Paragonah Cemetery. She has also been instrumental in developing the Utah Prairie Dog Recovery Implementation Program, a new Recovery Plan, and a special 4(d) rule, creating a comprehensive strategy and using the flexibility of the Endangered Species Act to promote conservation.


John Emmerich
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

As Chair of the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team, John Emmerich has inspired trust and generated collaboration resulting in achievements throughout the 12-state historical range of the species. Uniting State, Tribal, Federal, and private partners, John Emmerich has brought about new reintroduction sites, promoted vaccine development to address sylvatic plague concerns, and developed a vision of practical initiatives necessary to delist what has been one of the most endangered mammals in North America. By recruiting new team members, most recently the Natural Resource Conservation Service and Wildlife Services, he has added expertise and resources, creating a sustainable path for both wildlife managers and private landowners.

Region 7

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Brian J. McCaffery
Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

For over 20 years, Brian McCaffery has played a pivotal role in Steller's and spectacled eider recovery, including serving as the Eider Recovery Team leader. The team credits its success to Brian's ability to create an atmosphere of openness and to encourage participation. He is primary author of the Spectacled Eider Recovery Plan, which incorporates innovative use of Bayesian analyses and extinction risk criteria. Brian has helped evaluate the feasibility of reintroducing Steller's eiders to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta and is developing structured decision-making methods and other advanced modeling techniques for critical management decisions. By writing and performing music about birds and habitat conservation, including a rap song that was aired on local radio, Brian also communicates with audiences that the Service might not otherwise reach.


Margaret R. Petersen, Ph.D.
U.S. Geological Survey

For two decades, Dr. Margaret Petersen has served as an expert on the recovery team for Steller's eiders and spectacled eiders in Alaska, consistently providing valuable insight on their biology and ecology. Certainly the achievement for which Dr. Petersen will be best known is her satellite telemetry research that identified the location of the spectacled eider during the non-breeding season. Winter telemetry locations helped us discover previously unknown concentrations of spectacled eiders in broken sea ice in the Bering Sea. Waterfowl biologists have used these insights to target marine ecology studies, model winter energetics and effects of winter weather on survival, and focus thinking on the potential effects of impending climate change on spectacled eiders and associated benthic communities.

Region 8

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Mark A. Elvin
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Acting to prevent the extinction of the marsh sandwort and Gambel's watercress – each of which was once reduced to a single population – Mark Elvin has worked to establish a team to identify important recovery goals and implement high priority conservation measures for these critically endangered plant species. With representatives of the academic community, State and Federal agencies, botanic gardens, other plant societies, and private citizens, Mark has increased the number of sites where both species are blooming and producing seeds. Gambel's watercress now occurs at two sites, and marsh sandwort occurs at five. In addition, several greenhouses are propagating the species, and, for the first time, the Fish and Wildlife Service's Ventura Field Office has established a professionally recognized herbarium.


Larry Dunsmoor
The Klamath Tribes

For more than 20 years, Larry Dunsmoor has advanced the recovery of the C'wamm (Lost River sucker) and Kuptu (shortnose sucker) in the Klamath Basin through leadership in collaborative solutions to complex challenges. From his early research to his role in negotiations for the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement, Larry Dunsmoor has provided vital biologic and hydrologic information and tools to promote conservation. As a member of the technical advisory team, he supported The Nature Conservancy in restoring approximately 6,000 acres of important C'wamm and Kuptu rearing habitat. In addition, Larry Dunsmoor helped to reduce threats to these species through the removal of the Chiloquin Dam, providing access to miles of spawning habitat and through the establishment of The Klamath Tribes' long-term water quality monitoring program.