News Release

March 18, 2011

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces Endangered Species Recovery Champion Awards

Media Contacts:
Ken Foote, 808.792.9535 or 282.9442

Swindle and Robichaux honored for their work in Hawai'i

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Acting Director Rowan Gould today announced the 29 recipients of the 2010 Recovery Champion award.  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.

"Recovery Champions are leaders in the conservation of endangered and threatened species of plants and animals across the United States and beyond its borders," said Acting Director Rowan Gould. "It is a true measure of a commitment to protect our nation's biological heritage for future generations by working to recover our imperiled species of fish and wildlife and plants and the ecosystems on which they depend."

In Hawai'i, two individuals are among those being honored with this prestigious award: Dr. Robert Robichaux, President of the Hawaiian Silversword Foundation who since the 1980s has worked tirelessly to protect the endangered Mauna Loa silversword plant and other critically endangered Hawaiian plant species, and Keith Swindle, Special Agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Law Enforcement in Hawai'i and the Pacific Islands for protecting listed seabirds on the island of Kaua'i.  

Since the 1980s, Dr. Robichaux's research and conservation efforts with the Hawaiian silversword alliance have been critical in achieving the recovery success for Hawaiian silversword plants and other closely related species.  Dr. Robichaux's establishment of the Hawaiian Silversword Foundation, in conjunction with a group of like-minded conservationists, has furthered the recovery of the Mauna Loa silversword (Argyroxiphium kauensis) and other species. To date, the Foundation has raised and reintroduced over 33,000 seedlings of the Mauna Loa silversword and over 3,500 seedlings of the critically endangered plant haha (Clermontia peleana). 

Since 1998, Dr. Robichaux's leadership has been instrumental in getting stakeholders involved in their reintroduction and recovery efforts.  The Hawaiian Silversword Foundation has also spearheaded projects to protect over 50,000 acres of vulnerable native Hawaiian ecosystems from rainforest to rare dry forest habitat.  Stakeholders include the Volcano Rare Plant Facility, Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Three Mountain Alliance (a partnership of Federal, State, and private organizations and landowners), Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Fish and Wildlife Service. 


Special Agent Keith Swindle has many years of experience as a research and regulatory biologist before becoming a Special Agent.  Since 2002, his efforts have facilitated progress on Habitat Conservation Planning (HCP) efforts for the threatened Newell's Shearwater, and recovery for listed seabirds on the island of Kaua'i. 

Strategically exercising his enforcement authority, Special Agent Keith Swindle has brought legal action to bear on chronic violations of the Endangered Species Act in Hawai'i, particularly on behalf of the threatened Newell's shearwater. Collaborating with stakeholders, he brought about the first significant reductions in the major cause of the decline of the shearwater and other night-flying birds- their attraction to artificial lights and related collisions with power lines in the urbanized areas of Kaua'i. Agent Swindle's approach has also generated partnerships with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, American Bird Conservancy, Hawai'i Department of Fish and Wildlife, Hawai'i Department of Transportation, County of Kaua'i, Hawai'i State House Representative Mina Morita, and private businesses such as Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, and Norwegian Cruise Lines.

More than three-quarters of the global population of Newell's Shearwater nests on the island of Kaua'i, where it is estimated to have undergone a 60 percent decline over the past two decades.  This decline is attributed in part to a chronic loss of fledglings and adults to "fall-out".  Both adults and fledglings are known to collide with tall buildings, towers, powerlines, and other structures while flying at night between their nesting colonies and at-sea foraging areas. These birds, particularly fledglings, are also attracted to bright lights that disorient them. Disoriented birds are commonly observed circling around exterior light sources until they fall to the ground or collide with structures, resulting in possible injury or death.

For information about the 2010 recovery champions, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Recovery Champion website at  

America's fish, wildlife and plant resources belong to all of us, and ensuring the health of imperiled species is a shared responsibility. To learn more about the Service's Endangered Species program, go to