U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Ecological Services

Southeast Region

National Recovery Champions -- 2007

Jim ValadeJim Valade has devoted his life to working with marine mammals, and particularly the Florida manatee. He is the Service’s lead for recovery of the Florida manatee. His passion for this marine mammal is relentless; it truly is a part of his being.

Jim has worked with manatees for over 20 years, and his efforts toward recovery are extensive. Over the past couple of decades, the Florida manatee has increased its population numbers, shown an increase in adult survival, and is faring better than ever before. This success is directly related to the amount of effort Jim has put into developing partnerships with both the scientific community and with a variety of stakeholders. The issues surrounding the manatee are extremely complex. Through the years, he has worked with scientists from the US Geological Survey and the State of Florida to understand manatee movements and minimum population size, with State and local agencies to develop habitat protection and consistency in regulations, and with private institutions to validate the effectiveness of conservation measures. He has also developed numerous rules designed to protect manatees in vulnerable areas. He received an award in 2005 for his partnership efforts with the US Geological Survey.

In the field he has done everything from capturing and tagging manatees for research, to rescuing injured animals from entanglement or watercraft-related injury, to performing necropsies on hundreds of animals that succumbed to red tide brevitoxin.

Jim serves as the Recovery Liaison to the Manatee Recovery and Implementation Team’s Steering Committee, and is Co-Chair of the Protection Working Group and the Warm Water Task Force. He is actively involved in the Manatee Population Status Working Group and the State’s Springs Task Force, and represents the Service for any catastrophic events concerning this species.

He is very highly respected among both scientists and stakeholders. His knowledge of and concern for this marine mammal is unmatched. Whenever anyone wants to know something about manatees, whether it is today or 20 years ago, they contact Jim.

Steve SeiberFor almost 20 years, Steve Seiber, Chief of Natural Resources at Eglin Air Force Base (Eglin) has been attentive to the recovery of the endangered Okaloosa darter. Listed as endangered throughout its range in 1973, the Okaloosa darter is known only from six small coastal watersheds in Okaloosa and Walton counties, Florida. Because over 95% of the species’ range is within the boundaries of Eglin Air Force Base, Eglin has taken the lead on many of the tasks outlined in the plan. Under Mr. Seiber’s leadership, Eglin has made significant improvements in watershed management, improving habitat for the Okaloosa darter.

Mr. Seiber oversees the protection and restoration of darter streams and has made the species a substantial component of natural resources management on Eglin. The darter drainages comprise 24% of the Eglin reservation, but have been a focus of their habitat management and restoration funding. In recent years, Eglin’s Natural Resources Management Branch has received about $1.3 million annually to restore highly erosional areas on the base, of which $715,000 (55%) has gone to the darter drainages.

Since 1995, Eglin has restored 317 sites covering 196.2 ha that were eroding into Okaloosa darter streams. All 38 borrow pits within Okaloosa darter drainages are now stabilized. Soil loss has been reduced by 97% from 30,745 metric tons/ha/year in 1994 to 830 metric tons/ha/year in 2004. Increases in darter numbers over the past 10 years generally track the cumulative area restored in that time frame. The darter persists in all six basins with at least 1,200 mature individuals, and substantial increasing trends are evident in the two largest basins, Turkey Creek and Rocky Creek. We estimate that the range-wide population now exceeds 200,000.

Additionally, many road crossing structures have been eliminated as part of Eglin’s restoration activities. Of the 153 road crossings that previously existed in Okaloosa darter drainages, 57 have been eliminated: 28 in Boggy Bayou streams and 29 in Rocky Bayou streams. Most of these were likely barriers to fish passage and/or problems for stream channel stability, and removing them has improved habitat and reduced population fragmentation. Mr. Seiber has been instrumental in forming a large partnership effort to restore Mill Creek, the smallest and most heavily impacted of the Okaloosa darter streams.

Under Mr. Seiber’s efforts to coordinate and collaborate, we have seen substantial progress on reducing threats to the Okaloosa darter’s habitat on Eglin. Mr. Seiber has repeatedly championed endangered species recovery programs on and off Eglin Air Force Base, often in the face of intense pressure to do otherwise. He has worked to form partnerships with private, state, and federal agencies, helped establish new approaches to habitat management, and successfully integrated watershed management into military activities. Stewardship of aquatic resources on Eglin has and will be essential to recovery of the Okaloosa darter and the Service is confident that Mr. Seiber and his staff will continue to be leaders in natural resource conservation.

Regional Leaders in Recovery

The Southeast Region celebrates the contributions and significant achievements of all of our nationally recognized Recovery Champions and regionally recognized Leaders in Recovery.  We are grateful for their continued hard work and dedication to the recovery of endangered and threatened species.

Linda LaClaireLinda LaClaire has made significant contributions towards the recovery of amphibians and reptiles in the Southeast in her 15 years with the Service.  Most notable has been her contributions towards the recovery of the extremely rare Mississippi gopher frog, a species only known from a few locations in coastal Mississippi.  At the time of its listing in 2001, this gopher frog was only known from a single location on U.S. Forest Service land.  Recovery for such a rare species presents a unique challenge.  However, due to Linda’s efforts, particularly her skills in working with our partners, the outlook for this species has greatly improved since the time of its listing. 

Linda began her recovery efforts for the Mississippi gopher frog prior to its listing with the establishment of an informal Mississippi gopher frog working group.  This working group plans and coordinates actions to benefit the recovery of the frog and is comprised of multiple stakeholders including at least eight state, federal and local government agencies; a number of conservation organizations; zoos; and at least five researchers from various universities.  Due to intensive surveys efforts supported by Linda, two new populations have been discovered in south Mississippi, bringing the total number of known populations for this species to three.  Linda helped facilitate the purchase of the property at one of these sites, assuring its protection due to its planned purchase by a development company.  Linda is also working with the U.S. Forest Service, Corps of Engineers, and the State on the construction of several new breeding ponds in an effort to reduce the vulnerability of this rare species.  She has also worked with a number of zoos to establish captive populations; funded genetics work on the gopher frog which resulted in the determination of the uniqueness of the Mississippi gopher frog and its status as a separate species; and she continues to support and oversee monitoring studies and research on various aspects of the Mississippi gopher frog’s biology and habitat needs.  Linda continues to maintain her leadership role in working with our partners to chart the course of recovery for this species.

Pete PattavinaPete Pattavina is nominated for his work in advancing recovery of the fringed campion.  The fringed campion is known from only about 40 extant locations within the Ocmulgee, Flint, Chattahoochee, and Apalachicola River basins, Florida and Georgia. In fiscal year 2006, Pete initiated both a genetics study, in partnership with the University of Georgia, Plant Biology Department, and a Safeguarding Program for this endangered plant. Using only $5000 to purchase materials, Pete collected 558 stem clippings from individual fringed campion at 31 of the known populations.  UGA used leaf tissue from these clippings to conduct inter- and intrapopulation genetics analyses using allozyme protein markers.  Genetic analyses are expected to be complete soon, and data will be used to determine top priority safeguarding sites and partners to permanently maintain unique genotypes/colonies. 

To assist with this latter goal, Pete salvaged the stolons and petioles from the specimens he collected for genetic analysis , treated them with rooting hormone, then seated them in salvaged perlite-filled strawberry containers  under florescent lights in a homemade propagation center crowded into his office.  At 3-4 weeks, he transplanted the new 0.1-1.0 cm rosettes to light potting soil and continued growing under fluorescent lights until the root system fully developed  and the plants could be moved outside in larger pots.  Pete currently maintains approximately 175 fringed campions in a makeshift nursery and this fall expects to add an additional 100 mature stems this fall, all of which will ultimately be planted in the proposed safeguarding colonies.

Pete also partnered with a private landowner in the Ocmulgee River basin and the Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences to establish a new population of fringed campion on MAS property.  Pete collected 70 plant stolons July 2004 for propagation by the Georgia State Botanical Garden.  By April 2006, 200 fringed campion plants were ready to be transplanted to the Macon Museum site, a 2-acre shaded hardwood area less than 1.5 miles from a natural population on private property. Pete transplanted another 100 plants winter 2006, when plants are dormant, as well as collected and added other native species such as bloodroot, Ocmulgee skullcap, trout lily, native azaleas, and endangered relict trillium to recreate a biologically diverse slope forest and spring wildflower habitat

Patty KellyThrough Patty Kelly’s sustained efforts and constant oversight she has established and initiated numerous projects and research designed to protect and raise the awareness of shorebirds in Northwest Florida.  Patty has worked with numerous partners (Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), Florida Audubon Society, National Audubon Society, Tyndall Air Force Base, Eglin Air Force Base, American Bird Conservancy, Florida State Parks, Apalachicola Riverkeepers, other Fish and Wildlife Service Offices, and local volunteers) to accomplish the following, which have resulted in increasing knowledge of the status and important use areas for shorebirds in Northwest Florida, as well as increased education and awareness of this precious resource.

  • Justified and organized funding for a position at Northwest Florida State Parks to train rangers and collect plover data for one year with intent that State Parks will continue to collect data on presence twice monthly.
  • Initiated and funded the Apalachicola Riverkeepers to monitor the beaches of Franklin County for shorebird use throughout the migration season and tasked the organization to build a volunteer network to continue surveys twice monthly.
  • Organized the International Plover census for the Florida Panhandle which resulted in successfully surveying all but 8 miles of the Florida panhandle in a 2-day period.
  • Initiated and funded Gulf Islands National Seashore surveys of shorebirds.
  • Working with American Bird Conservancy and FWC to develop conservation plan for the snowy plover.
  • Initiated development of a non-breeding shorebird database to summarize survey data.
  • Worked with Tyndall and Eglin Air Force Bases to incorporate shorebird surveys into required conservation measures in their INRMPs.
  • Initiated and funded FWC to conduct snowy plover breeding and wintering status surveys.
  • Developed and incorporated standard minimization measures for shorebird protections into federal project reviews.
  • Designed, created, and funded production of educational signs for piping plovers that are now used in FL, SC, TX and

Daniel DrennenDaniel Drennen has been a strong advocate for the recovery of imperiled fish in Mississippi and adjoining states since joining the Ecological Service’s Program as a fish specialist in the Mississippi Field Office.  However, perhaps his most notable recovery contributions to date have been his recovery efforts for the vermilion darter, a fish restricted to a single stream system in central Alabama.  Daniel completed a status assessment for this species, which led to its placement on the List of Endangered and Threatened Species as endangered in 2001; however, his recovery work on this species began years before when he first joined the ES program in 1998. 

Daniel is quite skilled in his ability at bringing diverse groups of stakeholders together to work towards the conservation of a species.   A talent which has served him well with the vermilion darter since the primary problem for this species relates to watershed impacts which are directly the result of urbanization. The reduction of such impacts to the species and its habitat involves the undertaking of conservation efforts by all stakeholders.  Daniel has formed partnerships and made significant strides towards recovery of the vermilion darter through his working with local governments, state agencies, various conservation organizations, and researchers associated with several universities.  He has developed a Memorandum of Understanding with the County Lands Division to facilitate communication on proposed construction projects within the watershed as a way to address any potential impacts to this species and its habitat.  Through Daniel’s guidance, the county has also been actively using Best Management Practices while maintaining roads, bridges, and water and sewer lines within the watershed.

Daniel has aggressively pursued funding to support research and recovery efforts for the vermilion darter.  Many of these projects have been funded and he is now working with conservation organizations and others to reduce non-point source pollution by fortifying streambanks and controlling erosion throughout the watershed.  In addition, he has also addressed the threat of water quality degradation and excessive sedimentation by working with conservation organizations to remove abandoned building structures in the watershed and with his work with various county and state law enforcement agencies to address impacts from illegal dumping and ATV abuse in the stream channel.

Tim Merritt Tim Merritt was instrumental in delisting Eggert’s sunflower (Helianthus eggertii) in 2005.  In order to accomplish this goal, he coordinated two teams from the Cookeville Field Office to survey every Eggert’s sunflower site in Tennessee and Alabama in 2004.  The Kentucky sites were surveyed by our State and federal partners, with which Tim coordinated extensively.  During the surveys, several additional sites were located that were not previously known. 

Mr. Merritt worked with Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Metro Nashville’s Beaman Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, and The Nature Conservancy to protect and enhance important Eggert’s sunflower populations that were required to meet its recovery goals.  Cooperative management agreements were completed for 26 of the 27 populations located on public lands involving the above-listed cooperators.  These agreements provide for the protection and enhancement of Eggert’s sunflower and its habitats on these publicly owned sites.  The remaining population already had an existing conservation easement that was more restrictive than the cooperative management agreement.  Only 20 populations were needed to meet the delisting requirements in the Recovery Plan.

Mr. Merritt has been working on the recovery of this plant since 2002.  His leadership skills were exemplified in the amount of coordination and work it took to complete the multi-state surveys, cooperative management agreements, delisting package, and post-delisting monitoring plan.  Tim’s working relationship with Service partners, coupled with his own hard work, directly resulted in the ability of the Service to delist Eggert’s sunflower. 

Dean GallagherDean Gallagher was an environmental specialist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Imperiled Species Section, who has now accepted a new position in another agency.  Mr. Gallagher worked closely while in Florida with the three Ecological Services Field Offices on the impact of artificial beachfront lighting on nesting sea turtles and hatchlings.  For 3 years, Mr. Gallagher took the lead, working in close coordination with the Service, to develop a sea turtle lighting certification program.  Mr. Gallagher has been able to research the highly technical (light physical properties and sea turtle biology) and controversial (human safety and security) issue of lighting management and make it understandable and "do-able" for a variety of constituents.  This has made him invaluable as a technical advisor to local governments, development corporations, lighting designers, electricians, and property owners.   

He quickly understands complex scientific principles, applies them to management issues and effectively communicates with the public.  He has involved national lighting manufacturers to create new lighting fixtures and lamps that are turtle-compatible or friendly.  He is well spoken and captures the attention of course participants while presenting information in a very understandable manner.  Because of Mr. Gallagher’s efforts, thorough scientific approach, and cooperative personality, a Statewide Marine Turtle Lighting course has been created and presented throughout Florida.  He has been approached to further develop the certification program to provide continuing education credits for professional landscape architects.

His efforts have assisted the Service in completing measurable recovery efforts for sea turtles.  Since 2004, Mr. Gallagher organized and held 18 workshops in Florida with an estimated 500 attendees receiving certificates of training completion.  His high level of motivation and his combined scientific, organizational, and communication skills have made the lighting certification program the success it is today.