U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Ecological Services

Southeast Region

National Recovery Champions -- 2009

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.


Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy. Credit: Barbara Bergwerf, Bergwerf Graphics

Tom Murphy. Credit: Barbara Bergwerf, Bergwerf Graphics

Tom Murphy, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), retired: Tom was the first Nongame Biologist hired by the SCDNR.  He set up an office in Green Pond, SC in 1976 and began working on most of the imperiled coastal species (American alligator, Bald eagles, sea turtles, pelicans).  He was leader of the first Bald Eagle Recovery Team for the Southeastern Region.  He was the first person to successfully track loggerhead sea turtles using sonic and radio telemetry.  He was the first person to document wood stork nesting in South Carolina.  His applied research was always aimed at what management was needed to recovery populations.  Survey and census was also an important component to document population trends and he invented several new techniques to capture animals or to survey them in inaccessible habitats.  Examples are the alligator “trip snare” and “float shoes” for use in swamps to survey wading bird rookeries.  The status of many of the wildlife populations he worked with in SC have improved.  Examples include bald eagle nesting pairs have increased from 13 in 1976 to over 250; and wood storks have gone from 11 nesting pairs in 1981 to over 2,000.  He also convinced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to spend $8 million to build a 5-acre seabird nesting island in Calibogue Sound.  In just 3 years, it has attracted over 5,000 nesting pairs of terns, gulls and pelicans.  Tom has also mentored many graduate students that have gone on to successful careers in wildlife conservation.


Leroy Koch

Leroy Koch. Credit: USFWS

Leroy Koch. Credit: USFWS

Leroy Koch, FWS, Frankfort, KY: Leroy has spent the majority of his career as an advocate for freshwater mussels and listed mussels in particular.  Leroy uses his extensive experience and technical expertise in the southeastern and midwestern states to educate and motivate KFO staff, other Service staff, and outside partners to seek cooperative solutions relative to freshwater mussel issues.  In recent years, he spurred the development of innovative research into critical life history aspects of mussels.   This includes the development of standard propagation techniques for a wide variety of mussel species and includes an emerging technique that allows juvenile mussels to be grown in vitro via an artificial media instead of using a host fish.  This technique has been perfected on several common species already, but it will be a critical step in listed mussel recovery when the process is perfected and applied to listed species.  In addition, he has helped forge a strong working relationship with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and secured internal and outside funding that helped KYDFWR establish their mussel propagation and research facility – the nationally recognized Center for Mollusk Conservation (CMC) – including funding for new facilities to expand the CMC’s efforts.  Leroy has also lead efforts to secure funding for the highest priority actions for some of our most critically endangered mussels, including the ring pink and purple cat’s-paw involving extensive coordination with other FWS divisions and many partners from multiple states.


National Cross Region Recovery Champions

Conservation Fisheries, Inc:

Duskytailed Darter. Credit: USFWS

Duskytailed Darter. Credit: USFWS

Conservation Fisheries is a tax exempt, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the preservation of aquatic diversity. CFI was incorporated in 1992, and has worked since that time to propagate the rarest fishes in the Eastern U.S. Their goal is to restore fish populations that have been eliminated because of pollution events or habitat destruction. They have been a leader in the recovery of rare fishes, with the first facility in the Eastern U.S. to propagate rare fishes. They have also been involved in monitoring the status of populations of fishes in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia; producing fishes for toxicity testing; producing freshwater mussel host fishes for propagation of freshwater mussels; maintaining “Ark” captive populations of several species; and educating the public about aquatic life in the rivers and streams of the Southeast.

Credit: USFWS

Pat Rakes and J.R. Shute of Conservation Fisheries, Inc. Credit: USFWS

Over the past 16 years, CFI has partnered with the Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, World Wildlife Fund, U.S. Forest Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, U.S. Geological Survey, The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Valley Authority, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, National Park Service, and the Tennessee Aquarium. In addition, CFI has built relationships to further the cause of preserving aquatic biodiversity with the following corporate sponsors: Alcoa Foundation, Dagger Canoes and Kayaks, Duke Energy, International Paper, Jungle Labs, Northwest Marine, and URS Corporation.

Credit: USFWS

Credit: USFWS

CFI has worked with at least 50 species including: rock bass, blue shiner, whitetail shiner, spring pygmy sunfish, Carolina pygmy sunfish, banded pygmy sunfish, spotfin chub, slender chub, streamline chub, blotched chub, redspot darter, warrior darter, vermillion darter, slackwater darter, relict darter, Tuscaloosa darter, Etowah darter, redband darter, yellowcheek darter, duskytail darter, bloodfin darter, sawcheek darter, speckled darter, boulder darter, barrens topminnow, smallmouth buffalo, sicklefin redhorse, Cahaba shiner, Mobile mimic shiner, Cape Fear shiner, sawfin shiner, smoky madtom, chucky madtom, mountain madtom, yellowfin madtom, piebald madtom, Ouachita madtom, brindled madtom, brown madtom, pygmy madtom, blackside dace, laurel dace, tangerine darter, goldline darter, pearl darter, blotchside logperch, logperch, channel darter, and Conasauga logperch. Sixteen of these fishes are federally listed and four are candidates for listing.

CFI has been instrumental in developing propagation protocols for many of these 50 species. In addition, they have developed technologies for rearing these species; restored populations in their native streams; and expanded knowledge of spawning behavior, habitat preferences, larval development, and early life stage environmental sensitivity. Their efforts have saved the smoky madtom from extinction, moved several fishes closer to delisting, and precluded the need to list others.


Regional Leaders in Recovery

Norfolk Southern Corporation:

The Norfolk Southern professionals associated with Brosnan Forest have been true advocates for RCW management and the Safe Harbor Program, not only on Norfolk Southern holdings but also with other private landowners across the state. 

Shortly after the South Carolina Safe Harbor program for the RCW began back in 1998, Norfolk Southern enrolled the entire Brosnan Forest acreage in this program.  At 67 baseline RCW groups, Brosnan’s population was one of the largest RCW populations on private land in South Carolina.  And Norfolk Southern did more than simply maintain the status quo of their RCW population.  Instead, they began an active RCW management plan to improve both their habitat and the RCW population itself.  Since first enrolling in 1999, this population has now increased to 80 active RCW groups and is thought to be the largest population on private land across the entire range of the RCW.  Further solidifying their commitment to RCW recovery, Norfolk Southern has agreed to be a partner in a large-scale RCW reintroduction project in the heart of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

While many corporations with large timber holdings in South Carolina have sold off tracts of land in recent years, Norfolk Southern has been working hard to preserve what they had come to appreciate and recognize as increasingly unique.  As an example of their great stewardship ethic, Norfolk Southern recently donated a conservation easement on Brosnan Forest, perpetually protecting over 12,000 acres.  Of that, over 6,000 is well-maintained longleaf pine habitat with some trees over 100 years old.  This conservation easement marked one of the largest easements ever donated by a corporation in the state’s history. 

The Service has many partners in longleaf pine restoration and RCW recovery efforts.  Norfolk Southern, through their efforts at Brosnan Forest and now, beyond their own borders, has been one of those shining examples of a true partnership.  From Norfolk Southern’s CEOs to their land managers, the commitment towards environmental stewardship has been unfaltering.