FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2000 Contact:
Vicki McCoy (FWS) 404/679-7288
Sharie Brewer 404/679-4162
Three of the six winners of the 2000 National Wetlands Conservation Award to the Private Sector, including the national winner, are from the Southeast region. The Southeast was well-represented by National winner Michael X. St. Martin of Houma, Louisiana, Regional winner Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation of Sanibel, Florida, and Regional runner-up winner Chat Phillips of Yazoo City, Mississippi.
"The National Wetlands Conservation Award to the Private Sector program was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) in 1990 to recognize the special efforts by individuals, groups, or corporations who have made significant contributions towards the protection, enhancement, or restoration of our Nation's wetlands during the preceding year," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director.
National winner Michael X. St. Martin has been an innovative force in saving 1,200 acres of coastal freshwater marsh in southern Louisiana. Barge-induced erosion and oil and gas exploration have caused the decline of wetlands along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Mr. St. Martin constructed and improved 21,500 feet of levee to halt degradation to the waterway's canal. In addition, he bravely took legal measures against powerful oil and gas corporations who had apparently damaged the wetlands by failing in their environmental responsibilities of maintaining canals and levees after drilling activities. According to Paul Yakupzack of the Service who nominated St. Martin for the award, "Successful litigation may encourage improved efforts nationwide to address the negative effects of oil and gas exploration and production on sensitive habitats, especially wetlands." Mr. St. Martin's leadership has also inspired a $100,000 donation from several members of the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association to the Nature Conservancy towards the purchase and preservation of the proposed Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge near Baton Rouge.
Southeast Regional winner, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) has been a central motivating force in wetland conservation on Sanibel Island. Since the mid-1950's, the island's freshwater wetlands have been deteriorating in structure, function, and composition due to invasive exotic vegetation and man-influenced hydrologic alterations. The SCCF restored over 300 acres of the island's wetlands through successful hydrologic restoration and exotic plant removal. SCCF's restoration project forms the basis for state-of-the-art environmental education materials for Sanibel's elementary and middle schools and both resident and visitor training programs. It also benefits the adjacent J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, as well as area wildlife by greatly increasing the number and variety of native plants and animals, including migratory birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
Southeast Regional runner-up winner Chat Phillips has restored 2,230 acres of wetland on his property. His land has been restored from agriculture production to functional forested wetlands and moist soil areas. Converting this area to wetlands has greatly improved the water quality and enhanced wildlife by providing wintering habitat for migratory birds and resident wildlife. Trey Cooke, Executive Director for Delta Wildlife commends Mr. Phillips for his leadership in conservation claiming that Phillips utilizes much of his own funds to enhance and restore wetlands on his own property in order to improve natural and wildlife resources.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System of more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.
Release #: R00-029