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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces 2007 Recovery Champion Awards -- Two Recipients Awarded in Florida for Sea Turtle Work


March 28, 2008


Tom R. MacKenzie (404) 679-7291,

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall today announced the sixteen recipients of the Service’s 2007 National Recovery Champion award. The Recovery Champion award recognizes outstanding contributions of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees and their partners toward efforts aimed at recovering threatened and endangered species in the United States. There are two award recipients in the Southeast Region: Sandra MacPherson, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional and national sea turtle coordinator, and Gradi Morgan, owner of Rachel’s Lighting in Panama City, Florida.

“The Recovery Champion award not only recognizes the exceptional conservation accomplishments of the honorees, it also provides the public with a unique opportunity to learn about endangered species conservation,” said Hall. “These Recovery Champions are extraordinary conservationists dedicated to protecting and restoring our nation’s wildlife and ensuring that future generations of Americans enjoy the natural treasures we experience today.”

The 2007 Recovery Champion honorees’ contributions to the conservation of our natural heritage benefit a broad range of endangered and threatened plants and animals. From manatees to mussels, Service employees and their partners have been working to recover our nation’s most imperiled wildlife. Habitat protection, public awareness campaigns, and the development of cutting-edge technology to achieve captive breeding success are just a few examples of this year’s Recovery Champion honorees’ efforts.

In the Southeast Region, Sandra MacPherson provides direction for all sea turtle management and recovery efforts regionally and nationally. She works closely with nesting beach programs from North Carolina to Florida and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to ensure that sea turtle nest surveys are highly reliable and that protection programs adhere to the best scientific standards for maximum hatchling production. There are five federally-listed sea turtles in the Southeast Region: hawksbill, leatherback, green, Kemp’s ridley, and loggerhead. Hawksbill, leatherback, and green sea turtle nesting has steadily increased in the Southeast during the last decade.

MacPherson also is spearheading the revision of the loggerhead sea turtle recovery plan. As sea turtle coordinator, she works with several partners outside the Service, including the National Marine Fisheries Service, state agencies in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, Archie Carr Sea Turtle Research Center in Gainesville, Florida, and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, as well as numerous universities, local governments, and private organizations.

“Sandy has served as the Southeast’s sea turtle coordinator since 1994, and has concurrently served as national coordinator since 2000,” said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “Her focus, skill, knowledge, and ability to work with multiple partners have benefited the species, and she is a key contributor to all sea turtle decisions and work in the nation.”

Gradi Morgan of Rachel’s Lighting helps property owners and developers in northwest Florida install lighting that will not disturb sea turtle nesting along the beach. In 2002, Morgan met with a lighting manufacturer, Adjusta-post, and they developed a turtle-friendly light, known as Adjusta-post’s Oceanside model. The fixture has been certified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Service’s Wildlife Lighting certification program.

Since 2000, the Service’s Panama City, Florida Ecological Services Field Office has received grant funds for local Turtle Watch or from government entities to cost-share lighting changes for beachfront property owners. Morgan has stocked various sea turtle fixtures and lamps and has reduced her profit margin so that fixtures purchased under the grant program remain affordable.

“Gradi Morgan has been in business for more than 20 years and is one of the Service’s most valuable private partners for sea turtle conservation efforts,” said Hamilton. “She willingly shares her knowledge about sea turtle lighting, and is well respected in the community she serves. Ms. Morgan provides lighting for several Florida counties covering 35 miles or almost one-quarter of all sea turtle nesting habitat in northwest Florida.”

For additional information please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Champion website at:

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

 Gradi Morgan.  Photo by Lorna Patrick.
Gradi Morgan.
Photo by Lorna Patrick.
  Sandra MacPherson.  Photo by Chuck Underwood.
Sandra MacPherson.
Photo by Chuck Underwood


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