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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Presents 2007 Southeastern Regional Director’s Conservation Awards


May 12, 2008


Tom R. MacKenzie (404) 679-7291,

(Atlanta, GA) The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today honored 16 of its partners with 2007 Southeastern Regional Director’s Conservation Awards. Individuals and teams received awards for accomplishments as varied as mussel habitat restoration, the establishment of an invasive species task force, the installation of sea turtle lighting fixtures along the beach, and the dissemination of information about man-made climate change.

“Each person or team being honored here today has made ground-breaking contributions toward fish and wildlife conservation,” said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “We applaud their efforts and dedication, which are freely given in service to the natural world.”

The 2007 Southeastern Regional Director’s Conservation Awards:


  • Water Management Partnership, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile: (Joanne Brandt; James Hathorn, Jr.; Brian Zettle): Throughout the continuing water allocation negotiations for the Apalachicola/Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins, the partnership has facilitated discussions between officials from Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Concurrently, it also has worked with the reservoir water managers to ensure harm to federally-listed Gulf sturgeon and freshwater mussels is avoided or minimized. The team worked with these water managers and the Service to develop a drought operations plan.


  • Robert Bendick, The Nature Conservancy, Altamonte Springs: The Nature Conservancy often partners with the Service to help supply funds and manpower to acquire and hold properties for eventual transfer to the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. For example, on behalf of Cache River Refuge in Arkansas, The Nature Conservancy acquired more than 3,000 acres of land. These acquisitions included more than fourteen separate transactions, all financed by TNC, with an approved value exceeding $4,753,000.

  • Jeff Burke, investigator, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Lakeland: Burke assisted Service special agents by leading and helping to develop a wildlife crime scene response team of federal and state fish and wildlife investigators and biologists. This team focuses on major wildlife crime incidents in southwest Florida, especially those involving the Florida panther.

  • Gradi Morgan, Rachel’s Lighting, Panama City: Morgan 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.

  • Michael Walsh, D.V.M., University of Florida, Gainesville: Walsh developed the medical program at Sea World, Orlando, one of the first facilities to successfully treat injured manatees. He also has invented new clinical techniques which have improved the survival rate of injured and stranded manatees.


  • Michael Barron, farmer, Brodhead: In cooperation with his local Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service, Barron helped restore more than one mile of Brushy Creek stream habitat using bioengineering techniques and a progressive rotational grazing regime. Brushy Creek is a tributary to Buck Creek, critical habitat for four federally-listed mussels.

  • Biologist-In-Training Program Development Team (Jean Clement, Russell County Middle School, Jamestown; Rhonda Godby, Rosalie Poland, and Audra Roberts, Union Chapel Elementary School, Jamestown; Jennifer Hardwick, Russell County Soil Conservation District, Jamestown; Steve Spencer, Ph.D., and Terry Wilson, Ph.D., Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green; Belinda Wilkins-Smith, Kentucky Division of Forestry, Campbellsville): These environmental educators developed a regional hands-on program for students, using National Fish Hatcheries as outdoor classrooms.

  • Randy Ream, Assistant United States Attorney’s Office, Louisville: Ream prosecuted 11 ginseng dealers in Kentucky who were investigated as part of a two-year undercover investigation into the state’s illegal ginseng trade. About $50,000 in fines have been levied in the Western District of Kentucky, as well as the forfeiture of more than $100,000 of illegal ginseng, with additional prosecutions pending.

  • Roger West, Assistant United States Attorney, Lexington: West prosecuted 10 dealers involved in the illegal ginseng trade. His prosecutions resulted in the assessment of more than $80,000 in fines, as well as the forfeiture of approximately one-quarter-million dollars of illegal ginseng. This investigation, and the resulting prosecution, was the first of its kind in Kentucky, and significantly reduced the amount of illegal ginseng being dug and purchased outside the established seasons.


  • Creole Nature Trail Partnership: Monte Hurley, Creole Nature Trail, All American Road District; Shelley Johnson, Southwest Louisiana Convention and Visitors Bureau, Lake Charles: The Creole Nature Trail Partnership has promoted the National Wildlife Refuges of southwest Louisiana to visitors from around the nation and the world, helping them to enjoy and support hunting, fishing, wildlife observation, photography and other public uses on these refuges.

  • Virginia Van Sickle Burkett, D.F., Ph.D., U. S. Geological Survey, Lafayette: Burkett is a prominent member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose members were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Her presentations about man-made climate change have educated conservationists across the Southeast about this issue and the need to counteract it with effective action.

South Carolina:

  • Elizabeth Newman Brabson, Carolinas Beach Vitex Task Force, Georgetown: Babson founded the task force to eradicate this invasive non-native plant from the coasts of the Carolinas. She also has met with federal legislators and has spearheaded publicity about the need to eliminate beach vitex.


  • James B. Layzer, Ph.D., Tennessee Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Cookeville: Layzer has been involved in research and recovery efforts for federally-listed fish and mussel species since 1985. For instance, he was one of the first researchers to successfully propagate and culture freshwater mussels using fish raceways for establishing captive populations. The research team has successfully cultured five species of mussels throughout their entire life cycle.

  • William G. Minser, Department of Forestry, University of Tennessee, Knoxville: Minser influenced the Tennessee Valley Authority’s land management policy on 293,000 acres of public lakeshore property on 49 reservoirs in seven southeastern states. He mobilized the public to submit comments during hearings held during late 2006 and early 2007. Then, TVA land management policy had involved removing land from public use for lakeshore development. Through Minser’s direction, TVA received more than 5,000 responses with more than 92 percent of those calling for public lakeshore property to remain undeveloped and in public ownership.

  • Tim White and David Vandegriff, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Nashville: These two men led the state’s superior wood duck banding effort. During the last eight years, Tennessee surpassed its annual quota of 300-350 ducks by banding an average of more than 700 wood ducks.


  • Richard Neves, Ph.D., United States Geological Survey, Blacksburg: Neves is currently the unit leader for the Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He authored four recovery plans for federally endangered mussels and has peer reviewed dozens of other plans, stressing research and management needs for species’ recovery. At the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Neves established the Freshwater Mollusk Conservation Center, the first facility dedicated to mussel propagation and recovery.

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. For more information, visit:


2007 Regional Director's Awards -- (program pdf file)


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