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Southeast Region


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


May 24, 2010


Elsie Davis,, 404-679-7107


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Atlanta: M.C. Davis, a businessman and entrepreneur from Miramar Beach, Florida, attended a meeting about black bears which intrigued him so much he purchased 48,000 acres in northwest Florida for conservation management and the establishment of a new education center. On May 13, 2010, at the Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honored M.C. and 18 other conservation partners across the Southeast for their outstanding contributions.

“Our regional community of dedicated partners greatly helps the Service accomplish its mission of wildlife and habitat conservation,” Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, says. “We are proud to recognize the achievements of individuals, businesses, and organizations with 2010 Regional Director’s Conservation Awards.”

The following individuals, businesses, and organizations received Regional Director’s Conservation Awards for 2010:


  • Colette Boehm, Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau, Orange Beach: Artificial lighting had nearly halted sea turtle reproduction in the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach when Share the Beach was formed in 2001. Boehm and the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau educated the public with simple, effective ways that they can help with sea turtle conservation. The Share the Beach website at is the main source of information about Alabama’s sea turtles. Thanks to Share the Beach, more than 20,000 sea turtle hatchlings have survived to reach the Gulf of Mexico since 2001.
  • Mobile River Basin Aquatics Team: In 2008, Jeff Powell, an aquatic biologist in the Alabama Field Office, in cooperation with Paul Johnson of the Alabama Aquatic Biodiversity Center, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Patrick O’Neill of the Geological Survey of Alabama, and Allison Jenkins of the Alabama Clean Water Partnership, initiated efforts to create strategic management opportunities for imperiled species in the Mobile River Basin. The foundation for his effort was the 2004 designation of 26 river and stream segments in the basin as critical habitat for 11 listed freshwater mussel species. The 26 units encompass approximately 1,093 miles of the best remaining habitat in the basin. These units contain a major proportion of the basin’s other imperiled aquatic fauna including mussels, fishes, snails, and crayfish. This initiative has become known as the Strategic Habitat Plan for the basin’s aquatics.


  • Scott House, Cherry Valley: In 1997, House purchased and protected 203 acres of wetland and agricultural lands along the L’Anguille River in northeast Arkansas (Cross County) and named it Bearitage Farm. Subsequently, he proceeded to protect and restore more than 1,200 acres of wetland habitat along the river. Working with the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, the USDA’s Farm Bill program, and Ducks Unlimited, he has restored croplands back to wetlands, and has reshaped and improved the habitat at Bearitage by planting more than 60,000 bottomland trees and establishing approximately 200 acres of moist-soil management areas for migratory birds. In addition, he persuaded several neighbors along the river to enroll in a Partners for Fish and Wildlife project resulting in the establishment of approximately 14,500 acres of new habitat for migratory birds.


  • M.C. Davis, Nokuse Plantation, Miramar Beach: Davis’s Nokuse Plantation is a model for future landscape level conservation projects. His land purchases in the last decade have been important for the goals of the Northwest Florida Greenway, a partnership of military, government agencies, and non-profit organizations that will conserve critical ecosystems in one of the most biologically diverse regions in the United States and serve to link over one million acres of state and federal lands. Davis added the E.O Wilson Biophilia Center to the Nokuse Plantation. This facility connects children with nature by presenting students with a five-day curriculum about the biodiversity of northwest Florida so that they may become better stewards of our planet. Scientists will use the facility to conduct ecological research and present broadcasts on public television.
  • Florida Panther Interagency Response Team: Deborah Jansen, Big Cypress National Preserve; Darrell Land, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Mark Lotz, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Service, and the National Park Service established the Florida Panther Interagency Response Team in June 2004 to manage human-panther interactions while promoting human safety and assuring the continued existence and recovery of this endangered animal. Since 2002, there has been an increase in human-panther interactions in south Florida including instances of depredation on livestock and pets. The Response Team, comprised of panther experts and agency representatives, was tasked with developing the Interagency Florida Panther Response Plan to provide guidance for the agencies so that interactions will be handled consistently and quickly while addressing the primary objective of public safety, balanced with the need to recover an endangered species.
  • Dr. Michael Kane, Environmental Horticulture Department, University of Florida, Gainesville: Kane’s ground-breaking work has contributed to the restoration of orchids anywhere that these species are threatened. Kane is the founder and leader of the Plant Restoration, Conservation, and Propagation Biotechnology Program at the University of Florida, and has worked with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge for the past five years conducting research on rare native orchids.
  • Key Tree-Cactus Preserve Team: Lauren Day, The Conservation Fund; Matthew Sexton, The Conservation Fund: A rare stretch of tropical hardwood hammock and mangrove forest known as the Key Tree-Cactus Preserve gained permanent protection in 2009 because of the dedicated work of Day and Sexton. They built a coalition with the Village of Islamorada, the Florida Communities Trust, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, and the Service. The Village of Islamorada purchased the nine-acre preserve on June 9, 2009. Funding for the acquisition came from the Florida Communities Trust, a state-wide competitive grant program for land acquisition. The Village of Islamorada owns and manages the property, and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and the Service will provide technical assistance to successfully manage the cactus.
  • Dr. Douglas Mader, Marathon Veterinary Hospital, Marathon: Co-owner of Marathon Veterinary Hospital, consulting veterinarian for the Key West Aquarium, the Marathon Sea Turtle Hospital, the Monroe County Sherriff’s Animal Farm/Zoo, and the Theatre of the Sea, Mader contributed hundreds of hours of volunteer time and thousands of dollars of veterinary care to endangered wildlife in the Florida Keys. The National Key Deer Refuge has relied on him to examine injured or infected Florida Key deer, and he has conducted a range of procedures from simple skin treatments to surgical repair of dislocated or broken bones for deer that the refuge decided to rehabilitate and release back into the wild. He volunteered his time to treat more than 1,000 injured turtles over the past 15 years, and he has pioneered many turtle procedures such as treatment for boat strikes, entanglements, and debilitating tumors.
  • Carlos Suarez, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Gainesville: As the state conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Carlos Suarez effectively combined the efforts of private individuals, state and Federal agencies, and non-governmental organizations to successfully execute significant projects in 2009. NRCS Florida signed nearly 500 landowner agreements and easements valued at over $94.6 million, affecting 164,000 acres for the benefit of our trust resources. Suarez’s Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) staff partnered with the Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to enroll landowners in 13 easements in WRP valued at $70.9 million. This single accomplishment elevated Florida to the number one state in the nation for WRP, resulting in the protection, restoration and enhancement of 12,800 acres of wetlands. An additional $1.5 million was also obligated under the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, resulting in 40,636 areas of habitat restoration for such species as the Florida scrub-jay, red-cockaded woodpecker and gopher tortoise.
  • Florida and Georgia:
    • St. Mary’s River Basin Conservation Team: Steven Herrington, Hallie Stevens, Trish St. John of The Nature Conservancy: In 2006, the Service held a meeting with the states of Florida and Georgia to identify conservation work at a landscape level that would benefit from collaborative efforts. One of the outcomes was the formation of a coalition group to restore the depleted fisheries and fish habitats within the St. Marys River System in Florida and Georgia. The Nature Conservancy (TNC). TNC has remained engaged in numerous actions for protecting, restoring, and conserving the habitat and biological resources in the St. Marys River Basin in Florida and Georgia. With the help of local, state, and federal conservation agencies, TNC has developed a plan for defining conservation strategies and actions within the basin. Moreover, TNC has since been active in implementing the conservation plan, which has resulted in several noteworthy accomplishments, including a launching a conservation buyer program and directing land purchases.


    • Alan Dozier and Bo Chesser, Georgia Forestry Commission, Macon: As the 560,000-acre Georgia Bay Fire was ravaging Southeast Georgia and North Florida in 2007, Alan was envisioning a fire-resilient forest buffer to surround the Okefenokee National Wildfire Refuge. Such a buffer would make fire management safer and easier, increase fire management options in the area, and help prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and fire suppression expense. As part of the recovery and rehab from the fire, the Georgia Forestry Commission assigned a forester, Bo Chesser, to describe and document forest management practices that could be used to help create the fire resilient buffer. Chesser developed the Forest Management Options Manual which describes in detail a myriad of forest management options available to landowners. When funding opportunities under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act came along, Dozier worked through the USDA-Forest Service and requested $3.6 million for this project. Through the Greater Okefenokee Association of Landowners, Dozier and Chesser made presentations that convinced landowners to participate in this program. The grant enabled the Georgia Forestry Commission to employ a project leader forester and three additional foresters to help recommend and approve landowner incentive payments to reduce forest fuels, and facilitate on-the-ground practices in line with the forest management options manual. Landowners are paid ARRA funds to treat lands within a one-mile buffer of the Swamp’s Edge Firebreak. Funding also goes to updating maps, which show new road details and shape files of the mitigation work for use in future fire suppression efforts.
    • Okefenokee Wildfire - Wildlife Resilient Zone Acquisition Team: Michelle Cable, Georgia Director of Protection for Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Michael Harris, Chief, Nongame Conservation Section, Georgia Department of Natural Resources; and Curtis Hensyl, Manager, Project Development and Sales for Rural Properties, TerraPointe Services Inc. (Rayonier): In 2008, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GNDR) partnered with the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to ask if TerraPointe Services, the land sales division of Rayonier, Inc., would sell a key section of their lands to TNC so it could be added to the Okefenokee Refuge. The goal was to acquire 500-700 acres of burned-over private lands that are interspersed with refuge lands in the northwest section of the Okefenokee Swamp before they are planted to commercial forests. This would provide a rare opportunity to reestablish longleaf forests at significantly reduced acquisition costs and gain a wide array of conservation and fire suppression benefits for the Okefenokee Ecosystem. When TerraPointe agreed that the sale of their lands adjacent to the Okefenokee Refuge would benefit their forestry program, TNC and GDNR sought $500,000 from the Longleaf Legacy Program (funding provided by Southern Power and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and $500,000 from the Services’ Wildlife Assistance Grant Programs. When the funding was secured in early 2009, the team began the long and complicated acquisition process. By December 30, 2009, 1,050 acres of land had been acquired and donated to the Service.


    • Libby Zuege, Environmental Protection Agency, Louisville: Special Agent Zuege serves as the Resident Agent in Charge of the Environmental Protection Agency - Criminal Investigations Division in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to her high case load involving environmental crimes she regularly provides assistance to Service agents in Kentucky in investigations involving the unlawful take of endangered species and migratory birds. During the past year, a joint investigation conducted by Zuege and the Service resulted in a $50,000 fine for Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act violations. This first-of-its-kind criminal prosecution in Kentucky was the result of Libby partnering with the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement and the Environmental Contaminants Program during the course of the investigation.
    • Wolf Creek Power Plant Team, Jamestown: In 2007, increased foundation seepage at Wolf Creek Dam was creating a risk to public safety. Without action, dam failure was imminent. The consequences of failure at Wolf Creek Dam are potentially enormous, including possible loss of more than 100 lives and more than $3 billion in flood damages. To fix the problem, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers implemented an emergency pool reduction of Lake Cumberland, which had a major impact on the operation of the Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. To reduce the impact on the hatchery, the Corps installed two pumps in the Cumberland River to supply a minimum of 7,500 GPM to supplement the regular water supply. The supplemental water supply has been used from July through December each of the last three years and will continue until the project is complete in 2012. The Corps has incurred a huge financial burden in order to ensure the hatchery is able to continue operation and meet all production goals.


    • Dewey Billodeau, Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, Lafayette: During his tenure as a coastal engineer, Dewey has worked closely with Service personnel to aid in managing and protecting the coastal marshes and four refuges of southwest Louisiana. Dewey took a lead role during potentially contentious public meetings designed to help the public understand the importance of five water control structures on Calcasieu Lake that manage water salinity in 60,000 acres of fragile coastal marshland habitat known as the Cameron Creole Watershed Project. Dewey has worked within his agency and with the private sector to secure funding to maintain the project and keep the maintenance and operational costs at a minimum. After hurricanes Rita and Ike, Dewey immediately went into action, securing several million dollars to make emergency repairs to the water control structures and to make emergency and long term repairs to the levee system which connects the structures. With his influence and respected position within the Louisiana Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration, Dewey was able to secure Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection and Restoration Act funding on several occasions. This effort alone helped the Service to begin restoring 60,000 acres of wetlands that were severely damaged by the two hurricanes. Dewey’s leadership and commitment also helped arrange funding of nearly $1.5 million to begin repairs on three water control structures at Sabine National Wildlife Refuge.
    • Bobby Reed, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Lake Charles: During his tenure as a Supervisory Fisheries Biologist, Reed has worked closely with Service personnel to aid in managing and protecting aquatic resources on National Wildlife Refuges as well as for migratory birds. Reed helped develop an $8 million dollar restoration plan for the Lacassine Pool, which was completed in 2009. The Lacassine Pool is well known as one of the most important freshwater wetlands for migratory birds in southwest Louisiana, and it has also become a popular body of water for largemouth bass fishing. In 2009, while Bobby and his staff were conducting a routine monitoring effort in the Lacassine Pool, they discovered an outbreak of Giant Salvinia, a serious invading aquatic plant that can devastate lakes and ponds. Reed immediately advised the Project Leader of the infestation and implemented numerous actions that helped prevent the spread of the plant into adjacent waterways. He also advised us to close one boat launch to prevent boaters from potentially spreading the plant to other uninfected areas of the Pool while it was being treated. He helped publicize why the Service had to take this action. All this effort was done at a minimal cost to the Service.


    • Judd Brooke, Perkinston: In 2001, Brooke decided to restore longleaf pine on all suitable sites on his 4,300-acre Brookewood Farms in Hancock County, Mississippi. The longleaf pine ecosystem is an imperiled ecosystem, and is home to as many as 35 protected species and other species of concern. Working through the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, and with a variety of other partners, he converted approximately 500 acres of pastureland and cutover land back to longleaf pine. In addition, he planted approximately 96 acres of hardwood forest on his farm, has maintained stream quality through the protection of riparian zones, and has consistently managed his property with prescribed burning at about 1,000 acres each year. Brooke was a recent rresident for the Hancock/Harrison Forest and Wildlife Association, and is currently on the Board of Directors. He is currently serving his second year as the president of Wildlife Mississippi, and also serves as a member of the advisory committee for the American Forest Foundation. He is on the steering committee for the Mississippi Prescribed Fire Council. Brooke also o actively promoted local education/outreach activities, and has helped promote the Service’s Connecting People with Nature initiative.
    • Kevin Brunke, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, Jackson: Wood ducks are a highly valued bird, the Southeast’s most common breeding duck, and the second most popular waterfowling species after the mallard. Brunke is the waterfowl lead with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, overseeing the critical task of banding. Under his guidance, the department has exceeded its wood duck banding quota of 200 birds for three consecutive years. Mississippi banded 691 wood ducks in 2007, 527 in 2008, and 442 in 2009. This banding effort is critical to the effective management and continued conservation of this species.

    North Carolina:

    • Upper Nolichucky River Conservation Team: Starli McDowel, Toe Valley River Watch; Cliff Vinson, Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council: Western North Carolina’s upper Nolichucky River Watershed is home to three federally listed species, including one of the best remaining populations of the endangered Appalachian elktoe mussel, making the basin a focus for conservation by the Service’s Asheville, North Carolina, Ecological Services Field Office. Two local organizations have together played an invaluable role in on-the-ground efforts to protect stream habitat and water quality in this watershed – the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Toe River Valley Watch. The Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council, coordinated by Cliff Vinson, began an effort in the upper Nolichucky River watershed in 2004 to protect at-risk aquatic species through stream corridor restoration on privately owned lands. The Council was the lead organization in the removal of a defunct railroad trestle which had collapsed into the Toe River, threatening to cause massive damage to downstream bridges and properties and disrupt vital mussel habitat. The Council took a leading role in the recent removal of a decrepit dam on the North Toe River which opened up more than 44 miles of upstream habitat to migrating fish, and they’re currently working to remove three additional dams in the valley. Through its connections with local landowners, Blue Ridge has been a fundamental conduit for getting resources of the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife and Fish Passage programs, coupled with matching state funds, into the hands of the landowners interested in protecting these waterways. The Council ’is heavily involved with capturing greenhouse gases as alternative sources of energy for this area, including recovering methane from landfills. Formed in 2006, Toe Valley River Watch was the area’s first local watershed group. Currently led by Starli McDowel, the all-volunteer organization, composed of citizens from the local area, has become a community leader in conservation and protecting the rural character of the watershed. Toe River Valley Watch created the Toe River Valley Festival, an annual event that brings all fifth graders in a two-county area out to a stream to explore the river and learn about their connection to the natural world. The Watch is leading the development of the Toe River Paddling Trail to benefit recreational users of the area. The Watch brought citizen water quality monitoring to the watershed, an effort that includes students from one of the region’s high schools. The Watch also worked with the three largest mining operations in the valley to help them protect water quality, and they serve as water quality watch dogs.


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    2010 News Releases.

    Last updated: May 24, 2010