Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Association Bestows Annual Awards for Exemplary Leadership in Conservation

WASHINGTON — The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies honored 10 individuals and two entities for their outstanding and longstanding commitment to conservation stewardship at the Association’s Annual Awards Ceremony held on September 10, 2008 in Saratoga Springs, New York.

2008 Annual Awards Recipients:

Seth Gordon Award:
John Cooper

The Seth Gordon Award is the Association’s highest honor and is conferred on individuals who have worked steadfastly and effectively for the best use of North American Natural Resources in the public trust and for their contributions to the programs of the Association. This award was established in honor of Seth Gordon who had one of the longest, continuous careers in fish and wildlife conservation in honor of his 50 years of service to the Association representing state agencies and as a member of Association staff.

John Cooper’s incredibly diverse wildlife career has spanned nearly 40 years encompassing law enforcement as an agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, tournament fishing, outreach through popular outdoor magazines and state conservation and environmental policy as his state’s member of the Governor’s Cabinet. He is also a Vietnam veteran.

Cooper chaired the Association’s Law Enforcement and Executive Committees and served as the 2005-2006 President. In addition to all of these duties, he has been actively engaged in various North American Conservation Initiatives and has been chair or co-chair of the Adaptive Harvest Management Group working on improving science-based waterfowl harvest regulations; the North American Wetlands Council; the Governing Board of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan; and chair of the Law Enforcement and Habitat Committee of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Although now retired, Cooper continues to be an active force promoting conservation efforts.

“Few people in the professional wildlife conservation community have brought as many attributes and contributed as much to the cause of conservation,” said Wayne MacCallum, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Director and Chair of the Association’s Awards Committee.

Cooper’s vision, leadership, personal and professional integrity, passion, persistence good humor, and willingness to tackle rather than side step challenges stands as a model for public agency conservation administrators of the 21st century.

Ernest Thompson Seton Award:
Group: Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee
Individual: Dr. Christopher Servheen, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Ernest Thompson Seton Award was established to bring public attention to the need for and benefits of scientific wildlife management and to recognize the agency has taken a strong position in support of the integrity of its professional program and its individual team leader. Wildlife illustrator, author and co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, Seton was considered one of America’s most influential conservationists, dedicating his life to educating people about nature and instilling a deeper understanding of the natural world.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) is a consortium of the public resource agencies composed of representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, the state wildlife agencies of Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming and the Canadian Wildlife Service.

It was formed in 1983 to help drive the effort to recover and restore grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states through interagency coordination of policy, planning management and research. Over the past 26 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, Dr. Chris Servheen, has worked tirelessly to achieve grizzly bear conservation in the U.S. and Canada.

“Dr. Servheen has played a central role in overseeing and coordinating the cooperative conservation effort that brought grizzly bears from nearly disappearing to the point that they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act in the greater Yellowstone area,” said MacCallum. “This collaborative agency effort to increase our grizzly bear population represents one of North America’s most compelling restoration successes since inception of the Endangered Species Act.”

Mark J. Reeff Memorial Award:
Stephanie M. Carman, Aquatic Species Recovery Coordinator, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish

The Mark J. Reeff Memorial Award recognizes young professionals under the age of 35, who have distinguished themselves by outstanding commitment to wildlife management, willingly accepted more difficult challenges and inspired others to do the same. Reeff served as the Association’s Resource Director before his passing in 1997 at the age of 41.

Five years ago, when recent college graduate, Stephanie Carman, was hired by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in the newly established position of Aquatic Species Recovery Coordinator, she was faced with navigating two very controversial issues – water and protected species. Her primary responsibilities were to engage a broad range of interests to draft recovery plans for species listed as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ by the state; obtain State Game Commission approval of each plan; and then, with various agency and private partners, implement conservation measures identified in the plans.

Through dogged determination, ingenuity, intellect and perseverance, she developed the process and content model for the plan development and was deeply involved in the development of the Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for New Mexico and the catalyst for reactivation of the White Sands Conservation Team resulting in resumption of monitoring of this species whose entire range lies within the boundaries of the military reservation."

As the Department's first Aquatic Species Recovery Coordinator, Ms. Carman showed determination and ingenuity, forging strong professional relationships while becoming versed in often complicated state, federal and tribal laws and regulations," Department Director, Bruce Thompson said. "Her first recovery plan became a template for others to come, and in fewer than five years she gained widespread respect among diverse interest groups and agencies."

National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award:
Longino Ranch, Florida

The National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award honors an individual- or family-run farm, ranch or forest operation that has incorporated proactive conservation and environmental protection measures in the management of their land.

The Longino Ranch in Sarasota County, Florida encompasses approximately 8,000 acres with a cow/calf herd of 1,700 head. The Longino family has an impressive record of accomplishment in operating its ranch in an environmentally sound manner. Since the 1970s, the ranch has participated in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) deer management program with use of antlerless deer tags and acquisition of biological data of all harvested deer. It continuously has been enrolled in the state’s Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Landowner Assistance grant programs since the 1990s and has included nearly 2,700 acres in a rotational roller chopping and winter/summer-prescribed burning program that is producing measurable and significant results in perpetuating the native rangeland community.

In 2002, the family created a wetland conservation bank on the ranch, which is cited by various Florida agencies as a model for successful wetland restoration. This year, more than 1,100 acres of the ranch was approved as a gopher tortoise recipient site and a conservation easement assures that the habitat will remain protected and ranch timber harvest and other practices will be done in manner that maintains and improves the habitat for the species. The family happily provides educational tours to schools, government officials and various civic groups.

“The Longino family has led the way for more than 50 years in balancing the needs of the land with the needs of a business,” said Tim Breult, the FWC’s director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “They have been active partners in finding ways to effectively farm the land while protecting it for future generations.”

Conservation Law Enforcement Award:
Jeff Finn, Conservation Officer, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Law Enforcement Division

The Conservation Law Enforcement Award recognizes outstanding achievements in fish and wildlife resource enforcement by an individual, a unit, bureau of a division or a combination, to enhance the professionalism and significant advancement of conservation law enforcement efforts.

Conservation Officer, Jeff Finn, is a 24-year veteran and the Kentucky 2008 Officer of the Year for his outstanding work in law enforcement especially in the conviction of poachers and for public relations in addressing civic groups, schools and sportsmen’s clubs.

In 2000, Officer Finn established an Internet Crimes Unit and works closely with online providers and other federal and state fish and wildlife agencies in the U.S. and Canada to collect information and prosecute individuals engaged in illegal trade of wildlife. He also provides Internet investigation instruction to the Southeastern Association of Wildlife Investigators Academy and was one of the founding members of the Kentucky Conservation Officers Association, serving as Treasurer and on its Executive Committee.

According to his award nominators, “Jeff Finn epitomizes the commitment, dedication and professionalism that is necessary to be an effective ‘Game Warden.’ While maintaining the traditional values of being a warden, Officer Finn readily embraces change and seeks way to improve the ability of our officers to more effectively and efficiently carry out their mission. He has a progressive attitude and a willingness to move beyond his comfort zone for the benefit of this department and its officers.”

Special Recognition Awards:
Each year, the Association recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves with an outstanding commitment to the work of the Association.

H. Dale Hall
Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Dale Hall is a professional’s professional, starting as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wetlands biologist in the Lower Mississippi Valley and spanning more than 30 years. Since his appointment as USFWS Director in 2005, he has continued to emphasize the benefits of collaboration among the Service, states, tribes, landowners and other conservation partners in confronting this century’s conservation issues including the emerging challenges posed by climate change, water management and generations of children who are becoming disconnected from nature.

George Vandel
Assistant Director, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks Division of Wildlife
George Vandel has been an unwavering advocate for the conservation of waterfowl and other migratory birds. A member of the Association’s Waterfowl Working Group and Migratory Bird Conservation Committee, he is actively involved in the implementation of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and has been a charter member and Chair of the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Management Board and Chair of the Central Flyway. Vandel also has been a strong voice on behalf of landscape-scale habitat management working to encourage state and federal programs designed to engage broad partnerships that include private land owners in migratory bird conservation.

Dave Nomsen
Vice President of Government Affairs, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever
Dave Nomsen was a key voice for the fish and wildlife conservation community in the recent reauthorization of the Farm Bill, providing crucial guidance during the two plus years of policy development leading up to and concluding in the Farm Bill in his role with the American Wildlife Conservation Partners and as co-chair of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group. Nomsen is also a member of the North American Wetlands Council, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, responsible for making recommendations about the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to the Congressional Migratory Bird Commission, and has been a strong advocate for Congressional funding support for NAWCA .

Lawrence M. Riley
Coordinator of the Wildlife Management Division, Arizona Game and Fish Department
Vice-chair of the Association’s Invasive Species Committee, Larry Riley has demonstrated a high level of expertise on all manner of invasive species issues over the years, which requires the application of significant scientific, professional expertise and people skills. During the past year, Riley testified twice at Congressional hearings, drafting and presenting the Association’s positions and perspectives on non-native invasive and injurious species and threat to native fish, wildlife and their habitats. Both times, he handled the issue on short notice, which necessitated working outside of his normal work day and juggling his many agency obligations.

Angela Nelson
Executive Assistant, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
For many years, Angela Nelson has put in a tremendous effort on the Association’s behalf, and has made great contributions to its success. She knows how the organization works better than anyone, and keeps things moving ahead effectively and efficiently. Skill, dedication and a customer-focused attitude are the hallmarks of her career combined with her ever-ready smile and warmth to all who visit the office, call or attend meetings.

Fallen Heroes
Michelle Lawless
Investigator, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission

This is the first year for the Association to pay special tribute to those wildlife professionals, Fallen Heroes, who have lost their lives while carrying out their duties to enforce conservation laws and regulations and manage fish and wildlife resources in the past year. The names of the Fallen Heroes will be inscribed on a plaque and permanently displayed in the Association’s Washington, DC office.

2008: Michelle Lawless, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Investigator, who was killed in an ATV accident on patrol for poachers on October 27, 2007.

The nominating period for the 2009 Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Annual Awards will open in spring 2009. The next Annual Meeting will be held September 13-18, 2009 in Austin, Texas.

Photos of the Awards recipients
Previous Awards recipients