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Six Wetland Stewards Receive 2011 National Wetlands Awards

March 31, 2011

(Washington, DC) — The Environmental Law Institute announced today that six recipients from across the country have been recognized for their exceptional and innovative contributions to wetlands conservation. “Once again, ELI is proud to have worked with a team of leading experts to choose the winners of the national wetlands awards,” stated ELI President Leslie Carothers. “With our partners from six federal agencies, we look forward to an awards ceremony that showcases the remarkable contributions the winners have made to a healthy and productive environment.”

The 2011 National Wetlands Award recipients will be honored at a ceremony on May 4, 2011, at the U.S. Botanic Garden. These award winners have restored, researched, and protected thousands of acres of wetlands nationwide. Their examples have inspired many members of their community to act and make a difference to protect and improve these vital natural resources.

This year’s Award recipients and their accomplishments appear below:

Rio de la Vista’s enthusiasm and creativity has brought together numerous partners and private landowners to protect more than 27,000 acres of wetlands in Colorado. She wrote a groundbreaking grant that tied the purchase of conservation easements to senior surface water rights to the land—an important initiative to help secure the long-term protection of wetlands along the Rio Grande.

Margaret Sedlecky, a 25-year veteran teacher of the Baldwin County Public Schools in Alabama, has conducted hands-on environmental education program for more than 3,000 students, and leads the Baldwin County Grasses in Classes program—guiding student volunteers in planting 40,000 native plants and restoring 15 acres of coastal habitats.

Scott House has created and expanded more than 1,200 acres of wetland habitat on his land, Bearitage Farms, in Arkansas. Investing his own time and money, he has reshaped the landscape by encouraging numerous neighbors to donate thousands of acres of wetlands to strengthen this important habitat for migratory birds in the Mississippi Flyway.

Loren Smith is regarded by his peers as the top authority on playa wetlands and one of the world’s leading scholars on wetland ecosystem science. Head of the Zoology Department at Oklahoma State University, his research has been instrumental in shaping and expanding our understanding of the role that playa wetlands play in providing habitat for millions of migratory birds across Great Plains states.

Janet Morlan, state wetlands program manager for the Oregon Department of State Lands, is a driving force behind many policy improvements and advances that make Oregon’s wetland program a national model for wetland conservation and protection.

Todd Miller founded the North Carolina Coastal Federation in 1982. Three decades later, the organization has undertaken multi-million dollar conservation efforts and partnerships, educated thousands of North Carolinians, restored 40,000 acres of estuaries, and has been involved in every major coastal policy issue since its beginning.

The National Wetlands Awards program—administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Federal Highway Administration, and the USDA Forest Service—recognizes outstanding individual achievement in wetlands conservation.

“The recipients of the 2011 National Wetlands Awards demonstrate a passion and level of personal commitment to conservation that is both inspirational and daunting. They also represent the wide range of people involved in wetlands conservation, from scientists and educators to landowners and community leaders, who are changing the course of our nation’s future for the better,” said Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “NRCS is honored to participate with the Environmental Law Institute and our federal partners in recognizing their distinguished achievements and extraordinary efforts conserving America’s wetlands.”

Collectively, the impact of the 2011 National Wetlands Awards recipients is substantial—their expertise, experience, and examples have profoundly shaped the landscape o