For Immediate Release: April 12, 2010
Six Wetland Stewards Receive 2010 National Wetlands Awards
(Washington, DC) — The Environmental Law Institute announced today that six citizens 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.”
These award winners have restored, researched, and protected thousands of acres of wetlands nationwide. Their examples should inspire individual citizens to act and make a difference to protect and improve these vital natural resources.
This year’s Award recipients and their accomplishments appear below:
Jim Wilcox, Senior Project and Program Manager at Plumas Corporation for the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management group, has designed and built more than 40 projects that have restored 48 miles of stream channels and 3,400 acres of meadow floodplains and wetlands.
William Volkert, a wildlife educator with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, has provided more than 3,500 educational programs to 200,000 people, conducted more than 1,700 media interviews and programs, and provided training to 66 delegations of scientists from 41 countries.
The Laszlo Family, owners of Granger Ranches at the O’Dell Creek Headwaters in Montana’s largest watershed, have permanently protected more than half of their 14,000-acre ranch and restored or enhanced 510 acres of wetlands and 35,000 feet of stream channel and riparian habitats.
Rebecca Sharitz, senior research ecologist at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, is the leading expert on the ecology of southeastern floodplain forests and Carolina bays. She has been invited to serve on four National Academy of Science committees and has published more than 160 papers or chapters in the scientific literature.
Michael Cain, a recently retired attorney for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, has authored or co-authored all of Wisconsin’s wetland protection laws during his more than 30 years of service. His leadership has helped slow the state’s wetland loss from 1,400 acres annually in 1991 to an average of 250 acres per year currently.
Jan Vandersloot, who tragically passed away in November 2009, left a tremendous legacy as the co-founder of the Bolsa Chica Land Trust and led a successful 17-year fight to protect southern California’s largest unprotected coastal wetlands, some 1,700 acres.
Collectively, the impact of the 2010 National Wetlands Awards recipients is enormous—their expertise, experience, and examples have profoundly shaped the landscape of wetlands conservation. “We look forward to meeting this year’s award winners and honoring their extraordinary achievements in wetland conservation,” said Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service. “We are proud once again to support ELI’s National Wetlands Awards, recognizing these individuals for their contributions to society and the aquatic environment. Wetlands provide essential support for self-sustaining ecosystems, valuable fisheries and protected resources, water quality, and resilient coastal communities.”
“These winners truly embody the spirit of the National Wetland Awards Program as they inspire our collective endeavors to increase the quantity and improve the quality of our nation's aquatic resources,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Peter S. Silva. “Their extraordinary dedication to coastal and inland wetland conservation across the country evokes deep gratitude and merits the highest of praise.”
The 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, the USDA Forest Service, and the George and Miriam Martin Foundation—highlights individuals who go the extra mile.
“The recipients of the 2010 National Wetland Awards represent an extraordinary level of dedication and personal commitment to the advancement of wetland conservation, science, education, and stewardship of private lands. Their efforts, individually and collectively, have helped raise the public’s awareness of the importance of wetlands as a natural resource,” said Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “NRCS is proud to support the Environmental Law Institute’s recognition of leaders in wetland conservation and to be a member of this year's NWA selection committee.”
“Balancing the nation’s transportation needs with its environmental responsibilities is no simple task, and protecting wetlands helps us reach that goal,” said Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez. “We take wetlands protection seriously and applaud these Award winners for doing so much to protect them.”
Wetlands provide tremendous services to society, in addition to their vital functions in nature. “Wetlands play a vital role in protecting our communities from flooding, improving water quality and providing vital habitat for aquatic species. The organizations and individuals being recognized are true leaders in our collective effort to protect and restore our nation’s wetlands for the benefit of all Americans,” said Acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Rowan Gould.
&ldquop;The Forest Service is proud to lend support to the National Wetlands Awards program,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the USDA Forest Service. “Water is crucial to life, and wetlands provide a vital link between the land and water resources, supplying a variety of ecological services to forests and grasslands. We are pleased to recognize the extraordinary work of the award recipients.”
For more information on the National Wetlands Awards program, the 2010 Award recipients, or the Awards ceremony in May, please contact Landon Yoder at (202) 939-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information is also available online at www.nationalwetlandsawards.org.
2010 National Wetlands Awards Recipients
AWARD FOR CONSERVATION & RESTORATION
Mr. Jim Wilcox is the Senior Project and Program Manager at Plumas Corporation for the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management group. He has designed and completed more than 40 successful projects that restored 48 miles of stream channels and riparian habitats, and pioneered the use of the pond-and-plug technique in northeastern California, successfully restoring 3,400 acres of meadow floodplains and wetlands, most of which lie in the Feather River watershed along the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Many organizations and individuals seek his input and guidance on restoration projects, as he has repeatedly gone out of his way to assist other organizations and share his expertise and experience. In working to restore the Big Meadows in Sequoia National Forest, Mr. Wilcox drove eight hours to visit the project after a flood event. He spent several weeks writing up a technical paper about the project’s response to share with the projects partners, all of which was voluntary and outside of the project requirements.
AWARD FOR EDUCATION & OUTREACH
Mr. William Volkert has worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) as a Wildlife Educator/Naturalist at the 32,000-acre Horicon Marsh for the past 25 years. Designated as a Wetland of International Importance in 1990, Mr. Volkert has been instrumental in helping others to understand the significance of the marsh, where he has conducted 3,500 educational programs for 200,000 visitors, as well as providing more than 1,700 media interviews. Mr. Volkert also spearheaded the effort to create the Horicon Marsh International Education Center (HMIEC), a public-private effort between the WDNR and the Friends of the HMIEC, a group which he helped form. As a result of Volkert’s vision, motivation, and leadership, the Friends worked for over a decade to raise $3 million for the construction of the HMIEC facility. Mr. Volkert’s reach extends far beyond Horicon Marsh. He has provided training to 66 delegations of scientists from 41 countries and has made eight trips to Russia’s Lake Baikal—the world’s largest freshwater body—as part of a cooperative exchange with Russian scientists to develop education materials and further public awareness for environmental protection.
AWARD FOR LANDOWNER STEWARDSHIP
The Andrew and Anne Laszlo Family
The Andrew and Anne Laszlo family has permanently protected more than half of their 14,000-acre ranch—making it the largest wetland and stream restoration project of its kind in the state of Montana. Over the past five years, they have worked with federal, state, and private conservation partners to protect and restore a major portion of the O’Dell Creek headwaters in Madison County, part of an 8,000-acre wetland complex. The area was drained for grass production back in the 1950s, but since 2004, the restoration effort has filled or plugged 16,000 feet of drainage ditches, restored more than 500 acres of wetlands, and created 35,000 feet of stream channel and adjacent riparian habitat. Between 2005 and 2009, the number of bird species increased from 11 to 90. The Laszlo family sees the restoration effort as part of a broader vision that supports sustainable cattle ranching and provides habitat for fish and wildlife. The commitment and dedication of the Laszlo family has inspired local conservation organizations, agricultural producers, school groups, hunters and anglers, community members, and other landowners to become involved in wetland restoration.
AWARD FOR SCIENCE RESEARCH
Dr. Rebecca Sharitz, professor and senior research ecologist at the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, is the leading expert on the ecology of southeastern floodplain forests and Carolina bays—isolated, depressional wetlands. Dr. Sharitz has authored or co-authored more than 160 peer-reviewed papers or chapters and co-edited three books. She has received over 40 significant research grants, has trained more than 30 graduate students, 13 postdoctoral fellows, and more than 100 volunteers. She also has been invited to serve on four National Academy of Science committees. Her research was the first to show a link between flooding characteristics and forest regeneration, an important finding in understanding how southeastern floodplain forests react after experiencing hurricanes, alteration from dams, and discharge of thermally hot waters from nuclear reactors. Her research on the Carolina bays has shown that they have the greatest variety of plant seeds of any wetland type and that passive restoration—blocking drainage ditches—has proven to be an effective method to restore their natural hydrology.
AWARD FOR STATE, TRIBAL, AND LOCAL PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Michael Cain served as an attorney with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) for over 30 years. He authored or co-authored all of Wisconsin’s wetland protection laws and was instrumental in using the Clean Water Act’s §401 Water Quality Certifications to protect Wisconsin’s wetlands. Mr. Cain also played an important role in authoring the state’s nonfederal wetlands law to protect areas that have lost federal jurisdiction. Since the adoption of Wetland Water Quality Certifications in 1991, the rate of loss has slowed from 1,400 acres annually to only 250 acres per year. His leadership has helped build common ground among many stakeholders and overcome obstacles that have prevented stronger wetland protection in other states, all of which has been instrumental in helping to streamline wetland permitting in Wisconsin. After assisting with the hiring, mentoring, and training of his predecessor, Mr. Cain officially retired from WDNR last fall and is now pursuing teaching positions within the University of Wisconsin’s law schools.
AWARD FOR WETLAND COMMUNITY LEADER
Jan Vandersloot (posthumously)
Dr. Jan Vandersloot co-founded the Bolsa Chica Land Trust (BCLT) and—by organizing concerned citizens, meeting with local officials, and building coalitions—led a 17-year effort to successfully preserve 1,700-acre Bolsa Chica wetland ecosystem in Southern California. A regular fixture at California Coastal Commission (CCC) meetings, his deep understanding of the California Coastal Act (CCA) and the California Environmental Quality Act and passion for protecting both large and small wetlands resulted in significant protection for coastal wetlands across the state. As part of the BCLTs effort, they sued the California Coastal Commission over their plan to allow development in the Bolsa Chica wetlands. Their successful argument that the plan violated the CCA provided important precedent for wetland protection. Dr. Vandersloot’s effort protected hundreds of acres of wetlands. A day after his sudden and unexpected passing in November 2009, the CCC decided to raise the penalty for the destruction of wetlands and increase the stringency of restoration requirements. His leadership style brought people together because he calmly and factually argued his case for why wetland protection was so important.
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