The National Wetlands Awards are presented annually to individuals who have excelled in wetlands protection, restoration, and education. Through coverage in the National Wetlands Newsletter, coordinated media outreach, and an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill, awardees receive national recognition and attention for their outstanding efforts. The program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Federal Highway Administration. ELI coordinates the awards program, while our federal agency supporters provide financial support, serve on the selection committee, and/or participate in the ceremony.
The awardees are selected by a widely representative committee composed of 12-18 wetlands experts from around the country, including representatives from each federal supporting agency, members of the conservation and business communities, and representatives from state and local governments. Selection Committee members are carefully selected to represent a diversity of geographic areas and wetland expertise. ELI facilitates the Selection Committee meeting, but does not participate in selecting the winners. The awardees are determined by a majority vote of the Selection Committee.
Congratulations to the recipients of the 2016 National Wetlands Awards!
Conservation & Restoration: Peter David, Odanah, Wisconsin
Science Research: Dr. K. Ramesh Reddy, Gainesville, Florida
State, Tribal, and Local Program Development: Tom Bernthal, Madison, Wisconsin
Wetlands Community Leader: Roberto Viqueira, Yauco, Puerto Rico
Peter David, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, Odanah, Wisconsin
Peter David is a wildlife biologist with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. For 30 years, he has fostered partnerships between federal, state, county, and tribal agencies, NGOs, and concerned citizens to encourage wetland stewardship, research, and restoration, with a primary emphasis on wild rice (manoomin), a plant with significant ecological and cultural importance in the upper Midwest. He is considered by many to be one of the country’s foremost experts in rice ecology and conservation. He was intricately involved in establishing the Circle of Flight Program, which became the primary funding source for regional tribal wetland conservation efforts. He was a technical advisor for the Wild Rice Monitoring Handbook and Field Guide and was the lead author of a report identifying and describing over 300 northern Wisconsin manoomin waters. He coordinates a cooperative interagency restoration program that has increased rice abundance in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan by 25%.
Dr. Pamela B. Blanchard, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Dr. Pamela B. Blanchard is an associate professor at Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Education. She co-founded the LSU Coastal Roots Seedling Nursery (CR) program in 2000 to educate students and teachers on coastal issues and sustainability and to engage students in restoration projects. She is a passionate educator who empowers students from second grade through high school to become environmental stewards. Each year, students learn to manage a nursery installed at their school, grow native plants, and participate on restoration trips to a beach or forest. The CR program has grown to include 48 schools across 18 parishes in Louisiana. There are also four schools in Chile participating in the CR program. Approximately 16,000 students have participated in the program, planting nearly 130,000 native plants on more than 300 restoration trips since 2000.
Tom Bernthal, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, Wisconsin
Tom Bernthal has been the wetland monitoring and assessment coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources since 2003, but his dedication to wetlands conservation has been unwavering throughout his career. Through collaboration and innovation, he has been a prominent figure in wetlands research, restoration, and education in Wisconsin. His ability to coordinate efforts and advance innovative wetland monitoring and assessment methods have resulted in numerous valuable resources for the state and region. He was instrumental in the development of the statewide Floristic Quality Assessment and in drafting Reversing the Loss: A Strategy for Protecting and Restoring Wetlands in Wisconsin. He has additionally volunteered for more than two decades as an advisor and board member for several nonprofit organizations, including the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy.
Dr. K. Ramesh Reddy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
Dr. K. Ramesh Reddy is a graduate professor and department chair in the Soil and Water Science Department at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS). For over 40 years, he has led ground-breaking research on the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients in natural and managed wetland and aquatic ecosystems, particularly in the Florida Everglades. He is a renowned biogeochemist, mentor, and leader in wetland science. He promoted an integrated approach to wetland science that included biogeochemistry in research and education, he co-authored a textbook entitled Biogeochemistry of Wetlands: Science and Applications, and has produced more than 350 peer-reviewed papers. He served on the National Research Council Committee of the National Academy of Sciences for an independent review of the Everglades Restoration Plan and currently serves on the U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board’s Ecological Processes and Effects Committee.
Roberto Viqueira, Protectores de Cuencas, Inc., Yauco, Puerto Rico
Roberto Viqueira is the founder of the nonprofit Protectores de Cuencas (Watershed Protectors), a science and community-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting wetland conservation and restoration throughout Puerto Rico. After serving as the coordinator for the Guánica Bay Watershed, which was designated the first U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Watershed Partnership Initiative site in 2009, he has expanded his work to wetland sites across Puerto Rico. Through partnerships and leveraging over $7 million in funding from numerous federal and local agencies, he has reduced pollution to the Guánica Bay by preserving Guánica Lagoon, creating sewage treatment wetlands, and launching the “Think Before You Drop It” campaign with NOAA to reduce marine debris. He also promotes sustainable agricultural practices such as shade-grown coffee through the development of a certification program and has helped develop a regionally adapted hydroseed for shoreline stabilization, beach restoration, and habitat rehabilitation.