ELI Primary Menu

Skip to main content

Environmental Law Institute to Recognize “Wetland Heroes” at 30th Annual National Wetlands Awards

May 2019

(Washington, DC): The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) is pleased to announce the winners of the 30th Annual National Wetlands Awards: Dr. Robert Gearheart; Joel Gerwein; Richard Grant; Tom and Mary Beth Magenau; Greg Sutter; Dr. Robert A. Thomas; and Angela Waupochick. The recipients, all of which have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to the conservation and restoration of our nation’s wetlands, will be honored on May 7 in Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public (RSVP here).

“The recipients of the National Wetlands Awards are on the forefront of protecting wetland resources in the face of development and climate impacts,” said ELI President Scott Fulton. “Through their dedication and achievements, they inspire wetlands protection across the country and worldwide.”

The awardees will be recognized for their individual achievements in six categories: Business Leadership; Conservation and Restoration; Education and Outreach; Landowner Stewardship; Science Research; and State, Tribal, and Local Program Development. New this year is a seventh category—30th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement.

This year’s Landowner Stewardship award goes to Tom and Mary Beth Magenau, founders of Tri-State Marine, Inc., a full-service marine business in Deale, Maryland. As owners of a business that depends on a healthy aquatic environment, Tom and Mary understand how preserving and protecting the Chesapeake Bay makes both business and environmental sense. Since 1999, they have reforested 20+ acres of an abandoned golf course with wetland trees and plants and have protected more than 50 acres via conservation easements. And with the assistance of the South River Federation, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, and the Anne Arundel County Watershed restoration program, the Magenaus constructed a stormwater wetland that reduces more than 70% of the sediment that once flowed untreated into the Bay. Their efforts exemplify how landowners can work closely with federal, state, and county agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the community-at-large to benefit the environment while pursuing sustainable business practices.

Dr. Robert Gearheart, emeritus professor of environmental engineering at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, is the recipient of this year’s Science Research award. Robert has dedicated his 40-year career to understanding biogeochemical cycles of wetland systems and how those processes can be leveraged to transform waste to a resource. Robert has inspired hundreds of students through his teaching and research on the use of wetlands for wastewater treatment and pollution abatement and the ancillary benefits that this sustainable technology brings to communities. He is a founding designer of the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary (AM&WS) in Arcata, California, which now serves as a wastewater treatment plant, a recreation area, and a wildlife sanctuary. The AM&WS includes 307 acres of freshwater marshes, salt marsh with tidal slough, grassy uplands, tidal mudflats, brackish marsh, 5.4 miles of walking and biking paths, and an Interpretive Center that serve over 200,000 visitors every year.

The Education and Outreach award goes to Dr. Robert A. Thomas of Loyola University New Orleans. Bob is professor of Mass Communication, holds the Loyola Distinguished Scholar Chair in Environmental Communication, is adjunct professor of Biological Sciences, sits on The Environment Program Faculty, and is the Founding Director of the Center for Environmental Communication at Loyola University New Orleans. Bob's activities at Loyola include an active teaching program in environmental communication and biology, many activities relating to coastal issues communication, working in the realm of environmental intervention where industry and communities collide, environmental communication programs in tropical areas, tropical biology, nature-based tourism, and environmental education and landscaping. Bob is also the Founding Director of the Louisiana Nature Center, where he served as the liaison for the community in information pertaining to science education, environmental issues, and natural history.

Angela Waupochick, a hydrologist for the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians in Wisconsin, is the recipient of this year’s State, Tribal, and Local Program Development award. Angela has been with the Tribe for nine years, starting as the Wetlands Specialist, building the Tribe’s wetland program, and most recently, establishing the Tribe’s Nonpoint Source §319 program under the Clean Water Act. She recently developed project plans, secured funding, and effectively managed three tribal land projects that support the restoration of both wetlands and streams. Angela also orchestrated the creation of a web-based story map that showcases successful water-related projects across the reservation and highlights the history of the tribe and their connection to water resources. Her work on the story map has prompted interest from numerous states and tribes nationally, establishing the groundwork for other tribes to enhance education and outreach of wetland resources and projects on tribal lands.

The Conservation and Restoration award goes to Joel Gerwin of the California State Coastal Conservancy. Joel has spent the last 11 years working to protect and restore coastal ecosystems, especially wetlands, on the Northern California Coast, with a focus on Humboldt Bay. Joel’s dedication to restoring wetlands for fish, wildlife, and public access to the rich diversity of ecosystems in Humboldt Bay has been exemplary and provides a model for restoring wetland habitats across the nation. Joel was a driving force in developing projects and acquiring significant funding for seven landscape-scale wetland restoration projects in Humboldt Bay, protecting and restoring over 1,000 acres of coastal habitats in the Humboldt Bay ecosystem.

Greg Sutter, Vice President and General Manager of Westervelt Ecological Services (WES), is the winner of the Business Leadership award. He has worked on mitigation and restoration planning and implementation throughout Northern California for over 40 years. Gregg, who has particular technical experience in brackish, tidal marsh, riparian, and riverine systems, is an acknowledged leader in mitigation planning, design, and implementation. Over the course of his career, Greg has touched all the constituent elements of successful ecological restoration and has helped create a business model that produces sustainable wetland restoration preserves. He is a past president and board member of the California Society for Ecological Restoration and has lectured on habitat restoration at the University of California (Berkeley and Davis) and at numerous technical conferences. Greg is also a regular presenter on the mitigation banking process at the annual National Mitigation Banking Conference.

Richard Grant, President of the Narrow River Preservation Association (NRPA), is the winner of the 30th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement award, a new category for 2019. NRPA has been working since 1970 to preserve, protect, and restore Rhode Island’s Narrow River and its watershed. An artist by trade, Grant joined NRPA in 1972 to help the group raise funds to protect the river, and in 1996, he became president, a role he continues to this day. For more than 46 years, Grant has been the driving force behind all of NRPA’s many fundraisers, increasing NRPA membership, engaging local sponsors, connecting with benefactors, and cultivating relationships with other stakeholders. He is also an active member of the NRPA’s Water, Land, and Education committees and is proud of NRPA’s many accomplishments in protecting the river—including improved water quality over the past 27 years. Under Grant’s leadership, NRPA has become a resource for agencies and organizations who need information about Narrow River, and in 2006, NRPA became the State-Designated Watershed Council for Narrow River. NRPA also developed several educational initiatives—including scholarships and science awards—under his watch.

“In this special anniversary year, we recognize individuals who have truly made a difference in protecting and restoring our nation’s wetlands,” said Awards Program Manager Azi Akpan. “These are not just leaders in their communities; their work and dedication inspires and impacts on a national level. We are excited to celebrate all eight of these outstanding individuals and recognize their tremendous work and leadership.”

Since 1989, the National Wetlands Awards Program has honored over 200 champions of wetlands conservation. The program recognizes individuals who have demonstrated exceptional effort, innovation, and excellence in wetlands conservation at the regional, state, or local level. Award recipients share a dedication to protecting the nation’s remaining wetlands; educating citizens, students, and agencies about the value of wetlands; and working with a diverse array of organizations and interests to advance wetlands protection.

The National Wetlands Awards Program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, NOAA Fisheries, and Federal Highway Administration. A committee of wetland experts representing federal and state agencies, academia, conservation groups, and private-sector organizations selects the Award winners.

For more information on the ceremony, please visit the National Wetlands Awards website at: www.nationalwetlandsawards.org. For more information on the program, please contact Azi Akpan at (202) 939-3255 or e-mail wetlands@eli.org. Individuals interested in attending may RSVP here.