Washington, DC, March 26, 2009 -- Six citizens have been recognized for their on-the-ground wetland conservation efforts and decades-long dedication to protecting these important natural resources. A diverse panel of wetland experts assembled at the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) earlier this month to select the winners of the 20th Anniversary National Wetlands Awards.
This year's Award winners hail from all regions of the country and exemplify the extraordinary commitment and innovation that is so instrumental to conserving wetlands in the nation's communities.
The 2009 awardees are:
Ken Brunswick, a regional ecologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Nature Preserves who manages the Limberlost Swamp Remembered Project to restore a 13,000-acre wetland;
Richard Gitar, the Water Regulatory Specialist for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who has built a successful tribal wetlands program across 44,000 acres of wetlands in Minnesota;
Carol Johnston, a professor at South Dakota State University who has worked in the field of wetland science for over 35 years addressing the linkages between wetland processes and landscape ecology in the Great Lakes region and throughout the country;
Melissa Samet, the Senior Director of Water Resources at American Rivers who has been instrumental in restoring the wetlands and storm buffering capacity of the Mississippi River in the greater New Orleans area and in preventing the loss of thousands of acres of ecologically significant wetlands in the Mississippi Delta;
Richard Thieriot, owner of the Llano Seco Ranch who has worked tirelessly to protect 18,000 acres of contiguous wetlands, riparian forests, native uplands and wildlife-friendly agricultural lands in the Sacramento Valley of California;
Susan Vincent, a high school science teacher at The Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem in New York City who has guided her students to conduct field research in local marshes and in the Mississippi River Delta in southern Louisiana.
Collectively, the award winners have conserved tens of thousands of wetland acres and have mobilized hundreds of individuals to contribute to wetland conservation.
"The restoration and protection of the Nation's aquatic resources, especially wetlands, is a high priority for us," said former Assistant Secretary of the Army, John Paul Woodley, Jr. "I am excited that the work we are doing will supplement the fine wetlands work being done by the recipients of this year's awards."
On May 12th, the winners will take a well-deserved break from their efforts to receive their awards at a ceremony on Capitol Hill.
"We look forward to meeting the winners of this year's awards and honoring them for their extraordinary achievements in wetland conservation," said Dr. Jim Balsiger, Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA-National Marine Fisheries Service. "We are proud to support ELI's National Wetlands Awards and their 20th anniversary celebration in recognizing individuals for their contributions to society and the aquatic environment. Wetlands are essential for healthy coastal and marine habitats which support valuable fisheries and protected resources. They help buffer our coastal communities from the impacts of storms and sea level rise, improve our water quality, and provide healthy recreational opportunities for public use and enjoyment."
Program administrator, the Environmental Law Institute, and supporters—U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service—hope that recognizing wetland leaders for their efforts will inspire others to follow their example. Given the national importance of wetlands, the federal agencies that sponsor the Awards welcome the opportunity to recognize and encourage voluntary wetland conservation efforts.
"Wetlands are a vital link between our land and water resources, and they provide a variety of ecological services to forests and grasslands. The Forest Service is proud to support the National Wetlands Awards program and to recognize the extraordinary work of the Award recipients," commented Abigail R. Kimbell, Chief of USDA Forest Service.
For more information on the National Wetlands Awards Program, the 2009 awardees, or the May awards ceremony, please contact Annie Brock at the Environmental Law Institute at (202) 939-3862 or [email protected]. Information is also available online at www.nationalwetlandsawards.org.