MEMPHIS, Tenn. - March 13, 2015 - Ducks Unlimited announced the winners of the 2015 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards today during the 80th annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, held in Omaha, Neb.
DU"s 2015 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards were presented in six categories and recognized individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the conservation and restoration of North America's wetlands and waterfowl. DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt presented the awards. This year's winners are:
- Senior Federal Official: Congressman Rob Wittman, U.S. Representative from Virginia
- Federal Agency Employee: Dr. Fred Johnson, United States Geological Survey
- State/Provincial Agency Employee: David Norris, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
- Research / Technical: Dr. Gary Hepp, Auburn University
- Conservation / Private Citizen: Mo Buder, Missouri
- Communications: Hal Herring, Montana
"These winners represent the way people from various walks of life who have a shared passion can achieve great things for wetlands and waterfowl conservation," Schmidt said. "DU is honored to recognize their work and hopes their achievements inspire others to follow suit."
2015 Award Winners
Senior Federal Official
Representative Rob Wittman
Serving Virginia's 1st congressional district since 2007, Wittman spent 26 years working in state government and many years as an environmental health specialist. As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, he brings professional expertise in water quality, fisheries and other natural resources to the table and is a longtime champion of the Chesapeake Bay. He serves as co-chair of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Caucus, which brings Bay issues into focus for Members of Congress. The Congressman also serves on the First Congressional District Environmental Advisory Council, which is a group of citizens and officials interested and involved in promoting a healthy Chesapeake Bay and clean environment. In 2009 Wittman was appointed to the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which oversees distribution of project funding under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. He is also co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman's Foundation and a lifelong hunter and angler.
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Federal Agency Employee
Dr. Fred Johnson
Johnson's career demonstrates the highest of professional standards, unusual creativity and courage to lead big changes, and an unwavering passion for linking science to management. His noteworthy achievements began as a young field biologist for the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (FWC), in its waterfowl program. Under his leadership, FWC launched new management programs, including an innovative aerial survey technique for monitoring mottled duck populations. In his role with the USFWS Population Assessment group, he influenced waterfowl management at the national scale through Adaptive Harvest Management. Almost singlehandedly, Johnson institutionalized this rigorous and structured decision making, and in doing so influenced the professional and personal lives of countless wildlife managers. His work on the Joint Task Group was instrumental in highlighting to the waterfowl management community that harvest and habitat management should be integrated under a cohesive framework. This became the central topic in the latest revision to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Since 2008, he has worked for the USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center, where he continues to make contributions to waterfowl management.
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State/Provincial Agency Employee
Norris has been the Wetlands Project Leader for the VDGIF for nearly 20 years. In addition to impressive on-the-ground conservation project accomplishments, he has served as vice-chair and chair of the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture (ACJV) Technical Section and served on the North American Wetlands Conservation Act review committee for the ACJV. Norris also led a first-of-its-kind effort to develop a master management plan for Virginia's wildlife management areas based on surveys and focus group feedback from Virginia's user public. He received a B.S. in Biological Science from Peru State College, Nebraska and a M.S. in Natural Science from Southeast Missouri State University. Norris began his professional career with the Nebraska Game and Parks commission in 1991 prior to joining the VDGIF in 1996.
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Dr. Gary Hepp
Until his recent retirement, Dr. Gary Hepp was a professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, where he had been on faculty since 1988. Gary's contributions to waterfowl biology, ecology and management have been numerous. In particular, his contributions to understanding the breeding biology and population ecology of the wood duck have been highly influential. Many of Dr. Hepp's former students occupy key, influential positions within the waterfowl and wetland conservation community.
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In 2009, Buder, the owner of Whistling Wings, a 780-acre duck club in St. Charles County within Ducks Unlimited's Confluence Focus Area, indicated a desire to take care of the ducks that had brought so much pleasure to his life. His legacy was a land protection trifecta. He donated a conservation easement on this critically strategic property, thus halting floodplain development from the east. He then designated 330 acres as an "inviolate waterfowl refuge" to provide a place for waterfowl to rest and feed undisturbed. Finally, Buder designated in his will and trust that Whistling Wings would ultimately be sold to a conservation buyer, with one-fourth of the proceeds establishing the "Missouri Confluence Endowment Fund" to ensure perpetual land protection work in the Confluence and three-fourths to protect additional nesting habitat in the Missouri Coteau.
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Herring specializes in deeply reported, long-form journalism stories and essays with a primary focus on conservation. Through the years, he has been a leading advocate for Gulf Coast restoration, and has authored numerous articles and stories on Mississippi River Delta restoration and coastal Louisiana land loss. Hal is now working on conveying the idea that saving Gulf Coast wetlands is vital to the nation all the way upstream to Montana. His work has helped to ensure that these issues, and the efforts of dedicated conservation professionals, citizen volunteers, and scientists to address them, are understood by the millions of people who are directly affected.
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