In honor of his predecessor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe joined with friends, conservation partners, FWS employees and the family of former FWS Director Sam Hamilton to unveil a new sign on June 22 that officially renamed Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge.
"Noxubee was the place where Sam Hamilton found his calling, and I know the special place this refuge held in his imagination," Ashe said. "Just as I can't imagine wildlife conservation without Sam's contributions, it's impossible to think of Noxubee without being reminded of Sam. I'm so pleased that every American will have the opportunity to come here and learn about one of our nation's greatest conservation leaders."
Hamilton was sworn in as the fifteenth director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September 2009, succeeding Dale Hall, current CEO of Ducks Unlimited. Sam was serving as director when he died suddenly in February 2010. A 30-year career FWS employee, Hamilton previously served in a variety of positions, including regional director of the Southeast Region, where he was instrumental in the extensive recovery and restoration efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as the Interior Department's restoration work in the Everglades.
Sam's family was joined at the ceremony by representatives of Ducks Unlimited, Mississippi State University, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Friends of Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and a host of friends and current FWS employees.
"I worked with Sam and considered him a close friend for nearly 30 years, and no one ever deserved recognition like this more than he did," Hall said. "Sam's lifelong contributions to conservation will live on for generations through the refuge that meant so much to him and now bears his name."
Hamilton began his career at Noxubee NWR as a 15-year-old in the Youth Conservation Corps. He was a native of Starkville, Miss., and a 1977 graduate of Mississippi State University.
Noxubee NWR was established in 1940 and is located within the three Mississippi counties of Noxubee, Oktibbeha and Winston, near Starkville. Its 42,500 acres of bottomland and upland woodlands provide essential habitat to the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, the American alligator, bobcat, quail, white-tailed deer and wild turkey. In addition, up to 15,000 waterfowl, primarily American wigeons, gadwalls, mallards and wood ducks, winter on the refuge each year.