On March 12, 2014, Ducks Unlimited announced the winners of the 2014 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards during the 79th annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, held in Denver.
DU’s 2014 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 and DU CEO Dale Hall presented the awards. This year's winners are:
- Senior Federal Official: Representative Kristi Noem, US Representative from South Dakota
- Federal Agency: Kurt Forman, US Fish and Wildlife Service
- State/Provincial Agency: Dr. Ken Abraham, Ontario Ministry of Natural ResourcesResearch / Technical: Dr. Alan D. Afton, US Geological Survey
- Conservation / Private Citizen: Phil Precht, ConocoPhillips
- Communications: Paul Baicich
“These winners are a true testament to hard work and determination, and serve as perfect examples of people from various walks of life who have a shared passion for wetlands and waterfowl conservation,” Schmidt said. “DU is honored to recognize their work and hopes their achievements inspire others to follow suit.”
2014 Award Winners
Senior Federal Official
Representative Kristi Noem
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Representative Kristi Noem, along with Representative Tim Walz, has been taking steps to preserve the remaining native sod across the country. As a freshman member, Noem first introduced the bipartisan Protect Our Prairies Act, also known as Sodsaver, in May 2012 and then again in February 2013. A top priority of Ducks Unlimited, this common sense legislation encourages good land stewardship practices and preserves habitat for ducks, pheasants, and other wildlife on native sod and grasslands that haven’t been farmed in the past. By reducing crop insurance assistance for grasslands converted to cropland, Protect Our Prairies could save America’s taxpayers nearly $200 million over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As a conferee on the Farm Bill conference committee, Noem was an essential player in securing the Sodsaver program’s place in the final 2014 Farm Bill, which will apply to six of the top duck-producing states. Representative Noem is also an active member of the Congressional Sportsmen Caucus and an avid sportswoman herself. She has a strong understanding of what the hunting industry means to her home state of South Dakota.
Full release on Rep. Noem
Growing up in Windom, Minnesota, Kurt Forman knew he wanted to pursue a career in conservation. Throughout 20 years with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Kurt has displayed an incredible talent for bringing people to the table and working through tough issues. As South Dakota State Coordinator, he is actively engaged in discussions to maximize the wildlife benefits of farm conservation programs while supporting opportunities for producers to stay profitable. Kurt’s leadership has yielded impressive results: 7,692 acres of wetlands restored or established, with 32 percent in perpetual conservation easements; 27,512 acres planted in native grass, with 46 percent in easements; 463,901 acres of grazing systems in place, with 26 percent in easements. Kurt has also secured more than 18 million dollars in North American Wetland Conservation Act grants and critical matching grants. These funds have not only created tremendous habitat, they have provided support to over 3,800 private landowners. Through his strong relationships with non-governmental organizations, states, tribes, and other federal agencies, Kurt helped defeat proposed legislation to prohibit perpetual conservation easements within the state. Working with DU, the National Wildlife Refuge System, private landowners, and other conservation partners, Kurt has helped create a lasting legacy of wetland and grassland protection.
Full release on Kurt Forman
Dr. Ken Abraham
During his career with the Wildlife Research Team at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and through his association with Trent University and various multi-disciplinary committees, working groups, and joint ventures, Dr. Ken Abraham has become recognized as one of the most accomplished Arctic ecosystem scientists in the world. Throughout his career he has contributed to waterfowl and wetlands conservation at the highest levels. This has been especially important for Arctic-nesting geese and their habitats, but also to systems and species in the Boreal Forest and elsewhere. He has seized opportunities to apply science to management issues in Ontario and throughout the Atlantic, Mississippi, and Central Flyways. Ken is a member of a small team of scientists whose work helped us understand the conservation challenges of overabundant geese. This resulted in over a hundred scientific papers and reports that are widely recognized for their singular leadership. He was a major contributor to the recent Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario and, in 2006, was recognized as the Ontario Distinguished Ornithologist. Ken was also a key contributor to the 2005-2007 Continental Assessment of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. Accomplishing this and more in a quiet, unassuming, firm, and friendly manner, Ken has distinguished himself as one of the continent’s most effective leaders in waterfowl conservation.
Full release on Dr. Abraham
Dr. Alan D. Afton
Dr. Alan Afton received his B.S. degree in Wildlife Biology from Kansas State University in 1973. He went on to develop Masters and Doctoral projects on breeding biology of northern shovelers and lesser scaup. At the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources research center in Bemidji, he studied the migration ecology of diving ducks, particularly lesser scaup. In 1988 he moved to Louisiana State University, where he is in his 26th year. Alan became an expert in waterfowl social behavior, incubation ecology, and reproductive energetics. His studies included scaup population biology; northern pintail winter ecology and management; lead-shot management; effects of spinning-wing decoys and electronic calls; coastal marsh management; and winter ecology of gadwall, mallards, and canvasbacks. He is currently leading a multi-year study of scaup migration ecology in a continuing quest to shed light on the long-term decline of bluebills. In addition to teaching two graduate-level courses at LSU, Alan has supervised 16 Masters and six PhD students and served on many graduate-student committees. He is widely respected for his scientific accomplishments, his mentorship of young conservation biologists, his efforts to enhance communication in our field, and for all that he has done to advance understanding of waterfowl biology and inform conservation.
Full release on Dr. Afton
Phil R. Precht
As the real estate supervisor for ConocoPhillips Company, Phil Precht’s current responsibilities include the largest span of privately owned wetlands along the Gulf Coast. Phil has shown outstanding leadership in collaboration with other landowners, state and federal agencies, and a host of non-government organizations, all aimed at addressing the challenges of conserving Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Phil has worked tirelessly beside numerous landowners including Apache Corporation, Continental Land and Fur, and other energy companies to foster collaborative restoration projects that benefit all. He also has close relationships with parish governments who have significant interest in the restoration and preservation of coastal wetlands, and has fostered collaborative projects with them as well. He has promoted communication and collaboration among the multitude of state and federal agencies responsible for coastal protection and restoration, as well as with the numerous non-government agencies active in conservation across Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. Over his 35-year career, Phil has made invaluable contributions to the people and places so vital to the waterfowl and wetlands of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. He has superb vision, beyond his property and direct responsibilities, to the people and to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands as a whole. His commitment to collaboration and conservation results is second to none.
Full release on Phil Precht
Paul J. Baicich
Paul Baicich has been an active birder since his early teens in New York City. A former employee of the American Birding Association, he edited 14 of their ABA Birdfinding Guides, as well as their bi-monthly magazine, and served as Director of Conservation and Public Policy. Today, through traditional and online media, as well as a variety of speaking engagements, Paul takes every opportunity to promote wetland conservation, especially through the purchase of Duck Stamps. Paul contributes regularly to bird publications and often writes about wetland conservation. As the Coordinator for the National Wildlife Refuge System Birding Team, Paul incorporated bird and wetland conservation and Duck Stamp materials into workshop discussions. He launched and directs the on-line Great Birding Projects as a vehicle to promote bird-related education tourism, bird conservation, and wetland conservation. Paul also co-edits the popular monthly Birding Community E-bulletin, in which he regularly includes information about bird and wetland conservation. Paul has been inspiring people to think about the Duck Stamp and its benefits to wetland conservation for years. He has gone beyond the typical hunter audience and reached birders, hikers, elected officials, and others to spread the value of the Duck Stamp, not only for wetlands and birds but for people too.
Full release on Paul Baicich