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Ducks Unlimited honors Ohio Division of Wildlife chief

Ducks Unlimited (DU) presented Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife Chief Steven A. Gray with a 2007 Ducks Unlimited Wetlands Conservation Achievement Award in the State/Provincial category on March 23. The award was presented during the DU Breakfast at the 72nd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Portland, Ore.

DU gives these awards to individuals that have made exceptional long-term contributions to the conservation of wetlands and waterfowl in North America. Chief Gray was nominated by DU’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office, with support letters from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, League of Ohio Sportsmen (which named Gray its Conservationist of the Year) and Winous Point Marsh Conservancy.

During Gray’s 16-year tenure as chief and assistant chief, the Division has protected and/or restored more than 25,000 acres of wetlands, many of those in partnership with DU. A staunch supporter of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), Gray has worked with state and federal legislators to maintain and increase funding and has developed creative partnerships to enhance wetland conservation programs in Ohio and the Mississippi Flyway. He is also a strong supporter of DU’s habitat conservation efforts in Canada, to which Ohio has contributed more than $2.75 million. The Division also recently fulfilled its $50,000 heritage pledge to DU and pledged an additional $50,000 to benefit North American wetlands.

“I am a firm believer in DU’s mission. I’ve had the pleasure of viewing their work throughout North America, and they have an excellent record of conserving habitat where it matters most,” said Gray. “DU is a great long-term partner of the Division; working together, we have vastly improved the landscape for waterfowl.”

Gray initiated the Ohio Division of Wildlife/DU Partnership Hunt in 2003, uniting Division and DU staff and supporters from across the country to celebrate what partners can accomplish working together. This annual event keeps wetlands and waterfowl conservation at the forefront, as well as raising significant funds for DU. This partnership received DU’s Wings of Innovation Award in 2006.

“Steve has contributed significantly to DU’s work in Ohio and in Canada. The Ohio Partnership Hunt is a truly unique event, bringing together DU’s conservation partners, local and national volunteers and fund-raising staff all in one venue—but it is only one example of Steve’s long-standing relationship with DU,” said Bob Hoffman, director of DU’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office. “We are proud to present Steve Gray with the 2007 Wetlands Conservation Achievement Award for the substantial positive impact he has had on waterfowl habitat across the continent.”

Gray has worked for the Division for 31 years, beginning as an at-large wildlife officer in 1976; he became assistant chief in 1991 and then chief in 2003. In addition, he has represented Ohio for seven years on the Mississippi Flyway Council (MFC), contributing to the conservation of Southern James Bay Population Canada Geese (SJBP) as part of the MFC’s SJBP Committee. Gray also served on Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) committees dealing with migratory birds, waterfowl and other issues.

Under Gray’s leadership, Division-owned land increased from 95,000 acres in 1991 to 190,000 acres—a 100 percent increase—by 2006. The Division has significantly increased wetland acreage on both public and private lands, with major projects at Pickerel Creek, Big Island and Mosquito Creek wildlife areas. The Division also is a key partner in two $1 million NAWCA grants DU is currently administering in northeast and northwest Ohio. In addition, more than 100,000 acres of new grassland habitat have been added in Ohio over the past four years, with a focus on population recovery for the bobwhite quail and other grassland bird species. And the Ohio bald eagle population reached an all-time high in 2006, with 150 nesting pairs and 205 fledgling eaglets, rebounding from the state’s low of only four pairs in 1979.

The Division also has received many accolades during the Gray era, including AFWA’s 2005 Ernest Thompson Seton Award, given to Gray and the Division as the Outstanding Leader and Agency in promoting scientific management of fish and wildlife resources.

Though Gray has announced his March 31 retirement from the Division, his link to the outdoors will not suffer. He remains an avid outdoorsman and enthusiastic hunter, angler and trapper in the Ross County area, where he lives with his wife, Holly. Steve and Holly have passed on their love of nature to their children, Jacob, 22, and Anna, 19.

For more information, please contact DU’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office at 734.623.2000. And for information on the DU Wetlands Conservation Achievement Awards, go to www.ducks.org/wetlandawards.

Contact: Kelli Alfano
Public Affairs Coordinator
734.623.2000 or kalfano@ducks.org

Related:  ohio

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