Press Release: April 3, 2014

Environmental Law Institute Recognizes Six National Wetlands Award Winners

(Washington, DC) — The Environmental Law Institute has announced the recipients of the prestigious National Wetland Awards – individual stewards from across the country who have been recognized for their exceptional and innovative contributions to wetlands conservation. “I congratulate the extraordinary individuals selected for the National Wetlands Awards for demonstrating how citizens and communities can – and do – make a difference,” stated ELI President John Cruden. “With our federal agency partners, we look forward to an awards ceremony that showcases the remarkable contributions they have made to a healthy and productive environment.”

The 2014 National Wetlands Awards recipients will be honored at a ceremony on May 8, 2014 at the U.S. Botanic Garden starting at 6 pm. The public is invited to attend. This year’s recipients are:

Conservation & Restoration

Mark Abramson has dedicated the last 15 years to protecting and restoring wetlands and streams in the coastal County of Los Angeles. As the senior watershed advisor for The Bay Foundation, Mark has achieved a range of accomplishments. One of his most significant is the 10-year effort to restore the Malibu Lagoon, one of the last coastal wetlands in the County. The project was completed in May 2013 and, since that time, a diverse community of plants and animals has returned to the lagoon.

Education & Outreach

For almost 50 years, Jack and Anne Rudloe have operated an education center from their lab, the Gulf Specimen Marine Lab. The nationally recognized, non-profit center provides members of the public with a hands-on experience in learning about the wetlands and coastline of North Florida. More than 15,000 people pass through the center’s doors each year. The Rudloes have also been actively involved in preserving the wetlands of North Florida. While Anne sadly passed away in 2012, Jack continues to work to further their conservation legacy.

Science Research

For over 40 years, South Dakota State University Distinguished Professor of Ecology Dr. W. Carter Johnson has been a major contributor to wetland science, including significant contributions to the understanding and management of riparian and prairie pothole wetlands. Carter is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on the impacts of global climate change on prairie pothole wetlands. He has published approximately 125 peer reviewed articles, books, and book chapters.

State, Tribal, and Local Program Development

Working in the public and non-profit sectors for the past 37 years, Ray Norrgard has been committed to wetlands and waterfowl. Ray has served in a variety of roles at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, taking a leading role in the development of several wetland programs, including Reinvest in Minnesota, an initiative that has generated tens of millions of dollars annually to restoring wildlife habitat on marginal agricultural lands. Ray has also volunteered countless hours of his free time to promoting wetlands.

Wetland Community Leader

For nearly 30 years, Esther Lev has worked tirelessly to protect wetlands across the state of Oregon. As executive director of The Wetlands Conservancy, Esther has established the organization as the leading voice for Oregon's greatest wetlands, promoting conservation, collaboration, and stewardship. Under Esther’s leadership, a network of more than 1,700 acres of wetland systems have been successfully protected in Oregon. Esther has also worked to build the public’s understanding of the role wetlands play in their everyday lives.

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The program is administered by the Environmental Law Institute and supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Federal Highway Administration. ELI coordinates the awards program, while our federal agency supporters provide financial support, serve on the selection committee, and/or participate in the ceremony.

“Wetlands are part of the foundation of our nation's water resources and are vital to the health of waterways and communities; they trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, and are economic drivers because of their key role in fishing, hunting, agriculture and recreation,” said EPA acting Administrator for Water Nancy Stoner. “Protecting and restoring wetlands is a priority for EPA, so we’re proud to help honor the outstanding efforts of the people and groups that have made great progress to improve the health of America’s wetlands.”

"We’re in a race against time to protect wetland landscapes and the benefits they provide for wildlife and local communities across the nation. Wetlands are increasingly at risk – threatened by rising sea levels, persistent drought, or falling under the plow as crop prices rise,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “That’s why we’re proud to celebrate these dedicated people, whose vital contributions to wetland conservation benefit all Americans.”

“The 2014 National Wetlands Awards winners provide inspiration in our efforts to protect and restore our nation’s natural resources,” said Jason Weller, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  “Wetlands provide so many values to Americans, from recreation and wildlife habitat to cleaner water. NRCS is proud to recognize and celebrate the outstanding 2014 National Wetlands Awards winners who have contributed so much to wetland conservation.”