2018 National Wetlands Awards Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2018 National Wetlands Awards!

Conservation & Restoration
Latimore M. Smith 

Covington, Louisiana

Education & Outreach
Mark D. Sees

Orlando, Florida

Landowner Stewardship
The Gibbons Family (William and Jeannette)

Brookings, South Dakota

Science Research
Kerstin Wasson

Watsonville, California

State, Tribal, and Local Program Development 
Maryann M. McGraw

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Wetlands Community Leader
Roy R. "Robin" Lewis III

Salt Springs, Florida

 

 

 


Latimore M. Smith – Conservation & Restoration
The Nature Conservancy (retired)
Covington, Louisiana

A gifted botanist and plant community ecologist, Latimore M. Smith spent more than 15 years with the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program (LNHP) in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, identifying and documenting the diversity and ecology of natural habitats across the state. While identifying hundreds of exceptional sites, he focused on studying habitat types that were uncommon and had been poorly understood by the scientific community including many wetland habitats in Louisiana. He was the first to recognize and formally describe longleaf pine flatwood wetlands, a previously undocumented wetland community in the state, as well as one of the first to articulate their ecological importance and need for conservation.  His work with Kisatchie National Forest significantly influenced ecosystem management across the 600,000 acre forest, including a multitude of extraordinary wetland sites.  For over 17 years as the former Director of Stewardship/Restoration Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy’s Louisiana Field Office, he dedicated himself to conserving, restoring and managing many of the state’s premier natural areas, including the globally rare longleaf pine ecosystem.  He led the development and implementation of comprehensive conservation plans that covered thousands of acres at multiple sites.  In addition, he was instrumental in the development of the first pine flatwood wetland mitigation bank and led the effort to protect the first longleaf pine flatwood wetland savanna placed in conservation in the state.  Sharing his deep passion and expansive knowledge, he also has focused on mentoring a next generation of conservation biologists to carry on this critical work. 

 

Mark D. Sees – Education & Outreach
Orlando Wetlands Park 
Orlando, Florida

As the Manager of Orlando Wetlands Park for over 20 years, Mark D. Sees not only performed the  daily duties of managing the wetland treatment system, but also proactively sought opportunities to evolve the park into a center of public recreation as well as wetlands education. He has facilitated Eagle Scout Projects at the wetland, spearheaded the creation of the “Friends of the Orlando Wetlands,” a dedicating volunteering group to help managing the Park and interacting with the public, and created the Environmental Education Center at the Wetlands. He also actively engaged in wetland research efforts, assisting graduate students with research by obtaining solar panels to run pumps, building a water distribution system, providing airboat transport, and further lobbying the wastewater division to provide scientists funding in excess of 1 million dollars to help understand and maintain the system.  In 1999, he organized the annual “Orlando Wetland Festival” to provide local children and adults an opportunity to take tours in the wetlands to understand their place in watershed as well as how they filter and remove pollutants from water and protect downstream water bodies. The festival now attract more than 5,000 people each year from the surrounding communities, with a combined attendance of 44,000 over the years, a testimony to his dedication to improving wetland awareness in the Orlando area. He has dedicated himself to creating opportunities for local engagement with the Orlando Wetlands Park and goes above and beyond to be an “ambassador” for the park.

 

The Gibbons Family (William and Jeanette) – Landowner Stewardship
Cedar Breaks Ranch
Brookings, South Dakota

Over the past 28 years, William and Jeanette Gibbons and their family have devoted tremendous time and financial resources to restore degraded land and water on Cedar Breaks Ranch in Brookings, South Dakota.  Since the purchase of an initial 240 acres in 1989, the Gibbons developed their formerly overgrazed and eroded property into a showcase of how various conservation practices can be seamlessly and profitably integrated into a working farm, with 250 acres of cropland, 105 acres of riparian buffers, 160 acres of native prairie, and 80 acres of wetlands and ponds. The Gibbons’ remarkable achievements encouraged other landowners to incorporate regenerative agriculture into their own practices to build soil, expand biodiversity, and increase sustainability. They work with South Dakota State University to use their property to further research in natural resource management, wildlife, and conservation practices. They also host workshops and public tours for local and regional conservation organizations. In addition, several wildlife clubs sponsor youth hunting and fishing events at the Gibbons’ farm to introduce disadvantaged young people to conservation and the outdoors. In sharing their experiences and knowledge in conservation and natural resource management and offering diverse outdoors activities as well as research and instructional opportunities, the Gibbons’ have further inspired and educated their local community. 

 

Kerstin Wasson – Science Research
Elkhorn Slough National Research Reserve
Watsonville, California

Kerstin Wasson has been the Research Coordinator at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve for over 18 years.  She coordinates a comprehensive long-term monitoring program for Elkhorn Slough, where citizen scientists engage in tasks such as collecting water quality data, counting migratory shorebirds, and tracking nesting at a heronry.  She has mentored graduate students on subjects ranging from threatened red-legged frogs to sea otters, from eelgrass to marshes. She is passionate about restoration of native oysters and salt marshes, both of which have suffered extensive losses in this estuary, and conducts experiments to inform restoration strategies locally and in other wetlands.  She helped to launch an ambitious ecosystem-based management initiative to bring together diverse stakeholders to jointly develop a shared vision for restoration of the estuary’s wetlands.  That vision is now being implemented, and she is leading extensive restoration experiments at a large marsh restoration site.  In addition, Kerstin has led major collaborative projects across the network of National Estuarine Research Reserves.  With her counterpart from the Rhode Island Reserve, she led a national assessment of salt marsh resilience to sea level rise, synthesizing consistently collected data across 15 Reserves in a publication that received national attention.  Now they are conducting a replicated restoration experiment at eight of these Reserves, testing sediment addition as a strategy for enhancing marsh resilience.  She is also leading an investigation of crab herbivory across 15 Reserves, and developing a network of native oyster restoration practitioners from Baja California to British Columbia.

 

Maryann M. McGraw – State, Tribal, and Local Program Development
New Mexico Environment Department
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Maryann M. McGraw is a leader in New Mexico wetland management. As the Wetlands Program Coordinator at the New Mexico Environment Department Surface Water Quality Bureau, she initiated the state’s Wetlands Program in 2003, and continues to provide vision and guide development of the program to reflect the crucial role of wetlands and riparian areas in the arid west.  The Wetland Program Plan for New Mexico that she developed in 2010, and updated in 2012, 2015, and 2017, uses a multiphase comprehensive approach that includes the timely engagement of partners throughout the state in the development of Wetlands Action Plans and maintaining the New Mexico Wetlands Roundtable that meets four times a year. She initiated comprehensive wetland mapping and classification for the fifth largest state.  Her recent projects include the development of rapid assessment methods for montane and lowland riverine wetlands, confined valleys, and playas of the Southern High Plains, which informs the development of state wetlands water quality standards and antidegradation policies. These standards protect the most vulnerable and threatened types of wetlands, including isolated wetlands that are critically linked economically, ecologically, and culturally to water quality in the state. She has served on the Association of State Wetland Managers Board of Directors and, in 2007, the steering committee to develop a Strategic Plan for the EPA National Wetlands Program. She has also taught landscape ecology and restoration classes at Santa Fe Community College, and volunteers with Kitchen Angels to provided weekly food deliveries for homebound clients since 1996.

 

Roy R. "Robin" Lewis III – Wetland Business Leader
Lewis Environmental Service Inc./Coastal Resource Group Inc.
Salt Springs, Florida

 For more than four decades, Roy R. “Robin” Lewis III has been the vanguard of wetland restoration and creation, designing or assisting in the design of more than 200 completed wetland projects in Florida, California, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Nigeria and Thailand. These achievements include a 613 acre freshwater wetland in Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, a 1,250 acre mangrove restoration project at Anne Kolb Park in Hollywood, FL, and nearly 10,000 acres of diked former salt marsh in San Pablo Bay near San Francisco. He has founded two environmental consulting companies: Lewis Environmental Services, Inc. and Mangrove Systems, Inc. Currently, he is also president of Coastal Resource Group, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Florida’s native coastal wetlands. He is also a Certified Professional Wetland Scientist Emeritus with the Society of Wetlands Scientist. In addition to his restoration activities, he has been tireless in his efforts to share his time and expertise in ecology, management, restoration and creation of fresh and saltwater marshes, mangrove forests, forested freshwater forests, and seagrass meadows, with other practitioners worldwide.  For over 25 years, he has worked with the Association of State Wetland Managers to produce publications and advance wetland education opportunities and resources.

 

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To read more out about past NWA Winners, click here.