Kenneth F. Bierly
Wetlands Program Manager, Division of State Lands
Salem, Oregon

Kenneth F. Bierly, an award winner in the state government category, is the model of an improbable bureaucrat. In less than 10 years, he has contributed to the protection and management of wetlands not only in Oregon,where he heads the state’s wetlands program under the Division of State Lands, but throughout the United States.

Among Bierly’s contributions are comprehensive state wetlands legislation, Oregon’s exemplary wetlands program, a wetlands priority plan, the beginnings of a mitigation bank program, a wetlands conservation planning program, an educational program, and an enthusiastic and dedicated staff. But above all, Bierly has given credibility to the role of government in wetland management among public agencies, farmers, developers, and environmentalists.

During the summer of 1988, Bierly gathered together an unlikely group of representatives of development interests, public agencies, agriculturalists, environmentalists, and academics. For six months, the ad hoc group met monthly (more frequently in small groups) and eventually hammered out comprehensive wetlands legislation. The bill, which passed unanimously in June 1989, was largely the product of Bierly’s vision, knowledge, and skill in getting people to reach consensus.

The wetlands bill was founded on the state’s removal-fill law, which is comparable to the federal Clean Water Act’s §404 program. Over the years, increased conflicts had developed between the needs of statewide planning, the removal-fill permitting program, and individuals with conflicting wetland interests--conflicts that were diffused through the provisions of the new act. These provisions include a state Wetlands inventory, opportunities to issue general authorizations, provisions for local wetland conservation plans with advanced permitting and mitigation, a clear agricultural exemption, strong direction for public wetlands education, and a requirement that local governments notify the Division of State Lands of proposed activities in mapped wetlands.

Oregon’s Wetlands Priority Plan (1989), another one of Bierly’s efforts, provided the framework, criteria, and direction required under the federal Emergency Wetlands Resources Act. The plan summarizes the diverse agency interests in wetlands, trends in wetland loss, and threat of future loss, and sets a three-point agenda: state wetlands inventory completion, trend analysis, and identification of significant wetlands. Bierly also initiated a much-needed public wetlands education program. The program uses videos, slide shows, brochures, and workshops to teach wetland functions and values, delineation, state and federal wetlands regulations, and wetlands conservation planning.

A native Oregonian, Bierly graduated from Oregon State University and earned a master’s degree from Colorado State University, where he studied subalpine wet meadows. Bierly has been Oregon’s principal proponent for sound wetlands management since joining the Division of State Lands in 1983. Prior to joining the division, he engaged in wetlands consulting for 10 years.

In 1991, he was appointed to the Association of State Wetland Managers Board, and he has testified before congressional committees on wetlands issues. Bierly was instrumental in obtaining an Environmental Protection Agency grant for wetlands conservation planning in 1991. Bierly has been able to build his programs on a strong and continuing scientific foundation tempered by his experience of real-world constraints. Through his commitment, knowledge, skill, and energy, he sets a standard for state government employees that is hard to match.

— Robert F. Frenkel, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University