Molly P. Brown
Friends of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Molly Brown began her public crusade to protect wetlands and wildlife habitat in Virginia Beach more than a decade ago. In 1988, Molly reinvigorated the Friends of Back Bay to support the expansion of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. She has worked tirelessly with congressional members and staff to secure land acquisition appropriations for the refuge now totaling more than $12 million. Her support of the refuge wetlands protection program, however, reaches far beyond land acquisition. Using her skills as a former elementary school teacher, Molly can often be found on the refuge guiding students in outdoor classroom activities. She uses her position as a board member of the National Wildlife Refuge Association to educate land managers and other volunteers across the United States on the effectiveness of “friends groups.”

Two of her most recent campaigns involved combating threats to a bald cypress swamp in the refuge. Molly successfully worked with several government agencies and concerned citizens to re-route a sanitary sewer away from the swamp and fought a new road planned for the same area. As a result of her efforts, the city instead funded improvements to the existing roadway and is examining long range alternatives that would eliminate the need for future road construction in this sensitive wetland area.

Molly’s effectiveness stems from her unique combination of graciousness, tenacity, and personal integrity. She has become a role model for all of us who seek to bridge the public and private sectors as we work collectively toward wetland conservation.

— Joseph F. McCauley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hadley, Massachusetts