Patricia Riexinger
Wetlands Program Manager, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, New York

An awardee in the state government category, Patricia Riexinger has worked for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for 14 years and has headed its wetlands program for 7 years.When Riexinger was 15, her family moved from Buffalo to a rural area outside of Lockport, New York, which had a wetland on the property. It was there that she began exploring a world that would become her profession. She attended Cornell University, earning a bachelor’s degree in wildlife management. During college, Riexinger spent summers working at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge in western New York near Batavia as part of the Youth Conservation Corps, and later as a biological aide for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Waterfowl Hunting Check Station. After joining the DEC in December 1976, Riexinger spent her first few years working with waterfowl and on endangered species issues.She began to work with wetlands in late 1983. Since then, Riexinger has overseen New York’s efforts to move from interim wetlands regulations to final regulations, which included comprehensive mapping of the state’s wetland resources. In 1988, she spearheaded the coordination of the state Freshwater Wetlands Advisory Committee to amend state wetlands laws. With input from the Committee, Riexinger rewrote Article 24--the state’s Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act. These revisions have been approved by the governor’s office and were submitted to the state legislature this year as one of the governor’s program bills.Recently, Riexinger has been conducting publichearings on revisions to Part 664 of the state freshwater wetlands regulations, which sherewrote to be more understandable, to incorporate a no net loss goal, and to address a variety of other land-use planning issues. She helped integrate a no net loss goal into Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1989 State of the State address. She has also mobilized a New York State Wetlands Coalition composed of government, private-sector, and other individuals to foster wetlands protection.Riexinger is the DEC liaison to numerous federal, state, and local agencies involved in wetlands protection. Throughout her work at the DEC, Riexinger has made herself accessible to, and solicited input from, each of the groups she works with in developing state wetlands initiatives. She also works to integrate wetlands protection into other areas of state government. One example has been the incorporation of a wetlands protection doctrine in the state Division of Water’s Stormwater Technical Guidelines. Riexinger also keeps abreast of current national and international findings on wetlands protection and regulation, and incorporates them into her work at the DEC.Riexinger’s next immediate goal is to complete a state conservation plan, following the recommendation of the National Wetlands Policy Forum. Under her direction, New York is one of the first states to tackle this project.Whether appearing on a wetlands teleconference for state employees, writing a case study of the state conservation plan forum in Washington, DC, or drafting the bid specifications for a wetlands handbook, Riexinger puts a great deal of effort into her work. She has extended herself to others, letting them share in her enthusiasm and understanding of the political process to help local or regional entities develop programs that are successful. She is, above all, a team player.It was not for any one project that Riexinger was nominated, but for the total of her long-term efforts on behalf of wetlands, and for the number of people she has been able to excite, enthuse, and educate about wetlands protection. We are delighted that her efforts have been recognized.— Linda Cooper, Town of Yorktown (New York), Environmental Resources Group