2012 National Wetlands Awards Ceremony
This has been continuously operating since the 1930s, but the botanical garden, has been part of our heritage, led by those great presidential people since 1820. I’m John Cruden, I’m the president of the Environmental Law Institute and it gives me a great deal of pleasure, this is the most fun thing we all do each year, to welcome you to our 23rd celebration of heroes—individuals who are every part of our country’s work, people who are researching, people who are using effectively their land, people who are advocating that others restore places and acquire equivalent wetland resources across the United States—those are the people we are honoring today. We are now joining them and 175 of your predecessors, who have been also honored, in the same way, with 15 distinguished individuals who are experts in their area, coming together with hundreds and hundreds of other possible people, selecting you all as the individuals most deserving of the award today. And so it is with great enthusiasm and tremendous honor for each and every one of us to be in your presence, that we are now starting again the 23rd award celebration.
You should have at your chair, each and every one of you, the National Wetland Newsletter that is a premium wetland paper. It’s a bimonthly publication, it’s been in existence now for over 34 years, put out by the Environmental Law Institute and if you open it up there is a very quick summary, with pictures, of our awardees. Now I don’t want you to look at that, during th[is] time, I just want you to focus on what we’re doing. I just want to let you know if you forget some important segment of what an individual did you can find that in the paper and that is actually part of what I think the Environmental Law Institute brings in collaboration with the six agencies that I will be mentioning throughout the program who partnered to put this together. But it sees the efforts of ELI of publishing, of researching, that has made our focus today on wetlands.
I also want to celebrate the members of Congress who in fact partnered with us, one of them is our keynote speaker who I will be introducing in just a second, but there are two others. Congressman Rob Wittman of Virginia and Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who are both partners in putting this celebration together at such a wonderful location. And again, I will mention throughout our program the six federal agencies that did that.
But now I do want to turn to our keynote speaker, I will only tell you a little bit about his extraordinary career except to tell you that those of you who have been in local government, or state government or federal government, so has he. He has done all the things that you could ask somebody to do, who would stand up here and celebrate with you [the] Wetlands Awards presentation. Really distinguished lawyer, served as a clerk of one of our biggest and most important clerks in the land, and then as a federal prosecutor, he was also a Consular in New Mexico to the environmental agency. When he came he was elected, which he was twice, to be an Attorney General of New Mexico. He was also the lead Attorney General on environmental issues, which was where I first met Senator Udall, because in Albuquerque he was assembling every single Attorney General in the United States to emphasize to them, as he has his entire life, the importance of environmental protection issues. He was elected to Congress, and he has served there ably since 2009, he has been the Senator of New Mexico, he serves on a number of committees. We think the most important committee that he serves on is the Environmental and Public Works Committee. Senator Udall, I am sure you would agree that you are here celebrating heroes, but I want you to know from all of us, whatever party we’re in, whatever part of America we’re in, you are our hero. Thank you for your great contribution to America and I turn the podium over to you sir.
John, thank you so much for that very, very nice introduction. You know, I wish my mom was here, she would have believed every word of it. And my father would have said “Tom, don’t let it go to your head.” But thank you, thank you, it’s been wonderful working with you all [over] the years.
I’m going to try to be uplifting today. And it’s hard when you know Congress ranks below the Communist Party. They just recently did a poll, it’s come in, on favorability, the Communist Party is at 11% and Congress is at 9%. So, just to let you know where the standing is there. Now, it’s a particularly, I think, fitting evening John, because this is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. And that is something I think that we celebrate. For over 40 years the Environmental Law Institute has been a leader in environmental law and policy: informed, engaged, and non-partisan. Something we need a lot more in Washington these days. Our world is a lot better place because of the efforts of ELI.
And I especially want to commend this year’s winners of the National Wetlands Awards. I’ve had the opportunity to meet each of them and take some pictures and let me just tell you I am honored to be in your company. As most of you know, my father was Secretary of Interior for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In his work he encouraged a revival and respect for our national resources. Something he saw happening all over the nation. He believed we were finally beginning to recover a sense of reverence for the land. Reverence for the land; those were not just words to him. And they are not just words to the award winners here today. Reverence, think of reverence: profound, awe, and respect, often love. My dad loved the land and he taught me to love it as well—and to fight to protect it. This has guided my life in public service. This reverence, this love of the land, it’s a guiding principle, I believe, of the Environmental Law Institute, and certainly of the recipients this year of the Wetlands Awards. Their dedication is clear, their commitment is inspiring.
Our nation’s wetlands are a treasure. They purify and replenish our water. They protect us from flooding, from erosion, they nurture an incredible diversity of wildlife and plants. You may wonder why a Senator from the deserts of the Southwest cares about wetlands. But even in the arid west, wetlands are vital to our landscapes. They are crucial to our wildlife, to our water resources and to our economy. In my state of New Mexico, we are proud to claim the internationally recognized Roswell Artesian Wetlands. Roswell is one of the most spectacular wetlands in the American West and we have the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, one of the great wildlife refuges of North America. The Bosque wetlands and fields are the winter home of tens of thousands of birds. Every fall, 18,000 sandhill cranes travel 1,700 miles from Canada to the Bosque Del Apache, and Arctic geese fly more than 2,000 miles.
The Bosque Del Apache is a great example of what we can do when we work together. Before creation of the refuge, the landscape was a devastated site. Overgrazing, excessive hunting, river diversion, invasive plants, everything had gone wrong. But the Fish and Wildlife Service worked with farmers and local residents and together they turned it around. Now, there is an annual Crane Festival. Every year thousands of people travel to the Bosque Del Apache. Together with the cranes and the geese, they celebrate the completion of the final stretches of a spectacular annual migration.
That is a success story, and we need more successes like it. We need more people with vision like those we are honoring here today. We need to identify and protect fragile landscapes. We need to create partnerships and opportunities for research and education. And we need to support individuals and communities that have recovered a sense of reverence for the land. Our nation, our planet, faces great challenges. How do we grow our economy and protect our environment? How do we ensure that landscapes and ecosystems stay intact, while natural resources are utilized? Those are tough questions. But with the creativity of those we honor today and the teams and coalitions they represent, we can confront these challenges.
I believe that the key is innovation; it is the bridge between the past and the future. It is the path forward. The human mind gravitates to what is known. But it is the discoveries of the unknown, of the new ways of looking at our world that transform us. So we have to be innovative, we have to chart a new course. As we see here today, communities and individuals are rising to the occasion, they are doing their part. Congress has to do its part too.
(Applause) So you cheer for that? Maybe they’ll hear it up on the Hill there!
In the Senate, we are fighting to protect threatened landscapes, to keep our water clean, to develop a more sustainable energy policy. The very first piece of legislation I introduced as a U.S. Senator was a renewable energy standard. To require large utilities to generate 25% of their electricity from wind, solar, and other renewable sources by 2025. Thirty states and the District of Columbia already have versions of this, but not yet at the national level. I am hopeful that we can change that. Wind and solar are likely to be among the largest sources of new manufacturing jobs worldwide during this century. A renewable energy standard is not just a government initiative; it works with the private sector. And it appeals to the spirit of innovation that is so strong in our nation’s history.
We can make a difference—the award winners here today understand this—with collaboration, with vision, with the public and private sector working together. The U.S. is a dynamic economy, entrepreneurial, visionary, daring. The locomotive, the engine of growth is the private sector, but the government can provide leadership and reliability with renewable energy standards, with tax incentives, and with investment in research and development. I believe that working together we can make real progress. We can grow our economy. We can protect our environment. We need our wetlands; we need careful management of our natural resources. We need clean, efficient energy. Conservation is not just a personal virtue, renewable energy resources are not just exotic alternatives. All are essential to our prosperity, to our security and to the planet. So thank you again and congratulations to the 2012 winners of the National Wetlands Awards.
Tim Swanson. Just hold for a second here, I’m going to read their names and then you can really cheer because that’s what we are here all about today. Tim Swanson, okay raise your hand so they can see it.
Tim Swanson, Gary Kreamer, John Anthony Sedgwick, Christopher Craft, Ron Brockmeyer, and Florence LaRiviere. Thank you!
Just to conclude, and to them, thank you for all that you do. It’s a privilege for me to be here with you today. Your work inspires all of us. And when I heard about your accomplishments, and I read about them and visited with you here today, I can tell you very truthfully that the work that you do is what really keeps me going here in Washington. Thank you very much. I’m sorry, I’m going to have to run; I’ve got to preside over the Senate. I told John that. But you’ve got the best part coming, you’ve got them. Thank you very much. It’s an honor to be here with you this evening.
Senator Udall, thank you very much. Your words to all of us were both uplifting and challenging. But now we’re going to turn to those individuals who met the challenge, who did things that in fact fill some of the inspiration that you gave us. Here’s what I’m going to do: we have both presenters that represent every one of the six federal agencies who came together for this particular awards ceremony and I’m going to briefly introduce, only with a few sentences, the presenter, and the presenter then will give our this year’s award. But I do want to say at least a little bit about each of our presenters because they too, are somewhat extraordinary individuals.
Here’s our first: he was a leader at a local level - Baltimore, he led the state environmental program under the Clinton administration, he was head of both the air program and the water program, the only person who’s had both jobs, but that wasn’t enough, he also headed, by the way, the Audubon Society, who is not irrelevant to wetlands, but now most of us know him as the Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. If I had to pick one person that I would go to for advice or assistance on any environmental issue it would be Bob Perciasepe. Bob.
Thank you John. And I also want to say something about you, this is your first time mc’ing the Wetlands Awards and I want to congratulate you on your endeavors in your new position here [as the President of ELI]. You know, I have to say a few minor words here, but I don’t want to take too much time because I really want to get to the awardees. But, I’m not going to repeat some of the things you’re going to hear, perhaps over and over again, and certainly are preaching to this choir about the importance of wetlands, both coastal and freshwater wetlands and riparian wetlands. These are vital. They are vital in our ecosystems and they are vital in our economy. And I want to just say just how important they are in our economy. They take up nutrients, just using one example, some of the nutrients they would be absorbing if we had to find other ways to do it, through sewage treatment plants or nonpoint source controls, it would be many millions of more dollars then preserving the wetlands to begin with. Flooding, we have billions of dollars of flooding impacts in the United States every year. Wetlands prevent flooding, they mitigate against flooding. And some of the flooding damages we have now are because of the tremendous loss in wetlands we’ve had over the last several hundred years. And so the vital work that all of us are doing to restore and maintain the wetlands ecosystems that we currently have, are really helping reduce the growth in those costs.
Tourism, I have to mention tourism, I’ve got, as I did last year, this is a different tie, I have one of my bird ties; John mentioned I worked at the National Audubon Society, [and] who better to know about birds and migratory birds using wetlands but someone who worked at the National Audubon Society. But tourism, I don’t think anyone has looked at how many billions of dollars Americans spend on birding, or how many billions of dollars Americans spend on hunting and camping. And what impact wetlands have on the preservation of the kinds of landscapes that people like to see for both of those kinds of activities, and how important that is to some of these communities where the magnificent wetlands are located.
So it’s not just about flooding, not just about pollution control, it’s also about the health of our communities. And I think this is the key point we have to keep in our head. This is not some esoteric kind of concept here. This is right down home, this is something that protects people’s drinking water, and it’s something that protects the wellbeing of their communities.
I want to say just a few words about some of the things we’ve been doing at the EPA and the [Obama] administration that I think are helpful and demonstrate some of the dedication that we have. I mentioned in passing the Gulf task force that came out with a report last year after the Gulf oil spill, the president set up a task force made up of the states and federal agencies, a broad task force report that looks at really going beyond just restoring the damage that occurred from the Gulf, but as the commission that looked at the spill suggested and others have suggested, really looking at the restoration of the Gulf of Mexico and the coastal wetlands system that sustain it. In fact, two-thirds of the world’s fish that are consumed for food spend part of their life cycle in a coastal wetland and the same thing is true in our coastal wetlands in the Gulf of Mexico. We have the Chesapeake Bay Program, we have the Great Lakes Program, we have the Gulf of Mexico as I mentioned, we have the Puget Sound, and we have all the national estuary programs across the country that are really focused on coastal wetlands.
It was mentioned by the Senator that this is the 40th anniversary, a little bit later in the year I believe, of the Clean Water Act. I remember celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. I remember the Clean Water Act, unfortunately, being passed. I think I had a class in graduate school following the Clean Water Act as it was going through Congress believe it or not, so I’ve sort of lived with it for awhile. In the 40th year here, we have, unfortunately in some respects, some of the same things we said in the 20th anniversary. We have made tremendous progress, and we have and we should celebrate that, but the immense problems that still face our wetland ecosystems and our water quality in the United States can’t be denied and the work that our awardees tonight have been doing to further that cause can’t be over-celebrated. We have a long way to go and we have to celebrate the partnerships that have evolved over the years.
I want to mention one last thing before I move to the award that I am announcing this evening, and that is guidelines. Who here knows about guidelines? Well, some people know about the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court’s muddled view of wetlands. And so what we are working on at EPA and in the Administration, and with our partners at the Army Corps of Engineers and some of the other federal agencies, are better guidelines really trying to get a little more order out of the chaos. We’re really close to completing those, and I want to predict, probably to my danger, that we are very close to getting them done. We proposed them in April and I’m expecting them soon, but they are going to really move the ball forward and how we as a federal government operate the national wetlands protection program. I’m very proud of the workall of our staff and the agencies have done.
Finally, I have to say something about partnerships. Partnerships are just so essential to the work, and we’re going to hear about that in spades here tonight as we look at some of the Award winners. So now, with full thanks to everyone that’s here, I want to move on to the honor of, and the reason I was really asked to come here as opposed to this editorializing, is to present the National Wetlands Award, which is really the key part of the evening. And this one is actually close to home for me, even though I live here and have a house in New York City, my parents live in Stuart, Florida. And so, back in the 50s and the 60s and the 70s, probably about 70% of the coastal wetlands of the Indian Lagoon in Florida were impounded for mosquito control. Anybody here like mosquitoes? I do. And they isolated the estuary and they led to serious ecological damage. You put on top of that the diversions that were created to protect flooding further south in Florida, through the canals from Lake Okeechobee, and you have an ecologically disrupted system.
In response, Ron Brockmeyer, who we’re going to celebrate tonight, initiated and led a campaign to reconnect impounded wetlands to the estuary and he worked closely with federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as the private sector professionals and academic experts. Ron and his team reconnected, breached, or restored 78% of the land, tens of thousands of acres hydrologically reconnected. Troy Rice, who’s the director of the Indian River Lagoon Natural Estuary Program, and I mentioned the natural estuary programs a little while ago, describes Ron’s work as the most important and beneficial natural resource restoration activity in the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem—which is not an insignificant ecosystem.
Today, Ron leads an initiative to restore other wetlands in the estuary that are similarly scarred by deep, wide mosquito-control ditches. Ron is also the principle investigator for the Wetlands Initiative at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, which is a multi-agency effort to evaluate wetland processes under various hydrological management scenarios. This comprehensive research is used to develop recommendations for wetlands management and restoration so that their ecological functions can be improved. Daphne Macfarlan, a marine habitat resource specialist with NOAA, calls Ron a “technical expert on the implementation of wetland restoration, providing insight and expertise to partners nationwide.” He’s an extraordinary partner for all of us in the environmental protection and it’s my great pleasure and honor this evening to recognize Ron Brockmeyer with the 2012 National Wetlands Award for State, Tribal, and Local Program Development. Ron, congratulations on your well-deserved award.
Thank you. I’ve been struggling with what to say after all of these things. I guess I need to start by thanking my parents who did not laugh hysterically when I decided I wanted to go into study marine science, when I grew up in Missouri. My wife and daughters who tolerated me going back to school for my graduate work while working fulltime. Then, I guess, the agency I work for, as strange as that may sound, for letting me have a job doing something I really enjoy and think is important. And lastly and most importantly are the partners because me working at a single agency can’t make a big impact without the local government folks implementing the projects, private contractors on the implementation side, state and federal partners providing funding and expertise, and landowners and land managers mostly in the public sector where I work, who have been encouraging and receptive of ideas to do restoration on their lands. It’s been rewarding and I enjoy it, and I hope to keep doing it for awhile. Thank you.
Here representing the Natural Resources Conservation Service to present the landownder stewardship award, is Kelly Ireland. Kelly is a team leader in NRCS; she’s worked there since 1999, and has held a variety of leadership positions in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and national headquarters. Kelly.
Thank you, good evening. It’s my pleasure to present the Landowner Stewardship Award this evening on behalf of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We at the Natural Resources Conservation Service are celebrating the 20th year of the Wetland Reserve Program. And, as part of that big celebration year, it is an honor for us to continue to be a part of these Wetlands Awards. Landowner stewards are really what make the work of NRCS get done. Without landowners on the ground to implement the conservation, we wouldn’t have anything out there. I had the opportunity this evening to meet this year’s Landowner Stewardship Award winner. And he exemplified the type of person that we look for for putting conservation on the ground. He was excited about both his working lands conservation on his ranch and with the wetland project that granted him this award this evening. It’s my honor to present John Anthony Sedgwick as the Landowner Stewardship Award winner this year.
Tony has worked in cooperation with NRCS, other federal, state, and local partners to restore and protect a nine-acre wetland site on his family property. This wetland, known as the Las Lagunas de Anza, is a true resource to the community. This site is both rich in history and ecological value. It is the first campsite in the U.S. on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, and provides an opportunity for students to come out and learn about that rich, diverse history. Tony has worked to make his father’s vision a reality. The Anza Wetlands support one of the richest and most diverse riparian habitats in the Southwestern U.S., providing important habitat for birds and other wildlife. According to the local papers, the wetlands are the place to go for viewing wildlife. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, school students of all ages have the opportunity to learn about the importance of water in their lives and the critical value of wetland habitats through the work at the Anza Wetlands. There are opportunities for art, science, history. The site may be small, but the Anza Wetlands and Tony Sedgwick, as a landowner steward of this unique site, are a huge asset to the community. Congratulations.
Alright, yeah, I’m not John Sedgwick, I’m Tony Sedgwick. The bill collectors know me as John. The wetlands, these wetlands, are the last remaining wetlands in the upper-Santa Cruz River. They are located in the city of Nogales, Arizona. Nogales itself is a border community on the U.S.-Mexico border. I’d like to thank ELI, you folks are awesome. It’s great to receive a very large, very difficult to move plaque, but I’m going to stand on that plaque and I’m going to use it, oh wait, I have to say one other thing, I used to be a lawyer, but I’m talking about my heart now, so you have to bear with me if I cry…it’s awesome stuff…so I apologize. I never used to cry when I was a lawyer, believe me; you’d never hire me if I did. But this is different.
You know, ELI, I’m going to use you folks, I’m going to promote this thing, I’m going to let my people know how awesome it is to be doing these kinds of things. Because I live in a very different community from you all. It’s very different. I’d also like to thank…my kids know that I cry, so they always have hankies handy. But anyways, I’d also like to thank a couple of Services. Your Service is great, but the two that have really served me here are the National Park Service, especially the superintendent of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Trail, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These folks saw the vision and have given me tremendous advice and direction. I know nothing about wetlands, and they’ve put their money where their mouth is, allowing us to do things. Unbelievable. Our wetlands, Las Lagunas, are very much like our community, Nogales. You’ve probably heard the unrelenting drumbeat of negative news, the drug wars, the illegal aliens, the this, the that, on and on and on. If you came down to my wetlands back in the day, it’s nine acres, it’s just a little place. On one side is the interstate highway, on the other is a huge warehouse, the third side is a busy city street, you know. And Nogales is like that, unemployment is 18%, the border which was a gateway, is now a fence.
But it’s something else as well. It’s a beautiful, multi-cultural, multi-lingual community. It’s an awesome place. It’s a place where the mayor of our community, the superintendent of schools, the civic clubs, volunteers of every kind, groups with handicapped folks, groups that deal with people with drug and alcohol issues, lots and lots of kids, all got together and made a beautiful, beautiful wetlands. It’s so much fun to be a part of it.
And, I’ll just talk very little about my kids, because they’re my heart. My own kids are here tonight, thank you so much for coming. But the kids that I’m talking about, the ones that make me cry, are the Girl Scouts, they opened the area so we could have access; Boy Scouts, their floating platform, water in the desert, you have no idea what that’s like; science club kids from high school, they went out with waders and they cut the cattails, they opened up the water and made it accessible to the migratory birds that fly over. And we have a couple history clubs in the schools, they honor themselves, they represent us and we’re sending three of them to San Francisco to represent us up there. It’s just amazing. Art kids, draw paintings for our birds and our animals that are on our signs. About 150 of these kids.
Now, this kind of a deal, this kind of a deal doesn’t happen by itself. It requires vision and it requires commitment. I’ll do this. The vision came from my father, Cabot Sedgwick. He saw this, he had these wetlands, he saw what they could be, he saw past the trash that had been dumped there for 50 years, he saw past the mosquitoes that we’re not too fond of, and he saw the possibility. I walk in his shoes. But vision alone is not enough. Vision requires commitment. And I’m real happy, someone over here, a couple of people that were the commitment. They’ve come out here from Arizona to be a part of this. Arlyn Johnson and Don Clemans. Amazing people, extraordinary people make this happen. It’s a wonderful thing. This award is for you, this award is for my dad and for my community. Thank you.
Here representing the Fish and Wildlife Service to give the Conservation and Restoration Award is Bryan Arroyo. Bryan is the Assistant Director for the Fisheries and Habitat Conservation. He previously held another Assistant Director Position in Endangered Species, before then he was Assistant Regional Director for Ecological Services. Bryan.
Good evening everybody. It’s an immense pleasure and, most important, humbling to be presenting a great award and hearing all these stories about places that I have been myself. So I truly, truly appreciate every awardees commitment and their vision and their hard work. Here in the headquarters office, not a day goes by that I don’t think about our people in the field. Our field biologists that work hand in hand with individuals, like the awardees that we have here tonight, and so I will be remiss if I don’t make sure that those are the ones that get the credit for what the work of the agency is. Randy Gazda is back there, and he’s our guy in Montana, and there have been others. So congratulations to you too.
Yes, I am the Assistant Director of Fisheries and Habitat Conservation, and that is a huge portfolio, but I want to focus on something because it is important that we celebrate the good accomplishments that we’ve had on wetland conservation in this country and restoration. But I want to make sure we remain vigilant. As part of my duties, I receive the National Wetlands Inventory Program. That program maps the wetlands in the country and every so often we provide a little report, we prepare a report, on the Status and Trends. The latest report gives us a little bit of a pause, some of our wetlands are not doing as well as we want them to be. We’ve made great gains, we have a 17% increase on the establishment of wetlands. And that’s a measure of the kind of work that all these awardees have done. But we also know that we are losing some wetlands. The last report, between the years of 2004 and 2009, about 62,000 acres of wetlands were lost. That’s too high. Given the pressures, particularly when you start factoring in that we are going to have some climatic changes. So these wetland habitats probably are not going to be viable anymore. We have to be very vigilant. I want us not to lose sight of the celebration, not to lose sight of the great accomplishments, but it is extremely important that we remain vigilant. And we work together in partnership, not just government, not just NGOs, but individuals. Every citizen in this country benefits from wetlands. Wetlands provide tremendous ecosystem services to each and every one of us. So let’s make sure that we educate our citizens so that we all truly understand wetlands and their great importance to this country.
So I’m going to stop there, because this is not about the Fish and Wildlife Service, or about being vigilant, but please do remain vigilant. It is an extreme honor to present the 2012 Conservation and Restoration Award to Tim Swanson. Tim, I had an opportunity to visit your part of the world. It was my first time out there in Montana and we happened to run into each other. So I can tell that your commitment is unwavering and unyielding. Tim was a Nature Conservancy’s Program Director in the southwest Montana area for about a decade. Tim worked tirelessly to bring divergent interests to the table and deal with the protection of land that was threatened with development. And Tim, you did a great job. It looks great. Let’s make sure we keep it that way.
Tim did the most difficult but most important thing when you’re trying to work in partnership, particularly when you’re working with private landowners. He built up trust. Building trust and confidence with those landowners to do the right thing, because they understood and because of the approach that Tim took, really, really helped do a lot of great work. As a result, 55% of the private land in the wetland-rich Centennial Valley in southwestern Montana has been protected. Protected through conservation easements. Because, you know, we have to keep those landowners on the landscape. Landowners on the landscape are a good thing. They are rich in history of those lands; they own that land, their heart is in that land. They have been out there for centuries and generations, and they care about that land. We need to give them a hand, technical support, financial support. That’s one of my programs, the Fish and Wildlife Services program. We do that part. But we also need people like Tim out there, working with them and helping us establish things.
I’m going to read a quote from James McGee of the Montana Fish and Game Department. What he said about Tim: “I learned not to doubt Tim, as his vision and his passion is unyielding. His work has brought so many ranching families, agencies, and interest groups together to provide long-term protection to the landscape and championed the family ranching culture in Southwest Montana, which is so unique. What Tim has accomplished in the past 10 years is something that will be enjoyed for many, many generations.” I have, firsthand, seen that, and I can tell you it is true.
One of Tim’s crowning accomplishments was to facilitate the expansion of the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge by 4,300 acres. That was the last remaining parcel within the refuge boundary as an inholding that was left. The Fish and Wildlife Service, we have learned through time that we cannot do things alone. So partnerships are extremely important and Tim was instrumental in that partnership. Tim worked cooperatively with public agencies, conservation groups, and local ranching communities to help secure, get this, $35 million in private and public funds to acquire and protect almost 70,000 acres of land, including more than 11,000 acres of critical wetland habitat. And I will tell you it’s beautiful wetland habitat out there.
Tim also has produced an award-winning short film titled “Fish & Cow: A Story of Restoring the Upper Big Hole Valley,” which highlights how ranchers are working with conservation organizations to restore fluvial arctic grayling habitat. Next time I come out, we’re going to fish some of those. But in addition, Tim has furthered his conservation legacy by establishing an intern program, challenging over 40 students to work on scientific research and stewardship projects with ranchers and helping to train a new generation of conservationists. This is the kind of generation of conservationists we’re going to need in the future. Individuals that understand working landscapes; individuals that understand the science behind how do we do conservation and being able to do the synergy of those two fields and get them together to achieve great conservation work. Without further ado, it is my great honor to present this award.
Let’s see if this is right. Everybody hear pretty well? I’m a compulsive seeker of stories. Looking back over four decades of my careers in finance, politics, teaching, and conservation, they’ve all been triggered by pieces of compelling, unique stories. My imagination gets fired up and I begin to create a full narrative from the fragments I’ve seen or heard. My choice has been to jump into the best tales and live in them, eager to meet all the characters, and see how events turn out.
I started working in southwest Montana in 1998. And here are some of the triggers that caught my attention, particularly about the Centennial Valley. It’s the largest wetland system in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem: 22,000 acres of wetlands at very high elevation—six to 6,500 feet; 260 bird species making a living there; 160 breeding there. With the exception of bison and big-horned sheep, all the critters are there that were present when Lewis and Clarke passed by the valley 200 years ago. If you organize the 20 counties around the greater Yellowstone ecosystem into a state—we’ve got 20 counties, seven national forests, huge parks like Yellowstone—if you organize that like a state, it would be one of the fasted growing states in the country, people are drawn to it. It also happens to be one of the top three most threatened counties in a seven-state area for second home development.
With that information and one more piece, when you go to Red Rock Pass and you’re at the continental divide, one side is Idaho and the other side is Montana, there is a little sign that says “50 miles of dirt road, no services, no gas, no nothing.” And I thought, man, that’s a place I’ve got to make the jump. So, I talked my way into the job. I began to work and my operation was go meet the people, go meet the people, go meet the people.
So, a couple of quotes from some of the people. One family early on, did four easements on their four ranches in the Centennial Valley. And they were tough guys. So I came back to them a few years later, cause they were one of the first that committed to that kind of coverage on ranches. I showed them a map and I said, “Look at this, look at how many people have done this.” Their response: “That’s great, if anything goes wrong; we’ll come after you together.”
Second quote, from Rob Thomas, a professor of geology and environmental science at the University of Montana—Western in Dillon, he started a multi-year project that took his students, many of them came from the valleys around Dillon, and he did assessment work for our restoration efforts. He left a school, Vassar, and his colleagues said, he left it for Dillon: “When you go to Dillon, your career is going to die.” And his response: “I’d rather die in Dillon then spend five more minutes in Poughkeepsie.” Recently, he was awarded the Carnegie Foundation, Case U.S. Professor of the Year, the first of any Montana professor.
And finally, another ranching family, the Erb family, who we have a relative here from that family, who was taking a leadership role in the restoration of the Big Hole to help save the last population of fluvial Arctic grayling in the lower 48. And people are saying, “Why are you taking the lead in this?” And he put it this way, “I think that people are kind’ve watching us, not that they are looking for us, for any kind of leadership, but they are just seeing if we fall off the end of the earth; they know not to go there.”
I’m going to close with a beautiful meditation called “Blessings at Year End,” written by Howard Thurman, the influential American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader who was with us from 1899 to 1981. And this is something that I read often to help me stay on track. Here’s what he says:
I remember with gratitude the fruits of the labors of others, which I share as part of the normal experience of daily living. I remember the beautiful things that I have seen, heard, and felt. Some as a result of definite seeking on my part, and many that came unheralded into my path, warming my heart and rejoicing my spirit. I remember the moments of distress that proved to be groundless and those that taught me profoundly about the evilness of evil, and the goodness of good. I remember the new people I have met, from whom I have caught glimpses of the meaning of my own life and the true character of human dignity. I remember the dreams that haunted me during the year, keeping me ever mindful of goals, and hopes, which I did not realize, but from which I drew inspiration to sustain my life and keep steady my purposes. I remember the awareness of the spirit of love that sought me out in my aloneness, and gave me a sense of assurance that undercut my despair and confirmed my life with new courage and abiding hope.
With that, I thank the Environmental Law Institute for this Award, and I accept it on behalf of myself and the hundreds of partners, ranching families, conservation organizations and foundations, the staff of local, state, and national government agencies, and elected government officials. Thank you very much.
Here representing the Federal Highway Administration to give the Science Research Award is Gerry Solomon. Gerry is the Highway Administration’s Director of the Office of Project Development and Environmental Review. For many years before that, he was a senior official in the state of Massachusetts. Gerry.
Good evening, and thank you everybody. It’s a pleasure to be here today, this is the third year I’ve been invited back to be part of this program and it’s one of the highlights of the year. I really appreciate it. It’s a big event, as we can all see.
It’s really just an opportunity for all of us, collectively, to recognize the exceptional and innovative contributions to wetlands conservation that’s happening all around the country. At FHWA, environmental stewardship and project delivery are seen as things that can go hand in hand, and need to. Our administrator, Victor Mendez, had commented on this program, and recognized that safeguarding America’s wetlands is an important part of our ongoing commitment to balancing the public’s transportation needs with environmental responsibility. Similarly, in our strategic objectives, when I look back at our strategic plan, our objectives specifically note responsibility to develop and continually improve federal highway’s ability to deliver our programs in a way that reduces the impacts on the environment and maximizes the opportunity for enhancement.
FHWA appreciates the opportunity to be part of this program. First, I want to congratulate all the award recipients for all their great work they have done. But I want to talk a little about Dr. Christopher Craft, the 2012 National Wetlands Award recipient for Science Research. I want to welcome all of Chris Craft’s family here too; they are from around the country. I was outside a little earlier and spoke with them, and we have people from New York, and from North Carolina, and from Indiana, maybe other places as well. So welcome all to this great event.
Dr. Craft is a world-renowned wetlands scientist, whose research has made substantial contribution to scientists’ understandings of how wetlands function. He has built one of the top U.S. research programs in areas of wetland ecology, plant community restoration and nutrient cycling in wetland ecosystems. Most of Dr. Craft’s professional career has been in identifying long-term trajectories of ecosystem development in created and restored wetlands. His research has also provided the scientific basis for assessing the valuable ecosystem functions that service the agricultural, urban, and tideland wetlands.
His current work is in the area of carbon storage rates in wetlands, something that Federal Highway shares, as we go through pilots of looking at carbon sequestration along our highways. Federal, state, and international agencies as well, call in Dr. Craft to assist them in developing wetland restoration plans. Dr. Craft has produced nearly 90 highly cited peer review publications. His research has had significant implications for wetland and environmental management.
As other speakers have done today, they have referred to some of the quotes from some of the people who have recognized the work of these award winners. One that commented on Dr. Craft was Curtis Richardson, director of Duke University’s Wetland Center, and he said of Dr. Craft: “I would rank Chris as the top salt marsh restoration scientist in the world today. His research has made significant contributions to our understandings of how wetlands function, including the Everglades. There is no question that Chris has established a productive and outstanding, nationally known wetland restoration research program.” With that, I would like to congratulate Dr. Craft with this award.
Alright, well thank you Gerry for those very kind words. Probably a bit overstated I might say, because we all don’t achieve our goals without the help of a lot of other people. So I’m going to stand over here and thank some of those people and I’ll probably forget some and hopefully you won’t be offended. I would like the Environmental Law Institute and the six federal agencies for sponsoring this award for the past, probably 20-plus years, because I know a fair number of recipients of these awards in years past. And I have to thank the family, my family, some of which traveled…I’d like to thank Carter Craft and Stephanie Craft and their three kids, ages six months to about six years for traveling by train this afternoon from New York City to be here. And my brother Patrick who is staying in a hostel tonight, but he can stay on the floor of our hotel room if he wants. And then I really would like to thank the people who have mentored me, and there have been a lot of them and I’m not going to be able to name them all. But there are three groups who come to mind.
And the first one Gerry mentioned, Professor Curtis Jay Richardson of the Duke Wetlands Center. Curt is an awardee from about six years ago of the Science Research Award. And Curt took me in the late 1980s down to the Everglades. I was a green post-doc and he put me in a helicopter and the day was about 105 degrees, it was July in South Florida and I’m susceptible to motion sickness, and we’re circling around the Everglades trying to find a plot, and I’m just….but anyway, it was a very high-profile project. It was phosphorus pollution in the Everglades and it’s still a problem today. And Curt opened my eyes to somany big wetland issues facing America and elsewhere. I’d like to thank Curt for teaching me how to think bigger.
Another person I’d like to thank is Professor Joy B. Zedler, the Aldo Leopold Professor of Restoration Ecology at the University of Wisconsin. And we were doing salt marsh restoration work on the east coast in the 1980s and Joy had a parallel research program in Tijuana Estuary in California at the same time. And we had a competition going. But you know, we’re ecologists, it was a friendly competition. Cooperation is better than competition; more can be achieved through cooperation than through competition. And Joy’s group pushed us harder, and we hope we pushed her harder, and I think together we made each of our groups better.
And the third, the last, but not least, group I’d like to recognize as my mentors, as a green PhD student at North Carolina State University in the early 1980s, I went to work doing salt marsh creation and restoration. I went there and the professor said, “Well Chris, we’ve been creating these salt marshes since the 1960s. And we don’t really care what you do in them, but we want you to study some aspect of them.” And I’ll be honest, in 1983, I didn’t know what a wetland was, much less what wetland creation or restoration was. And these guys, this was Professor W. W. Woodhouse Jr.; we always called him “Professor,” Ernest D. Seneca, and Steven W. Broome. These guys were creating and restoring wetlands in the 1960s before I think most of knew what one was.
And I’ll close my comments by paraphrasing, you know I’m a teacher, so I have to, you know, throw out some quotes, I’ll paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, the great physicist, who in 1676 was commenting on one of his mentors, Robert Hook, who was referred to as the Leonard Da Vinci of England at the time. He was studying planets, doing microscopy work and was a physicist in his own right. And Sir Isaac Newton commented on his mentor and said, “Today, if I see farther, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of the giants like you who came before me.”And I’d like to thank my mentors for helping me to see farther and I hope that I can be half as good of a mentor as the ones I had. Thank you.
Here representing NOAA, to give the Education and Outreach Award is Sam Rauch. Sam is the acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, before that he served for many years as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs, and before then we were colleagues together at the Department of Justice where he was a leader in the Wildlife Section. Sam.
Colleagues is an euphemistic way to say I was his employee, he was my boss, at least for a while. I am Sam Rauch. It is great to be here tonight on this occasion to celebrate National Wetlands Month and to honor these distinguished individuals. Thank you John and your ELI colleagues for arranging this special evening, and to the selection committee for volunteering their time and efforts into selecting this distinguished group. NOAA has been a long-time supporter of these Awards, and I’m pleased to represented NOAA at these events. Wetlands are truly an important function of our coastal economy, our coastal environment. I’d like to echo what Bob Perciasepe said about the seafood that we eat. He gave a figure, a third of it or something like that, comes from the wetlands. And I think if the seafood that you eat wasn’t born in the wetlands, it ate something that was. So without the wetlands we would not have the economy that we have, we would not have the coastal economy, the fishing economy. It is of great importance to us and to all of us here.
Enough about NOAA, I think we are here to honor these individuals, and in particular while we’ve heard, and will continue to hear a number of extraordinary stories about wetlands conservation, it is with great pleasure that I can present the next award in education and outreach to an outstanding individual, Mr. Gary Kreamer of Smyrna, Delaware. Gary is well known in Delaware as the Education Coordinator for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Aquatic Education Center. For the past 18 years, he’s worked in collaboration with local and state partners to develop numerous wetlands and environmental education programs. These programs have educated and inspired tens of thousands of students and adults both within and without the state.
He’s recognized for managing the Delaware Adopt-a-Wetland Program, which enlists volunteers to serve as stewards for adopted wetlands across the state. The program has grown under his leadership to include over a hundred groups and approximately 3,000 volunteers. It includes wetland education for the public through workshops, teacher-training sessions and onsite wetland education and monitoring and more.
Another program developed by Gary is the Eco-Explorers Program, which has provided thousands of fifth grade students, including their teachers and chaperones, the opportunity to learn about wetland ecology and salt marsh ecosystems. Students actually become scientists for the day, as they rotate through eco-stations, exploring salt marsh firsthand. They identify and learn about fish, and macro-invertebrates, wetland plants, and salt marsh animals, and perform water quality tests. More than 36,000 students have participated in this program since 1998. He’s also been instrumental in developing the award-winning and nationally recognized “Green Eggs and Sand Program.” This program allows students and teachers to study and see firsthand the interaction between horseshoe crabs and the shorebirds on Delaware and regional beaches. Currently, the “Green Eggs and Sand Program” is taught in 19 states, reaching more than 50,000 students. What an achievement.
In addition to the program award, Gary has received state-wide regional and national awards for his extraordinary leadership and contributions to wetlands education. Like many, a number of his colleagues have presented statements they would like us to read in his honor tonight. I’m just going to read a few of them. David Saveikis, the Director of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Service, says that the success of Gary’s programs, especially the Delaware Adopt-a-Wetland Program, is a result of his ability to work and partner with a variety of individuals and organizations to combine and leverage resources to achieve results beyond the sum of their individual parts. Jacqueline Tanaka, an associate professor of biology at Temple, says, “Gary is very modest. He loves what he does, is incredibly generous with his time and energy. I don’t think he recognizes how much he gives students and teaches when he shares his wetland knowledge.”
And finally, well not finally, Garth Stubbolo, an 8th grade science teacher at Everett Meredith Middle School says, “In my classroom, he has reached 800 students to date and counting. He’s a true unsung hero, toiling tirelessly. I know personally that hundreds, if not thousands of people have a greater appreciation for the world we live in because of his efforts over the years.” And finally, Katy O’Connell, the Communications Manager at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources says of Gary’s participation in the “Green Eggs and Sand” team, “I would argue he has invested the most time, energy, and effort personally and professionally, and has maintained a level of camaraderie with the “Green Eggs and Sand” partners, scientists, and teachers that is irreplaceable. Without his leadership, direction, and dedication the project would not be where it is today.” Gary, I’m deeply honored to present to you the 2012 National Wetlands Award in the category of Education and Outreach. Congratulations.
One doesn’t receive recognition at this level without owing a debt of gratitude to a lot of people. For me, it all starts with my mom, who in so many ways, and as genuinely and generously as only a mom can, instilled in me a sense of pride in always giving my best and a feeling that my best would surely be good enough. That gift has been encouraged at every turn by the best brother and sisters a man could ask for, and more recently by my wife Sharon, an outstanding teacher in her own right, who inspires me to try to be half as good as her in what I do each and every day.
I remember my own special teachers, two who especially come to mind at this time. My high school English teacher Tanya Williams, who made me realize, or at least believe in the notion that, there was a poet lurking inside me. And Vinnedge Lawrence, an amazing biology professor from W&J College, who took the time to recognize my potential as an ecologist and to challenge and inspire me to aim high and to realize that potential in all that I did. Perhaps these fine educators influenced my decision to become a teacher myself, leading me to a post-grad school job as a science teacher at a small, independent school in upstate New York. There I was again fortunate to be mentored by a truly extraordinary man, Homer Richards, who took me under his wing and helped me believe in myself and guide me through the gut-wrenching early years of teaching elementary and middle school children for the first time. After 12 years of going into that role, a job offer arose for my wife, so we found ourselves in Delaware. There, I serendipitously fell into an opportunity to launch a new state aquatic education center on the marshlands bordering Delaware Bay.
This award is about that phase of my life, and the many dedicated and talented people who I’ve had the good fortune to collaborate with and with whom I owe and share this honor. People like Marlene Mervine, the heart and soul of our Adopt-a-Wetland Program for over two decades, and Kathy Tidball and Mary Rivera, and the many terrific interns, seasonal staff, and volunteers who have worked with us and guiding all those tens of thousands of students and through our Eco-Explorers project. To former co-workers Bob Jones and Trina Kayla Rosario, who work with me in bringing under-served youth to the wetlands, and otherwise expanding the programs we offer and the audiences we serve. Add to that, the cast of exceptional characters and friends that I came to know and work with and learn so much from through the “Green Eggs and Sand” project. The names are too numerous to mention here, but with each I share a piece of this honor.
In the realm of working for wetlands, nowhere has such collaboration been more beneficial than the opportunity I’ve had to work with Amy Jacobs, Mark Biddle, and others in the Wetlands Assessment Section of our agency. The projects they’ve undertaken, and the progress they’ve made integrating education, restoration, and monitoring of Delaware wetlands has been nothing short of exemplary. And I’m so proud to be part of that effort. And then there are the people behind the scenes, like our gem of an administrative assistant Pearl Franklin, the many fisheries and wildlife biologists who have given generously of their expertise to our efforts over the years. The essential support of our present and past Delaware Fish and Wildlife leadership, and last but not least, the folks from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Protection Agency, without whose funding support none of what we’ve been able to do would be possible. That support is more critical now than ever as we face the challenges in getting our citizens of all ages to care about, connect with, and ultimately act to conserve our wetlands. We know from surveys that people today recognize the importance of water quality, are concerned about impacts of floods and storm, care about wildlife and their habitats. Yet, in Delaware, as in many parts of the country, we’re still losing wetlands everyday. And we struggle as educators with how to get citizens and decisionmakers to appreciate that those wetlands we’re losing provide the very services they value to such a high level.
My childhood days are of many fond memories, fishing in streams and ponds of Pennsylvania, exploring the woodlands, playing in the outdoors at every opportunity. Today’s youth by contrast average over six hours of a day of their free time engaged in electronic media. Although students today learn more about environmental issues than ever before, in this age of testing, field trips to actually experience the natural world are often taking a backseat. One can’t help but wonder how such knowledge can translate to the in-heart care needed to inspire real action to conserve natural resources without having a real life connection to them.
At one of the stations on our Eco-Explorers field trip, we ask students to sit at this bench on the boardwalk, close their eyes and open their ears to the sound of the marsh. For a couple of minutes those children are transported to a realm of pure sensing and natural world connecting has become all too alien to them. For all the new ecological concepts we teach them in their three hours with us, those few minutes I feel are the most important and something we need to be doing more of. This kind of learning is not measured on any of the assessments of achievements that drive so much of what is done in our schools today, but is becoming clear on many fronts it’s something we need to do now more than ever.
Several years ago we were doing a special program that brought families from inner-city Wilmington for a weekend of activities in the wetlands. It rained all weekend, but the kids were great. And on that last morning as we practiced casting and preparation for fishing, the rain finally stopped and a beautiful rainbow broke over the marsh. In a moment I’ll never forget, this nine-year-old girl looked up at me with big brown eyes and said, “I didn’t know that rainbows were real.” That story has ever reminded me that we need to strive in every way we can to continue the work we do. Now I have this honor to inspire me further and for that I’m truly grateful.
We have only one more award. But, what an award it is, come on, tell me the truth, wouldn’t you want to be designated the Wetland Community Leader? Here to give that award, representing the Forest Service is Dr. Deanna Stouder. Deanna is the Associate Deputy Chief for Research and Development at the Forest Service. Before joining the Forest Service she was a leader at the U.S. Geological Survey. Deanna.
Thank you. It’s such an honor to be here. To not only be here with my colleagues and the supporters of this award, but also the recipients of the award. And I have to quote, also, my chief, Tom Tidwell, in his response to being a participant in this award. As Chief Tidwell said, “Wetlands provide an array of benefits to society, and are integrated to a healthy, sustainable watershed by protecting and improving water quality, providing fish and wildlife habitats and mitigating floodwaters.” Much of what you’ve heard already tonight. We are excited to recognize this year’s award recipients and appreciate their important contributions in this area.
I have to say, as I had the honor to be part of this presentation. What I felt was awe, inspiration, and ultimately honor. When I had the chance to spend some time with Florence prior to this award, I felt like I’d known her all my life. And this is a person I just met today. She has given gifts to our country, to our people, to our communities, and personally to me. And I’ll say a little about that in a moment.
Florence became involved in efforts to protect wetlands around the San Francisco Bay in 1968. She recognized the need to create a refuge and preserve tidal wetlands and salt ponds. By doing this, she also knew that she was protecting thousands of water fowl and migratory birds. These results established the nation’s first urban national wildlife refuge, The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in 1972. While the refuge protected over 20,000 acres of salt pond, the Refuge was also needed to protect adjacent uplands and seasonal wetlands, or they would be lost to development. As she told me in the conversation that we had tonight, part of it would be turned into a conference center. She brought together a group of concerned citizens, the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, and it further expanded in 1988 to another 20,000 acres for a total of 40,000 acres of wetlands. The Refuge produced enormous benefits and sustained a number of birds and endangered species. It’s also brought awareness to the Bay Area on the value of wetlands. And it’s vastly improved the residents’ quality of life. And one of those residents was me. And I didn’t know that. I knew that I would take advantage of this wetland in my backyard and I saw this poster of a woman that I would see when I would go out to run, and it was Florence. And I have to say, she’s more beautiful in person than she’s depicted on that placard. So, I feel so honored to be able to take this time tonight.
Under Florence’s leadership, she preserved and restored tidal marshes and seasonal wetlands in the entire South Bay. By the end of the 20th century, the entire East Bay shoreline from Oakland to the Don Edwards Refuge was in public ownership and dedicated to preserving and restoring tidal marshes and seasonal wetlands. She spent thousands of countless volunteer hours her own money. And at the age of 88, Florence’s work still continues. And like my other colleagues, I’d like to share some quotes that we heard about Florence as she was given the nomination for this award. And what you’ll hear in this is community. Again, it’s the National Wetlands Community Leader Award. When I met her tonight, immediately, I felt part of that community because she introduced me to friends, colleagues, and family. And immediately embraced me and those around her in that.
Some of the quotes that we’ve heard from her, one of Arthur Feinstein, who is here tonight: “Behind it all is this quiet, caring woman who charms bureaucrats, politicians, reporters, and activists and convinces all of us to do far more than we ever thought we could.” And I have to say, probably I’m one of those sort of bureaucrats, federal employees, I am certainly in that group of people he quoted. “Florence inspires people, she is always willing to listen, and she is unyielding in her passion for wetlands and taking on this task.” Another quote from a member of Congress: “There is no greater champion of the preservation and restoration of wetlands than my longtime friend, Florence. She is a tireless worker, inspirational teacher, committed volunteer, and an unflinching advocate for the San Francisco Bay’s wetlands. In our region is considered a force of nature.” Another colleague that’s here tonight is Cay Goude. And she says, “Her tireless dedication, wisdom, and positive demeanor have helped lead the recent expansion of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.” There are other quotes, and I’ll only capture a few pieces of those. “The Bay Area and its aquatic wildlife is much richer for Florence’s many achievements.” And you’ll hear a common thread throughout many of these quotes, which is Florence is passionate in her love of the natural environment, and in her desire to protect wetlands and the plants and animals they support.
Again, to bring this back to her picture. She’s an absolutely beautiful person who cares about her community, nature and the people around her. And there is an ease, and a grace and a warmth that you will see as she comes up tonight. And so with that, I would like to honor my recipient, Florence LaRiviere, from Palo Alto, California, for the National Wetlands Award for Wetland Community Leader.
My husband and I, Phillip, moved to Palo Alto, San Francisco Bay in 1951. Can you hear me? I have to stand on tiptoes.
We moved about a mile from San Francisco Bay in Palo Alto. We started going down to San Francisco Bay wetlands in the evening, and wetlands are a wonderful place. The educator referred to how his children learned to love them. But, there is something very peaceful, attractive, the tides move the cord grass marshes on our bay, the birds rise and cry in the air. But, we knew what existed there in the early days; there were sea captains that described the air block and the sound like a hurricane. When a rifle shot went off, the birds would fill the air. We learned what all of you know what happens to all of your wetlands, they were sewer outfalls, garbage dumps, all kinds of developments, airports. And in San Francisco especially, our tidal marshes were levied off to make salt for large salt companies. We didn’t know much about what Dr. Craft and Joy Zedler have taught us since, we just knew they were lovely places and there was something wrong about destroying them.
So, it sounds kind’ve corny now, but the democratic process does work. We had a Congressman, he’s still alive, but he’s retired from Congress, he was there for 32 years, Don Edwards. When we realized what was happening, we banded together and decided that federal ownership was going to be the best way to protect what we had left. We went to Mr. Edwards and he said, “If you people really want it, we’ll go for it.” And after four or five times of dropping in a bill, he got the refuge, the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. And it’s one more 40-year thing to celebrate. Its kind’ve an exciting time. We had to go back to him because we were lacking all kinds of valuable habitat. We didn’t have the biodiversity from the lands we had chosen. So we went back to him and got the size doubled, as Deanna said.
But one time, I was on the streetswalking in San Jose on the sidewalk, and I ran into Mr. Edwards. We talked for a few minutes and he said, “Well, I know you have an agenda, what is it?” So I tell you right now, I have an agenda. We are lacking in…there are of thousands of acres to be acquired. And they are threatened with terrible developments, 30,000 people beside the Bay in the city of Redwood City. Some dump cars in there on the east side of the bay, hundreds of acres, and we’ve had to file a lawsuit for the first time all these years. And I want to tell you, there are envelopes from my organization, the Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, and if you think that I am past the time when people should be doing things, my brother is here tonight and he is eight years older than I am. I want to say, when we chose the Fish and Wildlife Service to be the guardians of our wetlands, it was exactly the right thing to do. The people who have worked on that refuge with their hand and feet in that mud I admire tremendously. Our endangered species are in their hands, and we are fortunate.
No one does this kind of work alone, it’s always a group. My group is all volunteers; they are people with passion, devotion, and understanding. And I admire them and I thank you all for this tremendous honor and this beautiful place. Some of the wildlife managers that we had during our time over the years have even come tonight, from a distance, to show that they appreciate what we’ve been able to do there. And I want to mention Arthur Feinstein, who is my right arm, and when you come to San Francisco Bay, phone me, or phone Arthur, I’ll give you his phone number, and we will take you down to the edges of the Bay. Because when I left home a day or so ago, I said to some my kids, “What should I tell the people there?” And they said, “Tell them that you really would have had condominiums all over right smack to the edges of the water if people hadn’t cared about these beautiful lands.” Thank you so much all of you.
Teresa, come up and join me please. Alright, there you have it; to your left: six extraordinary presenters from six federal agencies who are leaders in the United States, nationally known and internationally known. And to your right: the six heroes that we recognized today. Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for all of the people presenting an award.
Teresa’s here because she put it all together, because she assembled all of you, because she invited all of you. We also have a number of people from the Environmental Law Institute who volunteered to be here tonight to make this happen. If you’re from the Environmental Law Institute, raise your hand right now, we would like to honor you.
Florence, we too, have an agenda. Here it is, and that is, we wanted you to come and be uplifted. We wanted to come and have you challenged. And I hope you had both. I hope you felt the inspiration, I hope you felt the enthusiasm, I hope you felt the dedication of these people that we honored so that you leave here, every one of you leave here, committed to the very values that you heard celebrated today so that you leave here thinking that which they dedicated their life to, that which they protected, that which they did is absolutely, extremely important in our world today. It’s wetlands, it’s the environment, it’s things that we are all committed to. Be challenged, but also be inspired, by what they did. Thank you, thank you for coming tonight.