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50th Annual Governor's Conservation Achievement Recognition Banquet
The 2013 Governor's Conservation Achievement Award Winners were recognized and celebrated at a reception and banquet held March 29, 2014 at the Lake House Reception Center in Baton Rouge.
Thanks to Don Dubuc for serving as master of ceremonies and to Sandra Herman, Banquet Chairwoman, for making this a special evening.
Presenting the awards were Mary Van Kerrebrook, member of the NWF Board of Directors, Region 8; and Secretary Stephen Chustz, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
View the photo montage of past award recipients and banquets to celebrate 50 years of the program that was presented at this year's banquet.
Join us in congratulating these inspiring people for their contributions in 2013:
Governor’s Award – Conservationist of the Year 2013
For six years, Garret Graves has been the state’s chief negotiator, planner, vision leader and promoter for restoring sustainability to Louisiana’s coastal zone. Agencies and staff over successive administrations have been challenged by the complexity of coordinating planning between parish, state and federal agencies in order to build and implement significant coastal projects.
As the Governor’s Coastal Advisor, Garret Graves navigated these hurdles to produce the State’s first comprehensive coastal master plan. In 2012, this 50 year, $50 billion plan was passed unanimously by the state legislature. In 2013 the annual plan was approved unanimously – another milestone. That is a huge accomplishment and one that demanded the combination of skills Garret offers.
During the six years Garret served as the Governor’s coastal advisor and chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Louisiana battled a massive oil spill in the Gulf; three destructive hurricanes that caused flooding not seen in decades in inland coastal areas; and the largest flood ever recorded in the Mississippi River. Yet with these added challenges, Garret and his staff were able to transform the state’s coastal restoration and hurricane protection program into national models.
Under Mr. Graves’ leadership, CPRA has increased project output by more than 500 percent. His work resulted in building or improving more than 159 miles of levees, benefitting at least 19,500 acres of coastal habitat and securing approximately $17 billion in state and federal funding for protection and restoration projects. He helped establish the Water Institute of the Gulf.
After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Garret directed the state’s oil spill recovery efforts and served as the lead trustee for the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process. This included collaborating with BP, federal agencies and Gulf States to negotiate a record one billion dollars applied against BP’s oil spill liability for early restoration recovery projects in the Gulf.
Garret’s success at CPRA was informed by the invaluable experience he gained from an eclectic career in Washington DC. From serving as staff advisor to Senator John Breaux and Congressman Billy Tauzin, to working as a staff member or staff director for two Congressional Committees, all that he learned about navigating agency priorities and dealing with the unavoidable politics was applied when he returned to Louisiana to serve in this important position. He has proven to be the right person for the job at a crucial moment in time.
Garret seemed tireless in his work, not only during times of crisis but also in the marathon effort required to get agreement on planning and projects from multiple and at times, competing interests.
In the years ahead, as implementation of the master plan unfolds, recovery from the oil spill continues, ongoing land loss is slowly halted and Louisiana’s coastal communities and ecosystems become sustainable again, it is undeniable that we will be witnessing the legacy of Garret’s work. He has made an enormously significant contribution to protecting and restoring Louisiana’s coastal estuaries and the communities and economies that depend on a sustainable coast.
Conservation Business of the Year - 2013
Pastorek Habitats, LLC is a business first started in 1985, and since 1993, its focus has been preventing the demise of the natural prairies in Louisiana, while promoting a practical approach to conservation through landscape design. In 1990, Marc Pastorek was introduced to Dr. Charles M. Allen and Dr. Malcolm Vidrine, who were both professors at LSUE. This meeting began a long endeavor to understand and utilize the natural associations of the prairies and hone the seed collecting, planting, and management techniques in order to reconstruct this ecosystem, which is considered one of the most threatened in Louisiana.
In 2013, Pastorek Habitats was recognized for its work as lead horticultural and natural meadow consultant to the Design Workshop for the work done on the Lafitte Corridor and Revitalization Project in New Orleans. The team of designers received the 2013 Award or excellence in Planning and Analysis from the American Society of Landscape Architects in Boston, Massachusetts.
In October of last year, through their work, a scientific paper was submitted and accepted by the Prairie Naturalist Journal for publication. This paper, titled The Significance of Construction of Micro-Prairies in the Urban Environment focused on the necessity of developing small diverse prairie representations in the urban context in order to bring awareness to the dire condition of this prairie ecosystem and the need for its continued restoration. Through this work, new and larger projects are now hoped to be conceived. Along with this paper, Pastorek Habitats produced another article included in the Journal of Natural and Soil Sciences to be used as a handbook for prairie restoration in the central gulf coastal region.
Also last year, Pastorek Habitats began providing consulting and native prairie seed at no cost for research trails and demonstration gardens to state universities, including LSU, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Stephen F. Austin University, and many LSU AgCenter research facilities. These trials are designed to further the success in restoration and to demonstrate how to utilize the plants of this ecosystem for the purpose of ornamental and ecological function.
Pastorek Habitats has long advocated for and been a leader in conservation and restoration of Louisiana’s natural grassland areas. The award was accepted by Marc Pastorek and his wife, Candi.
Conservation Organization of the Year - 2013
Southwest Louisiana once had an estimated 2.5 million acres in coastal prairie, located just inland from the coastal marsh and the coastal prairie extended to 6.5 million acres in Texas. Today maybe one percent remains as a refuge for rare and endangered birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and plants. Less than 100 acres total remain in Louisiana.
The Cajun Prairie Habitat Restoration Society was established to rescue the remaining genetic material of the once-vast tall grass prairies of Louisiana with a main focus on Louisiana’s Cajun Prairie. Since 1987, much work has been done to continue to salvage rare plant species growing on privately owned lands and railway and road rights-of-way from the brink of extinction. Plants were planted at the ten acre Eunice Prairie restoration site in order to experiment with preserving the bits and pieces of this threatened ecosystem in Louisiana.
Their restoration efforts and techniques used have been a source of inspiration for projects across the eastern United States. Recently, these techniques were presented by a society member to the New Directions in the American Landscape conference at Connecticut College and Temple University, and have been presented at premier ecological design forums in the eastern United States.
The Cajun Prairie Society organizes annual work days to manage invasive species that enter into the restored properties. Twice each year, in the spring and late summer, the Society holds field days -- guided tours of the restoration sites to share the experience of studying this wonderful association of plants and the birds and beneficial insects that frequently utilize this habitat. Without the Society, it is clear that these rare genetics would have been lost. The award was accepted on behalf of the Society by Ken Wilson.
Conservation Volunteer of the Year - 2013
Like most true volunteers, Nathaniel Klumb isn't in it for the personal recognition. Nevertheless, he has been frequently featured on local Baton Rouge television news, in magazines and newspaper publications for his work to clean-up the bayous near his home in Baton Rouge and encouraging others to join him in this effort.
When Nathaniel first attempted to take a paddle down Bayou Fountain, he discovered a potentially beautiful natural waterway that was rendered literally impassable by tons and tons of litter and debris – four miles of it. Nathaniel went to work removing trash, spending countless hours and days on and in the bayou, sometimes with the help of friends, but quite often alone. Every kind of garbage imaginable was collected and hauled away, from household appliances and old tires, to building materials and portable toilets. And tangled up in all that mess were fallen trees and logs.
When Nathaniel learned that Bayou Fountain wasn’t the only Baton Rouge stream in need of attention, he formed a local grassroots organization called Paddle BR, with the mission to improve paddling opportunities on Baton Rouge’s bayous and streams by advocating for more public access points, creating public awareness of the issues, and of course, cleaning up litter. He calls his group’s cleanup effort, “Project Clearwater” and he maintains a web site for the group, where visitors will find an entertaining blog, and an invitation to participate in group cleanups.
Nathaniel is also an active member of the Bayou Manchac Group; an organization created to preserve and restore that historic waterway. He participates in their waterway cleanup days as well, often the first to come and the last to leave.
In order to introduce others to the wonderful streams that meander through his urban neighborhood, Nathaniel regularly organizes paddling events, often loaning his boats to those who have none. He believes that if more people were aware of the natural beauty of the bayous right in their own back yards, they would do something to stop the amount of trash accumulating there.
Youth Conservationist of the Year - 2013
Sean Turner has been advocating for coastal restoration since he saw firsthand the effects of the BP oil spill, and he wanted to do something – to speak out in a way that would make people listen.
His first goal was to interview fishing guides on his family’s local television program, The Outdoor Kitchen Show. Sean has spoken with guides from Dularge to Fourchon to Venice about Louisiana’s coastal marshes and fisheries. He learned about the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the Vanishing Paradise campaign; and he wanted to volunteer and plant marsh grasses with the Restore the Mississippi River Delta program. Sean was undaunted when told he was too young to participate, and was determined to use his voice to make those who would listen aware of the need for action.
Sean’s passion and dedication earned him a position with the Vanishing Paradise conservation pro-staff team when he was only nine years old. Early on, Sean encouraged people to go to the Vanishing Paradise website and sign their petition to reconnect the river to the wetlands.
Then came the opportunity to speak at the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council’s meeting in New Orleans. Sean spoke from his heart about how much he loves Louisiana – to fish, to hunt, to live. He told the hushed room about how much people depend on a healthy coast. Indulgent smiles became cheers when, referring to RESTORE Act funding, Sean told the packed room full of government officials, “This is A LOT of money. DON’T MESS IT UP.” Sean got a letter from Governor Bobby Jindal thanking him for his thoughtful comments.
Sean next spoke at a public meeting to adopt the state’s Coastal Master Plan, begging them to hurry and get to work. Several organizations have used video of Sean at various speaking engagements to help spread the word about coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana. News sites from all over the nation have featured Sean’s stories, supporting the technical issues with a kid’s perspective.
Sean loves target shooting, especially with his crossbow, and is on the 4-H Shooting Sports Archery Team for Ascension Parish. In his spare time, he is regularly seen at sportsman’s shows and expos encouraging others to get involved in coastal restoration.
Conservation Educators of the Year - 2013
“Conserving, Preserving and Serving” is a project that is making a difference at North Live Oak Elementary in Livingston Parish. Working with Principal Michell Stone, teachers Tonya Dean and Jamie Griffin coordinated and designed the school-wide program to combine state curriculum with real world applications to help students learn the importance of conservation.
At the beginning of the school year, teachers were provided with a “Conserving, Preserving and Serving” -- or CPS -- project binder full of information and resources that they could use throughout the school year. Each month has a focus topic such as alternative energy sources, water conservation, and learning the difference between recycle and reuse. The results have been tremendous, engaging students in finding ways to help their school “Go Green”. The school now has a composter to compost lunchroom waste; and the Recycle Club collects, sorts and sends various recyclable materials to TerraCycle, which in turn provides the school with classroom supplies. For instance, more than 100,000 candy wrappers that would have ended up in landfills have been recycled.
North Live Oak Elementary earned first place in Louisiana in the Keep America Beautiful Recycle Bowl last year. Only recyclable materials generated by the school were eligible for the competition and students collected over 5,300 pounds of waste for recycling.
Even the school’s library has supported the CPS project by ordering age appropriate books about conservation. And the Library Club carried the conservation theme into the school book fair by asking students to submit colorful bookmarks with their own artistic interpretations of the “Conserve, Preserve and Conserve” theme. For each bookmark, students received a “Green Day” raffle ticket to enter a drawing to win an Earth shaped piñata constructed of recycled materials.
The most exciting part of the North Live Oak Elementary conservation project was the installation of solar panels on the school, making it the first and only school in Livingston Parish with solar panels. Science teachers are able to use the solar panels to teach basic electricity concepts to their students, and to examine the positive effects of alternative energy sources. In October, the school hosted a CPS community luncheon for parents, local businesses and government officials. The success of the luncheon to spread enthusiasm throughout the community is evidenced by three families who have installed solar panels on their own homes, and more who are looking into doing the same. Wal-Mart has taken notice and awarded the school with a $2,500 grant to support the program.
Photo credit: Jamie Griffin and Tonya Dean presented with the Conservation Educators of the Year Award for 2013.
Conservation Elected Official of the Year - 2013
Serving his second consecutive term of office, in 2013 President Claudet worked tirelessly to orchestrate solutions between federal, state and local officials to protect the people and the environment while preserving the culture and livelihoods of his parish. Serving as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Protection, Restoration and Conservation he championed efforts to secure restoration projects identified in the State Master Plan for his Parish. Key projects such as barrier island restoration and fresh water diversion from the Atchafalaya Basin hold promise for long-needed attention to distressed natural surge barriers and wetlands.
He has vigorously pursued the construction of local hurricane protection levees and focused on large scale federal projects such as “Morganza to the Gulf.” Flood protection is necessary for the communities of his parish to survive. Always mindful of the ecological impacts, he has meticulously looked for “win-win” solutions to minimize damage and maximize the natural protection features of the land. 2013 marked an important milestone in the completion of the Houma Navigation canal flood gate, and the beginning phases of the permanent operational lock system as part of the Morganza to the Gulf. Not only will these structures protect against storm surge, they are a key component of habit protection where the salt and fresh water lines collide, while still allowing commercial vessel traffic access to inland ports, critical for offshore industry support.
In 2013, President Claudet again hosted the “floating Island” project, founded in Terrebonne Parish in 2011. The project creates synthetic islands of native grass plants allowing school age children and willing volunteers a chance at real “hands-on” restoration effort. The floating islands project is only one example of how he has used his business experience and straight forward approach to strengthen the deep-rooted partnerships with state and national organizations together with businesses to protect and preserve the natural habitat and wildlife of south Louisiana.
Under his leadership, Terrebonne Parish is active in numerous conservation and environmental stewardship programs. These include:
· Encouraging community waste recycling, which in 2013 alone collected 391 tons of recyclable materials that would otherwise have gone to landfill.
· Conversion of Government vehicles to fuel efficient, low emission Compressed Natural Gas
· A highly successful anti-liter campaign that included removal of over 200 abandoned vessels from local waterways
· Parish participation in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Derelict Crab trap removal program
· Development and construction of Houma’s Downtown revitalization plan including a new river walk and boat docking stations on Bayou Terrebonne
Conservation Communicator of the Year - 2013
Greg Guirard’s work as a photographer and author captures the beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin and the people who cherish it. He is also one of the the Basin's greatest advocates.
As the foremost environmental and cultural photographer of the Basin, Greg’s work has been featured in numerous books, galleries, libraries, museums, television shows, billboards, and online media. His passion for the Basin was best described in the magazine Southern Living’s review of his first book in 1983, Seasons of Light in the Atchafalaya Basin, as “a love letter between a man and his place.”
He grew up in the Basin and first became a teacher at what is now University of Louisiana - Lafayette. But it was after leaving that profession formally that he really began to reach more students with his message of conservation. He has made a living by selling his photographs, writing seven books, crawfishing commercially, collecting driftwood and reclaimed wood that was “lost” during the clear cutting of the virgin cypress forest, serving as technical and cultural advisor for the film industry, and giving education talks about the Basin. Through that work and in addition to it, he is a tireless advocate for his homeland and its inhabitants.
Since 2009, he has been very active with the Atchafalaya Basinkeepers, giving presentations, serving on the board of directors, and providing leadership on key issues in the Basin. For example, in 2012 he was instrumental in protecting more than 600 acres of cypress swamp from being clear cut in St. Martin Parish by helping raise awareness and attending meetings to lend his expertise. He was given their “Super Swamper” award for a lifetime of dedication.
Since the early 1980s, he has been active with the Acadiana Fisherman’s Cooperative. He is dedicated to preserving the Cajun fishing lifestyle and keeping it alive and vibrant.
Greg has spent decades promoting the preservation and protection of the Basin. Here's a look at one year: In 2013, in addition to his leadership roles in organizations, he made more than 20 presentations throughout south Louisiana and in Maine and Nova Scotia, reaching more than 1,000 people. He worked on two film productions. His Basin photograph was featured in a billboard for Atchafalaya Basinkeepers and he continued to help coordinate an ongoing tree planting project at Lake Fausse Pointe State Park. He had the largest gallery opening to date in November that included not only photography but beautifully crafted furniture created from salvaged wood from the Basin. Even then, on opening night, you would have found him giving a presentation using photos and maps of the Basin to educate people about this vast and beautiful swamp wilderness. And somehow Greg still had time to crawfish for 5 months. This is a man practicing what he preaches about enjoying the bounty of a resource while taking responsibility for its preservation.
A special thanks goes out to our sponsors for such an exemplary evening.
Bald Eagle Sponsor
Herman Herman and Katz Attorneys at Law
The Black Bear Sponsor
Shell Pipeline Company, LP
Industrial Consulting & Supply Corporation
T. Baker Smith, LLC
Alexander’s Highland Market
Barney & Donna Callahan
East Ascension Sportsman’s League
Clinton & Virginia Mouser
Keith & Cindy Saucier
David & Lorie Spring
Mary A. Van Kerrebrook
Edgar F. Veillon
**** Thanks to Marsh Dog LLC for supplying samples of Barataria Bites, wild nutria dog biscuits, for our guests to try with their dogs!