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Whooping Crane Restoration, River Clean-up Initiatives Among Conservation Work Recognized at Banquet

March 30, 2015 1:45 PM

The 51st Governor’s State Conservation Achievement Awards Program, hosted by Louisiana Wildlife Federation (LWF), celebrated four individuals, one business, and two organizations for their outstanding achievement in natural resource conservation in 2014 at a banquet held on Saturday, March 28, 2015 at Juban’s Restaurant in Baton Rouge.

LWF President Barney Callahan presented each award along with Secretary Robert Barham of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries representing Governor Bobby Jindal. Don Dubuc served as master of ceremonies and banquet attendees also viewed winning photos from LWF"s 75th Anniversary Wildlife Photography Contest

Banquet Sponsors were Shell Pipeline Company, LP; Warren and Jodie Singer; T. Baker Smith, LLC; Land Trust for Louisiana; Cenac Towing Co., LLC; Barney and Donna Callahan; East Ascension Sportsman’s League; Rat-L-Trap, LLC;  Clint and Virginia Mouser; Keith and Cindy Saucier; Bob and Norma Stewart; and Edgar F. Veillon. 

Photos taken by Teri Henry. Those honored were: 

Governor’s Award for Conservationist of the Year – 2014: Robert “Bob” Love

Louisiana has long been suggested as a candidate site for whooping crane reintroduction and it may be the best chance at reestablishing these endangered birds in the native habitat that southwest Louisiana provides. The commitment from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) to create the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Program in 2011 was matched with the passion and tireless dedication of program leader, Robert “Bob” Love, to assure the greatest potential for success.

As LDWF’s Coastal and Nongame Resources Division Administrator, Bob manages several programs and ten state wildlife management areas, including the White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area in Vermilion Parish, where 64 whooping cranes have been released into their native habitat. Of those, 40 remain alive today -- nesting and growing into reproductive maturity.

Bob was instrumental in proposing the funding model to raise private funds to match federal and state dollars for the program. He has garnered nearly $1.5 million in additional grants and donations for the program. Bob quickly established a team management approach integrating Department staff and research biologists, top species recovery experts, as well as veterinary and law enforcement staff.

He recognized that local support from farmers was needed and outreach to citizens was crucial to win cooperation and support. He worked to put in place funding that would support public service advertisements, educational materials to teachers and students, art projects, promotions at sports events and other activities to raise awareness about the importance of protecting whooping cranes. Several private sector partners have embraced the program’s goals with crucial support for these education and outreach goals. Bob worked to get pro bono design and production of whooping crane transport boxes for juvenile cranes in aircraft and motor vehicles, which are now being used around the country. This is one example of how he and program team members work to adapt to challenges that can improve outcomes.

Bob’s professional career in wildlife management and conservation work with LDWF began when he was hired as a technician in 1981. He went on to assist in the successful restoration of wild turkey, which may be the most obvious spark for his passion for species protection and restoration. For several years he was manager of the Department’s Land Acquisition Program, which acquired nearly 80,000 acres for species preservation and public outdoor recreation. Bob Love has often noted that species protection brings him the most joy in his professional work. His dedication shows in how fervently he has embraced Louisiana’s commitment to grow and maintain a healthy population of whooping cranes in Louisiana.

Conservation Business of the Year – 2014: Chevron

Whooping cranes were once prevalent in Louisiana’s coastal prairie. Until the mid-twentieth century, Louisiana was home to the only resident whooping crane population in the US.  On March 11, 1950, the last remaining whooping crane in Louisiana was captured and relocated to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. In 1967, whooping cranes were listed as an endangered species. Currently, approximately 599 whooping cranes exist, captive and wild, in North America.

In 2011, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries started the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Program in Louisiana. Since 2013, Chevron has played a significant role in partnering with the Department to support education and public outreach to farmers, teachers, students, and Louisiana’s citizens about the return of whooping cranes to boost the potential for long-term success as the program develops.

Public awareness efforts have included billboards, radio and TV announcements with “Protect Whooping Cranes” messages. The education component includes creating and distributing teaching modules for middle school teachers that feature the whooping crane to cover topics. There are “Give a Whoop” workshops for teachers. Whooping cranes were included in the George Rodrigue Foundation for the Arts 2014 “Student Art Competition” as one of the images that can be selected as subjects for artwork entries. The outreach component engaged the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans with joint promotions about native Louisiana wildlife, including whooping cranes. Information is distributed throughout the Smoothie King Arena during homes games.

Chevron has included the Whooping Crane Reintroduction Program in its reports to employees and stakeholders across the Gulf Coast and provides a showcase for a broader audience through digital links in its reporting. A farmer recognition program is in development to recognize farmers who cooperate in the repopulation effort by working with biologists to communicate crane movement and nesting.

The more you know something the more likely you are to treasure it and protect it. Chevron recognized this important conservation effort in Louisiana and has become a valuable private partner in the work to sustain a whooping crane population in Louisiana.

Conservation Professional of the Year – 2014: Stacey Leah Scarce

Stacey Leah Scarce has created or fostered several conservation education programs in Lafayette that elicit a sense of wonderment and desire to experience nature in a way that provokes understanding and responsibility. She is leaving a legacy of knowledge about our natural world that encourages conservation preservation for future generations.

Through her work at the Acadiana Park Nature Station in Lafayette, Stacey created an on-going environmental education program to teach kindergarten through eighth grade students about biodiversity and conservation. She created and implemented the Acadiana Nature Station’s “Young Naturalist Club”, a year-long club in which children observe nature, research plants and animals, and record observations and information in journals. She has been involved in the creation of an additional 4.5 miles of hiking trails on 110 acres in an effort to preserve and maintain the integrity of the area.

Stacey also led the creation of the Community Roots Project, under the Earth Share Gardens umbrella, which provides ongoing planting instruction and expert advice on garden maintenance in an effort to provide vegetable gardens in low-income neighborhoods. In 2014, the group created a partnership with Habitat for Humanity and installed raised garden beds at five habitat houses in hopes of giving the residents access to nutritious food.

In 2014 Stacey led the creation of the Acadiana Master Naturalist Program, the second master naturalist program in the state. She is currently the organization’s president and was instrumental in creating their first educational coursework, which includes 10 workshops in everything from native plants and animals to coastal restoration to history and culture. 

Stacey is an adjunct professor at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, teaching the Wilderness Adventure Training Course, and an outdoor guide with Pack and Paddle in Lafayette. 

Volunteer Conservationists of the Year – 2014: Adam and Lisa Willard

Taking action to reduce the amount of trash in Red River as the river flows through Shreveport and Bossier City, Adam and Lisa Willard of Bossier City organized the first Red River Cleanup in 2010. Their continued commitment to enhance the health and beauty of the Red River has grown, along with participation in the cleanup. The most recent cleanup on November 8, 2014 saw nearly 300 volunteers combing the river for garbage.

Coordinating such a large project begins months in advance. Adam and Lisa were able to bring together a diverse group of more than 20 sponsors for the 2014 Red River Cleanup. They arranged all aspects of the support needed, from the land squads and small boat units, to the large pickup boats and BFI trash bins. Not only is the trash picked up, but it is separated into items that can be recycled. In 2014, volunteers collected 1,840 lbs. of paper, plastic and aluminum. Another 5,100 lbs of general waste was collected, along with 540 lbs. of metal. If you include the numbers from the previous cleanups that began in 2010, more than 1,200 volunteers have removed over 16 tons of trash from the Red River – staggering results that speak for themselves.

Why do the Willards devote their time to this cleanup effort?  They say, “We are igniting community pride in our twin cities by bringing Shreveport/Bossier together to keep the Red River free of debris and trash. It is our hope that this annual event will continue to boost conservation awareness which will in turn produce a cleaner and more beautiful Shreveport/Bossier.”

Conservation Educator of the Year  - 2014: Louisiana Master Farmer Program

The Louisiana Master Farmer Program was created  in 2001 to support farmers who embrace environmental stewardship and natural resource sustainability in how they manage and produce food. It’s a voluntary conservation stewardship program that focuses on agricultural production lands across Louisiana. This educational effort has led to significant on-the-ground stewardship application and enjoyed tremendous success through its partnerships.

To date, more than 200 Louisiana farmers have achieved full Master Farmer certification. An additional 2,239 are enrolled in the program and currently undertaking various phases of the educational and/or conservation plan implementation components.  These participants farm more than 1.7 million acres and most of this acreage has been positively impacted through the implementation of conservation-focused Best Management Practices.  

A farmer must complete all three phases of the program to gain full Master Farmer Certification and complete 6 hours of annual continuing education credits.

Though coordinated and managed by the LSU AgCenter,  the official program partners include the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry  who provides official certification, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association and the Louisiana Farm Bureau.  Numerous local, state and federal agencies, and farmer-led commodity groups provide vital assistance and continue to make the program successful across the state. 

Conservation Organization of the Year – 2014: Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association

The Bayou Vermilion Preservation Association was formed in 2012 by members of the Lafayette Garden Club to address water quality issues and the amount of trash in the Vermilion River, also called Bayou Vermilion.

Members aim to create awareness of our natural environment through education and outreach to the community about ways to conserve, protect and enjoy the Bayou Vermilion Watershed. Though a young organization, the Association has already demonstrated an impressive commitment to water conservation by working to engage the public, civic leaders and the media. 

In 2013 they researched issues and collaborated with experts in government agencies, community members and businesses. They created a website to educate citizens.

In 2014 the Association held a seminar titled “Get Smart About Water, Strategies and Guidelines” for local citizens and professionals. They participated in two Earth Day events in the area. They held a three-day symposium, “Bayou Vermilion Treasures, A Water Weekend,” to engage the community by scheduling multi-faceted events. The Association held a poster and bumper sticker contest for Lafayette Parish middle and high schools. Members provided educational talks to the public and training sessions for Lafayette Parish School System science teachers.  They also conducted a media tour of the river.

To increase awareness of Bayou Vermilion watershed issues, the Association held a “Vermilion River Summit” for mayors, police jurors and city administrators of the parishes through which the Vermilion River flows. This meeting led to the formation of the Vermilion River Alliance. While the Association addresses issues along the 35 mile portion of the river that passes through Lafayette Parish, the Vermilion River Alliance will take on the entire 75 miles of the river to address water quality and preservation.

In October, the Association partnered with Lafayette Consolidated Government to help implement “Project Front Yard” to encourage and support community members to improve outdoor spaces including waterways. The Association partnered with CGI Group, a global IT and business processes services firm, to create a story map for the Vermilion River with text, photos, video and audio.  In 2015, Association members are busy presenting a lecture series and planning a symposium in September.

MORE ABOUT THE AWARDS PROGRAM: The Annual Governor’s State Conservation Achievement Awards program is hosted by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the awards are presented jointly with the National Wildlife Federation. The selections were made from among nominations submitted from the public by a panel of independent judges with expertise in a wide range of conservation fields.

The Louisiana Wildlife Federation is a statewide conservation education and advocacy organization. Established in 1940, it is affiliated with the National Wildlife Federation and represents a broad constituency of conservationists including hunters, fishers, campers, birders, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts.

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