Louisiana Wildlife Federation recently presented conservation awards to individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding work in 2019. The 56th Annual Conservation Achievement Awards program is hosted by Louisiana Wildlife Federation and the awards are presented jointly with National Wildlife Federation.
The following awards were presented to the recipients at an outdoor setting with social distancing protocols in place:
Volunteer Conservationist of the Year for 2019 to Ryan Lambert of Luling on October 2, 2020 for his activism in support of coastal restoration in Louisiana. He has hosted numerous meetings and wetland tours to educate local and national media, and state and national leaders for more than a decade. As owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, Captain Lambert offers his experience working daily in the coastal wetlands of Plaquemines Parish but goes far beyond by volunteering with several organizations to educate sportsmen and women about restoring Louisiana’s coast. He has been featured in numerous media stories, including the documentaries “Last Call for the Bayou” and “In the Blind” and is an active partner in creating a wetland restoration project at Bay Denesse that is expected to restore 2,550 acres of marsh.
Conservation Educator of the Year 2019 to Wendy Rihner in New Orleans on September 27, 2020 for launching the Native Plants for Birds education campaign with Orleans Audubon Society. The program teaches individuals how to create backyard habitats for wildlife and Rihner made numerous presentations to hundreds of people in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge area. She also taught bird identification training programs and citizen science workshops throughout 2019 and co-led a birding team that won the national 2019 Golden Bird Award. Rihner is a retired Delgado Community College English Instructor who continues to educate others by sharing her lifelong passion for birding.
Conservation Organization of the Year 2019 to Giant Salvinia Control Patrol in New Orleans along Bayou St. John on September 27, 2020 for organizing a community effort in 2019 that removed the invasive species Giant Salvinia from Bayou St John. This group of 300 volunteers removed 10 tons of Giant Salvinia by hand or helped quarantine other sections of the bayou for further removal with a safer herbicide. The volunteers also hired an amphibious machine to remove 50 tons of Giant Salvinia and 90% of the material removed was composted in a partnership with the City of New Orleans and Compost NOW!.
Youth Conservation Organization of the Year 2019 to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Archery in Louisiana Schools (ALAS) Program presented in Minden on September 30, 2020 for teaching nearly 23,000 Louisiana students from more than 200 schools across the state the inclusive sport of Olympic archery. The program helps students develop self-discipline, a sense of accomplishment and belonging, and offers an introduction to hunting and shooting sports. The program provided $20,500 in scholarships to 16 tournament winners and promoted academic achievement. Hundreds of Louisiana archers competed at the National and Open Championship tournaments in 2019 with Louisiana school teams finishing in the top three in each competition.
Youth Conservationist of the Year for 2019 to Eric Vanbergen of Lafayette that was presented in Baton Rouge on September 28, 2020 for his leadership in promoting native plant and coastal prairie restoration at his school, Ascension High School in Youngsville. In 2017 he led a volunteer effort to plant a three acre prairie. Vanbergen worked with mentors, teachers and other students in 2019 to establish another smaller, relatable prairie planting within the school building complex that has become a shining example of what can be achieved using native prairie plants in a designated garden. Vanbergen formed the Ascension High School Prairie Club that is still active today. He is currently a freshman at LSU studying landscape architecture.
Conservation Communicator of the Year for 2019 to Emma Reid that was presented in Baton Rouge on September 28, 2020 for writing and producing the documentary “In the Blind.” The film, which debuted in 2019 on Louisiana Public Broadcasting, explores how duck hunters in Louisiana have undertaken conservation efforts to preserve and restore the state’s coastal and marsh habitats that support critical wintering ground for migratory waterfowl in the Mississippi Flyway. Reid captures the rich traditions of hunting and the important role hunters play in conservation of wildlife and their habitats, as both the popularity of hunting and the condition of Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem declines.
Coming up: The presentation to Edison Chouest Offshore for Corporate Conservationist of the Year 2019 once hurricane season calms down again.
Louisiana Wildlife Federation is a statewide nonprofit organization representing a broad constituency of conservationists including hunters, anglers, campers, birders, boaters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.