Natural Areas Association (NAA) proudly announces its 2023 award winners. Each year, NAA recognizes individuals who demonstrate the highest standards of leadership and achievement in the natural areas profession. Through its Awards Committee, the Association has selected recipients for the following awards:
NAA awards the George B. Fell Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual who exhibits the highest qualities of the profession and has significantly advanced natural area identification, protection, stewardship or research, and the mission of the NAA. This award is the Association's highest and is reserved for exceptional achievements.
NAA awards the Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award in recognition of excellence and achievement in managing the natural resources of reserves, parks, wilderness, and other protected areas.
Recipients were honored individually during in-person presentations, and during the virtual Natural Areas Conference on Thurs., Nov. 2, 2023.
2023 George B. Fell Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Rick Myers holds degrees from Clemson University in Forest Management and Ecology (‘79, M ’82, PhD ‘96). He has worked in natural resources management, research and extension for his entire career with special interests in fire ecology and restoration of natural communities. While he served for 19 years as a research and extension forester at Clemson and Purdue universities, Rick’s career achievement has been the launch, development and oversight of Virginia’s Natural Areas Stewardship program within the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation – Division of Natural Heritage. From 1998 through his retirement in early 2023, Rick oversaw all aspects of managing Virginia’s growing Natural Area Preserves System and playing key roles in its expansion from 21 preserves (~15,000 acres) in 1998 to 66 preserves and over 61,000 acres at present. This work involved developing and implementing strategies to restore and maintain habitats for rare, threatened and endangered species while balancing public access with resource protection.
One of Rick’s key contributions has been to bring his expertise in fire ecology and management to Virginia, along with a practical and partner-driven approach to resource management and habitat restoration. Under his leadership, over 1,500 acres of fire-maintained longleaf pine woodlands and savannas have been established on lands protected within the state Natural Area Preserve System in southeast Virginia. This effort began in 2008 at Chub Sandhill Natural Area Preserve when 80 acres of former farm fields were planted with 40,000 longleaf pine seedlings grown using seeds collected from some of the last remaining mature Virginia longleaf pines.
From left to right: Lisa Smith, Executive Director at Natural Areas Association, Rick Myers, Ph.D., who recently retired from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Natural Heritage, and Ryan Klopf, Regional Supervisor at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Natural Heritage.
In 2011, the Santa Clara Pueblo experienced the devastating Los Conchas Wildfire. The wildfire burned nearly 90% of the Santa Clara Canyon and Santa Clara Creek, a place that the Pueblo use for sustenance, recreation, and cultural and spiritual activities. For the last 12 years, Garrett Altmann has been instrumental in assisting and leading the Santa Clara Pueblo through a process of healing from the devastating Los Conchas Wildfire. This wildfire burned nearly 90% of the Santa Clara Canyon and Santa Clara Creek, which the Pueblo use for sustenance, recreation, and cultural and spiritual activities.
Garrett, through his work at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center, has spent countless hours combing through red tape to determine which federal, state, and local groups could assist. Shortly after the event, he advised tribal elders to choose the most appropriate partners while encouraging the Pueblo lead to provide Traditional Ecological Knowledge to assist with stabilizing the steeper sections of the canyon’s tributaries.
Garrett’s dedication to the recovery efforts continue to this day as more projects are planned, from stabilizing the mainstem of Santa Clara Creek to creating wetlands and reintroducing native trout populations back into the canyon. He makes himself available outside the normal office hours and continues to coordinate project details and field site visits. It is through Garrett's perseverance and willingness to go above and beyond that the Santa Clara Canyon and Santa Clara Creek are on a path to restoration.
From left to right: Chris Haring, Ph.D., Research Physical Scientist, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Garrett Altmann, Western Restoration Program Manager at the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC), and Lisa Smith, Executive Director at Natural Areas Association.
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