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National Award Program Recognizes Individuals, Groups Protecting Environment

NOAA illustration of Environmental Hero Award and the Earth.April 21, 2006 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration presented its Environmental Hero Award to nine individuals and one organization this year. Given in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations, the award honors NOAA volunteers for their "tireless efforts to preserve and protect our environment."

"NOAA and the nation are fortunate to have such dedicated people volunteer so much of their time," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "Environmental heroes like these set an inspiring example for others to follow in their communities."

Established in 1995, the Environmental Hero award is presented to individuals and organizations that volunteer their time and energy to help NOAA carry out its mission.
"On behalf of the 12,500 men and women working for NOAA, I am pleased to present the 2006 Environmental Hero Awards," said Lautenbacher. "The dedicated efforts and outstanding accomplishments of these award winners greatly benefit the environment and make our nation a better place for all Americans."

There are a total of 10 winners—nine individuals (one posthumous) and one organization:

George Briggs, as the first Executive Director of the North Carolina Arboretum, led the creation of one of the finest environmental preservation and education sites in the southeast. His dedication to understanding climate led to a collaborative effort with NOAA on the U.S. Climate Reference Network and the successful installation of the network's first station on the Arboretum.

Don Morris and his assistants from South Florida Skywarn volunteered more than 100 hours of their time to staff an amateur radio station in the Miami area. The Skywarn volunteers gathered real-time hurricane damage and weather reports, disseminated NOAA National Weather Service information and warnings and verified NWS warnings with on-the-spot information. They operated continuously before Hurricane Katrina and also in anticipation of Hurricane Wilma.

Robert Finton (posthumous award) of Chesapeake Bay Maryland National Estuarine Research Reserve has worked as a professional and volunteer environmental educator for more than a decade. He made a tremendous contribution in elevating the visibility of the reserve system within NOAA and in establishing the Maryland NERR as a premier research and education venue. Finton combined his love for children, the outdoors and science with an incredible ability to entertain and engage people

Rick Poulan is the Principal of Lafayette Middle School in Lafayette, La., an inner-city school almost entirely comprised of students from disadvantaged communities. Poulan, along with the middle school science program created a wetlands education initiative. They have committed a tremendous amount of time and energy to engage the community, construct a wetland and greenhouse on school property, and develop curriculum to broaden their class' life experience.

Roy Sedwick of the Lower Colorado River Authority in Austin, Texas, has been an invaluable asset to the NOAA National Weather Service. His partnership with the NWS forecast offices has greatly enhanced the NOAA National Weather Service's ability to meet its mission to protect life and property. NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards has no greater supporter than Roy Sedwick, and he works constantly to bring it to the forefront of public attention through meetings, flyers, training classes and outreach programs.

Gary Kompkoff has emerged as a leader in the effort to expand environmental education and resource management capacity for Alaska natives. The impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill were particularly profound for the Alaska natives of the region. Through the post-spill period Kompkoff, of the Village of Tatitlek, Alaska, initiated a distance-learning, accredited degree program for rural villages, spearheaded tribal natural resource management planning efforts, and worked to increase involvement of the tribal members in science conducted through the region. His patient participation has assisted NOAA in the tailoring of its education efforts to fit the unique needs of Alaska Native communities.

Roseanne Bongiovanni, with Chelsea Human Services Collaborative's Green Space Committee, has tirelessly spent more than 10 years working to protect and restore natural resources in Chelsea, Mass. She has worked with various NOAA offices and managed the Mill Creek Salt Marsh Restoration project, which after five years of planning, permitting and fundraising was finally completed in the fall of 2005.

At the request of the NOAA Fisheries Service, Heidi Watts of the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network and Jeff Foster, a marine research consultant from Auburn, Wash., led the rescue of numerous out-of-habitat bottlenose dolphins that were displaced by hurricane Katrina. Despite the extremely harsh conditions, Watts and Foster worked tirelessly to conduct these rescue efforts. They recruited the help of the general public and worked with the assistance of other agencies.

The Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fisherman's Association has been a leader in responsible stewardship of the fishery resources of the Northeast. CCCHFA has advocated conservative harvesting practices, bycatch reduction, science-based management, cooperative research, and simplified, community-based management approaches.

Laurence Walter Porter, of the Australia Bureau of Meteorology, has unselfishly collected flask samples in Tasmania, Australia, for NOAA's programs since 1984. He has volunteered his service to NOAA by collecting the samples and repairing the pump and sampling lines throughout the past 23 years. Without individuals like Porter volunteering his time and efforts, NOAA's Earth Systems Research Laboratory flask program to monitor the trends of trace gases in the atmosphere would not have its current global reach.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Earth Day Environmental Heroes

Every Day Is Earth Day at NOAA

Media Contact:
Kent Laborde, NOAA, (202) 482-5757