UGA River Basin Center receives national award for species protection

UGA River Basin center receives national award for species protection

Athens, Ga. – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently recognized species conservation efforts of a team of faculty, staff and students from the University of Georgia River Basin Center with its Regional Director’s Conservation Award. This award was given for development of the Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan that protects three endangered fish species.

RBC co-director Laurie Fowler, U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Mary Freeman, Georgia Museum of Natural History director Bud Freeman and RBC postdoctoral researchers Timothy Carter and Seth Wenger were honored on behalf of the entire team at a ceremony in Atlanta on May 1.

“The HCP was a great project for us,” said Fowler. “We are unique; no other university we know of has a team of scientists, lawyers, planners and economists working together on how land use affects water quality and biodiversity.”

The Etowah HCP is a multi-jurisdictional effort to protect three federally-listed threatened and endangered fish species, while accommodating the continued growth and development of the area, located just north of Atlanta. HCPs are a provision of the Endangered Species Act, the federal law that prohibits the harming of species in danger of extinction. While most HCPs are designed to protect one species in a small area, the Etowah HCP is different because it covers three species and multiple local jurisdictions, making it a model for other HCPs being developed across the country.

The RBC team conducted extensive scientific research in the Etowah River Basin to determine the threats to survival to unique at-risk species. Since 2002, representatives including those from local government, water authorities, environmental and development groups have worked together to establish a plan for species protection.

In presenting the award, Sam D. Hamilton, southeast regional director, said, “The team’s incomparable ability to work with multiple partners to develop the innovative Etowah Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan deserves the recognition of the Regional Director’s Conservation Award.”

Other RBC team members recognized were: William Bumback, Emily Franzen, Megan M. Hagler, Nanette M. Nelson, Jamie Baker Roskie, Carrie A. Straight, Curt Gervich, Erin Dreelin, Elizabeth G. Gavrilles, Heidi K. Millington, James R. Norman and Allison H. Roy.

The River Basin Center is the public service and outreach office of the Institute of Ecology. The Center’s mission is to integrate science and policymaking, particularly relating to the intersection of land use with water quality/quantity and biodiversity issues. For more information, visit http://www.rivercenter.uga.edu.

With roots that date back to the 1950’s, the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as certification programs. Founder Eugene P. Odum is recognized internationally as a pioneer of ecosystem ecology. The institute is ranked eighth by U.S. News and World Report for its graduate program. As of July 1, the institute will become the Odum School of Ecology, the first of its type in the nation. For more information, visit http://www.ecology.uga.edu.