Announcing the 2008 Heroes of Conservation Awards Finalists!

The Public-Lands Protector Hod Kosman
Scottsbluff, Neb.
Bank President
Video Profiles Premier: August 19 and 21 When his friend Clive Ostenberg died in 1989, bequeathing a large sum of money to the Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited, Hod Kosman wanted to make sure that money enhanced the land Ostenberg hunted. He helped form Platte River Basin Environments and saved a 600-acre wetland. Since then, the group has protected and restored nearly 40,000 acres of lands in western Nebraska. Coming from western Nebraska, it's easy to take things like waterfowl and big game for granted. I was always in organizations like Ducks Unlimited or Pheasants Forever, but I was never actively in the job of conservation. When Clive left that money, we could have just let them use it as they wanted, but we wanted that money here for Clive. We already had contacts at Ducks Unlimited, and at the Nature Conservancy, where I was a charter member of Nebraska's chapter. They would happily let us keep the money local, they said, as long as we found projects that fit within their scopes. So we had to organize, use good science, and work with landowners to do biological assessments. We surveyed the region to identify lands that were significant. From there, we began working with state and federal agencies, scientists, the type of people it takes to convince the landowners and donors that we had a worthy cause. That part was a concerted effort; the rest of it has really just been a calling. Since that first project, we've assessed and surveyed more acres than we'll ever be able to buy, or lease, or get easements on. We're pretty well planned out. Now it's a matter of getting it done. In 2001, we were able to get some bighorn sheep habitat, and we have around 250 in our area. Our elk have been reestablished to the point that we have an active hunting season, and we just had a moose wander in. This land is an important waterfowl migration area, too. It's not just about saving this land-our motto is "What we do is forever, and forever is a long time." Thousands and thousands of acres and millions of dollars later, we know it takes the efforts of individuals to save these resources.
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The Garbage Man
Chad Pregracke
East Moline, Ill.
President of Living Lands & Waters
Video Profiles Premier: August 26 and 28 Growing up fishing, diving for mussel shells, and trapping muskrats in the Mississippi River, Chad Pregracke saw the widespread pollution in the river. In 1998, he formed the nonprofit group Living Lands & Waters, with the goal to clean a 435-mile stretch of the Mississippi. The group has gone on to remove over 5 million pounds of garbage from the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio, and other rivers in nine states. My thought was to set my sights high, work hard, and let nothing be a failure, so I started out with a big goal. I knew I wanted to clean a full 435-mile stretch, but I didn't know how long it would take. The first year, I got a small donation and set out on a boat by myself. A lot of times, I thought this wasn't going to work, but I just kept moving forward and tried to stay positive. I was 22 and right out of college. Now Living Lands & Waters has 13 full-time employees. We have four barges and eight of us work full-time on those barges. We're out there nine months out of the year. I've only been home four days since February. It's hard work, but I'm not complaining. Each year, we try to grow. I saw an ADOPT A HIGHWAY sign and thought, If people can adopt a mile of highway to keep clean, why not a mile of the Mississippi? We now have over 200 miles of the Mississippi River adopted, and we just started the same program on the Illinois River. People always assume we see so much wildlife. We don't. I started noticing that there really wasn't a lot of diversity in the trees in the area. So, we started a nursery and have a goal to plant a million native trees along the banks of the Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois Rivers. Without diverse mast, there won't be diverse wildlife. Now, this year, I've started working to reestablish Boston Bay in Illinois. The bay has been polluted with sediment and runoff, and we're spearheading a coalition of groups and agencies to restore it. When you spend so much time on the river, you see so much work left to be done. The past 11 years have been powerful. I don't know what I'll be doing in 20 years, but I feel like I'm just getting started.
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The Salmon Engineer Andy Batcho
seattle, wash.
Retired Electrical Engineer
Video Profiles Premier: September 2 and 4 Andy Batcho joined Trout Unlimited in 1981 and helped establish the Des Moines salmon chapter in suburban Seattle in 1983. He soon made it his mission to restore coho and chum salmon and sea-run cutthroat trout to the Puget Sound area. Working within the urban communities, he has raised salmon numbers by 40 percent, preserved saltwater marshland, and reestablished local streams to sustain fish populations. I was raised on the water. My grandfather built a wooden bassinet that balanced on the gunnels of my parents' boat, and my mother used to boil lake water to heat my bottle in. They never made a big deal about conservation, but they instilled that ethic in me from a young age. They were always working with their local rod and gun club to create rabbit and bird habitat and plant trees. After I graduated from college, I got a job with Boeing as an electrical engineer and moved to Cape Canaveral, Fla., to work on the Apollo program. As it happened, the first launch I worked on was Apollo 11. President Kennedy said, "Go to the moon." And we did. We didn't have the technology at the time, but we developed it, and we accomplished what everyone thought was impossible. I moved to Seattle four years later. When I joined Trout Unlimited, I started wondering how I could use my abilities in a conservation setting. As a manager at Boeing, I learned that even though you might not know everything, if you surround yourself with people who specialize in a certain area, anything can be done. We studied the streams, got help from area wildlife biologists, and worked with the communities to develop plans that everyone-both people and fish-would benefit from. When you're trying to reestablish streams in populated areas, you need to get the community behind it. You can't just go in there and tear up the area to make the riffle-to-pool ratios needed to support spawning salmon. After years of work, drawings, and presentations, we were able to make the local streams into not only viable salmon habitat but also an asset to the community. I said we would save the salmon, and while we didn't have the technology, we developed it, and now we're accomplishing what everyone thought was impossible.
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The Fry Couple Jim Tripp and Sandra Millan-Tripp
Old Lyme, Conn.
Sculptor and Carpenter;
Marine -Biologist and ESL Tutor
Video Profiles Premier: September 9 and 11 After noticing a decline in the herring runs, Jim and Sandra Tripp decided to turn their old family mill into a facility to rear herring and salmon fry and formed the Tributary Mill Conservancy in 2004. The conservancy became nonprofit in 2007 with the goal of spreading their method of fry rearing across New England. Jim: We've lived on this brook quite a few years. With it being right here next to the coast and a tributary to the Connecticut River, it is a highway of animal diversity. My wife and I began to notice the alewife and blueback herring runs were thinning out. We decided to call the Department of Environmental Protection to do something about it. Sandra: I grew up in Colombia and researched manatees and dolphins there and Puerto Rico, which is where Jim and I were married. I've always been interested in conservation, and it was only natural for me to try to help save fish and wildlife here in my adopted home. J: My mother owns this mill, and without her support we never would have been able to do this project. We rebuilt the basement that the sluiceway ran through and ran pipes down from our pond to set up a gravity feed to start raising the herring fry. S: Since we were working with the DEP already, they realized that this program would work for Atlantic salmon as well. In just five years, we've raised over 200,000 salmon, and because the brook that runs through the mill is natural, the fry that we raise have some of the best mortality rates of any that the state stocks. We are fortunate enough to view the herring runs every year, but when our children started going to school, we realized that not everyone has that chance. So, we expanded the conservancy, to share this with the community. J: Every project that we've undertaken has gone well so far. The experts came in and trained us, and now we're training others. We hope that this mill can be a prototype throughout the region to make sure we preserve these fish populations.
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The Quail Professor Dale Rollins
San Angelo, Texas
College Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Video Profiles Premier: September 16 and 18 In 1991, after reading that bobwhite quail would be extinct in the southeastern United States by 2005, Dale Rollins decided to focus his research on making sure that did not happen. In 2006, he created the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch to develop and test technologies and best management practices. You know the white feather that follows Forrest Gump around, well, I say that I've had a feather follow me around. Only it's a bobwhite feather. I don't know why, but I knew that I wanted to have a career in conservation. I got my PhD in 1983 and started doing big-game research. I grew up quail hunting, but it was a dog that made me fall in love with bobwhites all over again. In 1991, I got an English setter named Suzie, and about that time I read a study saying that quail would be extinct in the southeast U.S. by 2005. I had a 1-year-old bird dog, so I was not about to let quail go extinct on my watch. I became sort of the Paul Revere of quail. About 70 percent of my professional research is devoted to quail, but I think about the birds 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. And I always make sure I have four dogs. I've learned as much about quail through them as from any research. I knew I had to do something to ensure the future of quail, so in 1993 I started the Bobwhite Brigade, a summer camp for 13- to 17-year-olds. I tell the kids that unless they go into the military, this camp is going to be the toughest week of their lives. The first thing we do is dissect a quail. And now that the ranch is there, I have graduate students from Texas A&M; conduct their theses on quail habitat and management plans. The quail are here in west Texas, but we need to stop the bleeding and start pushing these populations eastward.
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The Wetlands Warrior Charles Lane
Charleston, S.C.
Real-Estate Developer
Video Profiles Premier: September 23 and 25 Charles Lane helped form the ACE Basin Task Force in 1989, hoping to protect 90,000 acres surrounding the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto River estuaries. The group has preserved 172,000 acres that were under the threat of development, and now has set a goal of saving 250,000 acres. We grew up with a place in the country, and whenever we went there, I would say we were going to heaven. We were always taking care of that property, and it sort of developed a special spot in my heart for nature. One time, my father and I were driving out there, and I noticed another stoplight had popped up on the road. My father looked at me and said, "My generation had to fight the war. We had to deal with the Depression. Your generation is going to have to deal with growth." I'll never forget that conversation. I had always been involved in conservation groups. I was on the board of Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited in my 30s. When I was 22, I moved to Greenville, S.C., and my first investment was a 40-acre beaver pond where I could duck hunt. But I knew I wanted to move back to Charleston-my wife and I were both from there. We moved back in 1987 and within two weeks, I found out that a major resort was under development just 3 miles from my home. It was billed as the "next Hilton Head," and I thought: They're going to destroy heaven. Working with private landowners, the South Carolina wildlife department, Ducks Unlimited, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Nature Conservancy, we stopped that development. And we've stopped the development of a lot of land here in the ACE Basin. This area has a hunting history that other parts of the South Carolina coast do not. Northern industrialists bought these properties in the 1920s for duck hunting. Now, that's what they'll always be used for.
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These six men and women are Field & Stream's Heroes of Conservation. All will receive $5,000 for their conservation projects, and one of them, our Hero of the Year, will win a new Toyota Tundra. Click here to learn more about them and their projects, and how you can nominate a hero of your own!