Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet today signed three resolutions sponsored by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, honoring the recipients of the 2011 Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year Award. Each year, natural resource managers from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (DACS) Florida Forest Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) are selected for this award, one of Florida’s highest environmental honors.
Governor, Cabinet Honor Resource Managers of the Year
This year’s award recipients are Kevin Podkowka, forestry resource administrator of the Department of the Florida Forest Service; Joel “Andy” Noland, park manager of DEP’s Lake Kissimmee and Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve state parks; and Morgan Wilbur, northwest district biologist of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“Kevin has been a long-time ambassador for the Florida Forest Service,” said Commissioner Adam Putnam. “His dedication, commitment and service to this state and our community are unequaled, and it is an honor to recognize him for the Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year award.”
The Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year was established by DEP in 1992 to recognize the employee who is judged to have made the most significant progress in the stewardship of state lands that are actively managed by DEP, the Florida Forest Service and FWC. This is the second year the award has extended beyond DEP to include all three agencies.
“Florida’s state lands are home to many of our state’s most valuable natural resources, and these managers play a crucial role in the protection of our forests, parks and waterbodies,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “I’m proud to recognize Andy Nolan as one of Florida’s top resource managers, and for his outstanding dedication and service to DEP, and the people of Florida.”
The award recipients are selected by a committee of environmental professionals representing the Sierra Club, Florida Audubon Society and The Nature Conservancy.
“Morgan Wilbur is an exceptional natural resource manager,” said Nick Wiley, FWC executive director. “He constantly initiates new programs and projects to enhance natural resources and deliver outdoor-recreation opportunities that enrich the lives of Floridians and tourists.”
The honorees’ accomplishments include:
DEP: Andy Noland, park manager of Lake Kissimmee and Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve state parks, has served the Florida Park Service for 15 years. Andy consistently exceeds his park’s prescribed fire goals while also assisting neighboring parks and other land managing agencies with staff, equipment and support for their fire management programs. He also trains new generations of fire managers by serving as an instructor for many inter-agency fire training courses. As former Assistant Park Manager of Lake Louisa State Park, Andy initiated the first of several long-term restoration projects to restore the increasingly rare sandhill ecosystem. Andy has also made great strides in eliminating the threat of invasive exotic plants and animals in his state parks. Andy’s extraordinary resourcefulness is well known and serves as an example for others seeking to do more with less.
DACS: Kevin Podkowka holds the position of Forestry Resource Administrator and is primarily responsible for the oversight of the Florida Forest Service’s Okaloacooche Slough and Picayune Strand State Forests. Kevin’s commitment to maximizing all of the available resource-based recreation that the forests have to offer while expanding amenities has accounted for the rapid rise in popularity at both forests, which have ranked within the top ten of Florida’s 35 state forests. As forestry resource administrator, Kevin and his staff are implementing a program named “Community Forest Designation” that is recognized by the US Forestry Service as the only program that feasibly addresses the issue. Kevin’s dedication and innovative ideas make him stand out as a manager for the Florida Forest Service.
FWC: Morgan Wilbur is lead area biologist on one wildlife management area and oversees management of two other areas in the Florida Panhandle. Morgan has been successful in finding efficiencies to save public tax dollars and in generating revenue that supports agency programs, which in turn stimulate local economies. He pulled together a team to plan infrastructure and enhance habitat and public-use features for the new Wood Sink addition to L. Kirk Edwards Wildlife and Environmental Area. His impressive work restoring natural habitats at Wood Sink and the Aucilla WMA includes everything from prescribed fire to planting native grasses, mechanical control of encroaching trees or invasive plants, timber thinning (a direct revenue stream), and restoring the historic flow of water and wetlands. In his “spare” time, he teaches others resource management via prescribed fire.