On Friday, May 10, Tennessee Wildlife Federation hosted its 54th Annual Conservation Achievement Awards at Loveless Cafe Barn, in Nashville.
“The diverse group of award winners today serves as a reminder that successful conservation will always depend on a diverse and collaborative effort,” said Michael Butler, CEO of the Federation. “Our honorees have conducted important field work, secured crucial support, educated the next generation, and so much more.”
“The Federation was founded by people with varying interests, backgrounds, and viewpoints. In much the same way, we bring together and celebrate each year a mix of people, organizations, and disciplines. Their complementary talents and expertise serve key roles in sustaining Tennessee,” said Kendall McCarter, CDO of the Federation.
Individuals and organizations from all corners of the state were recognized.
Conservationist of the Year — Dr. Shari Meghreblian
Dr. John. O. “Jack” Gayden Leadership Award — Monty Halcomb
J. Clark Akers, III Champion of Conservation Award — Jim and Jean Maddox
Chairman’s Award — Sam Mars, III
Conservation Legislator of the Year — Congressman David Kustoff
Wildlife Conservationist of the Year — Mary Jennings
Land Conservationist of the Year — Ralph Knoll, The Conservation Fund
Water Conservationists of the Year — Elaine Boyd
Forest Conservationist of the Year — Austin Bibb
Conservation Organization of the Year — Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation High School
Conservation by Business — Genera Energy
Conservation Educator of the Year — Dr. Jonathan Evans
Conservation Communicator of the Year — Dr. David Sloas
Youth Conservationist of the Year — Cash Daniels
On Target Award — Lance Rider
Dan & Cherie Hammond Sharing the Harvest Award — Larry Ross
Hunter Education Instructor of the Year — Gene Smith
Conservationist of the Year
Dr. Shari Meghreblian of Franklin, Tenn. with work spanning the state
In her role as Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Dr. Meghreblian proposed the development of the first comprehensive and statewide water plan to safeguard the future of our water resources. The concept of TN H2O became a central part of Gov. Haslam’s administration and, ultimately, reflects the views and needs of Tennessee’s diverse regions and industries. Today, Dr. Meghreblian owns Triple Edge Strategies, a consulting firm that advises public and private sector leaders about navigating the crossroads of energy, environment, and the economy.
Dr. John O. “Jack” Gayden Leadership Award
Monty Halcomb of Wartrace, Tenn.
The leadership award recognizes many years of dedicated, effective, and valuable service to the Federation. Mr. Halcomb diligently served on the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors for 17 years. In that time, he vocally advocated for policies and procedures that proved to be essential for the organization’s growth and long-term stability. Mr. Halcomb’s attention to detail and expertise made him an effective leader, not only for the Federation, but for several other conservation-minded groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, the Tennessee Environmental Council, and the Land Conservation Assistance Network.
J. Clark Akers, III Award
Jim and Jean Maddox of Nashville, Tenn. and Houston County
Avid sportsmen, Mr. and Mrs. Maddox share a love for the great outdoors and have full-heartedly supported it. This award is given to those who exemplify the philanthropic heart of conservation. The couple’s support over the course of two decades has been transformational to the Federation. They give personally and have regularly leveraged their connections to secure grants and introduce new donors to the cause of conservation in Tennessee. They are directly and indirectly responsible for significant investments in the Federation’s work. Mr. and Mrs. Maddox also freely open their homes to host important events and have given their time, each serving terms on boards of the Federation.
Sam Mars, III of Harrogate, Tenn.
Mr. Mars recently concluded 14 years of service on the Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s Board of Directors. During his tenure, Mr. Mars provided valuable guidance based on the challenges other nonprofits were facing. He also acted as an effective liaison to the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), including leveraging its grassroots network during Tennessee Wildlife Federation’s successful campaign to amend the Tennessee constitution to guarantee the right of citizens to hunt and fish.
Conservation Legislator of the Year
Congressman David Kustoff of Germantown, Tenn. with work spanning Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District and the state
Congressman Kustoff is serving his second term in the United States House of Representatives for the 8th District of Tennessee. Congressman Kustoff is a native of West Tennessee and has experienced the negative impacts of Asian carp firsthand. An advocate for Tennessee’s great outdoors, Congressman Kustoff helped legitimize Asian carp as a serious threat to the Southeast and is working hard to secure federal funding to fight the invasive species.
Congressman Kustoff’s district director, Marianne Dunavant, accepted the award on his behalf.
Wildlife Conservationist of the Year
Mary Jennings of Sparta, Tenn.
Before her retirement, Mrs. Jennings served as the Field Supervisor for Tennessee’s Ecological Field Office for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. During her decade there, Mrs. Jennings grew the office’s role as a partner in the conservation of rare and imperiled species and spearheaded crucial wildlife initiatives, including the Cumberland River Aquatic Center and the Tennessee Bat Habitat Conservation Fund.
Land Conservationist of the Year
Ralph Knoll, The Conservation Fund with significant work in Fentress and Overton Counties
Mr. Knoll is the Tennessee representative for The Conservation Fund, a national organization that works to conserve land through acquisition. With more than 40 years of experience, Mr. Knoll has conserved hundreds of thousands of acres in his career. Recently, this includes the 14,800 acres of Skinner Mountain Forest. This tract provides critical habitat for many endangered and declining species as well as sustains considerable economic activity in the area through outdoor recreation and forestry jobs.
Water Conservationist of the Year
Elaine Boyd of Hendersonville, Tenn. with work statewide
Ms. Boyd is the Senior Advisor at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Elaine served as the project manager for TN H2O, Tennessee’s first comprehensive water plan. In this role, she managed 100 expert volunteers and helped shepherd the entire statewide project to completion. She is a 2019 class member of Leadership Middle Tennessee and serves on the board of Cumberland Region Tomorrow and All About Women.
Forest Conservationist of the Year
Austin Bibb of Munford, Tenn. with work spanning Shelby, Tipton, Lauderdale, Fayette, and Hardeman Counties
Austin Bibb is a wildlife technician for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency who dedicates countless hours in the field to restoring our forests back to health. The product of his hands-on work can be seen in every corner of the 12,000-acre Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park north of Memphis. Mr. Bibb tirelessly controls invasive hog populations and diligently repairs the extensive damage they cause to this valuable forest habitat.
Conservation Organization of the Year
Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation High School based in Winchester, Tenn. with work spanning the state
Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation High School is dedicated to supporting the sport of bass fishing. This means getting youth involved both in the sport and completing conservation efforts important for the future of bass fisheries in Tennessee. What started as one project, Tennessee B.A.S.S. Nation turned into a statewide mission that has placed more than 4,500 fish habitat structures and cleaned up more than two-and-a-half tons of garbage from Tennessee’s water
Conservation by Business
Genera Energy of Vonore, Tenn. with agricultural partners in Anderson, Blount, Bradley, Loudon, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Rhea, and Roane Counties
Genera Energy is a biotechnology company that partners with regional farmers to produce agriculture-based, compostable products such as tissues, food service wares, and packing materials. Genera Energy’s desire to create sustainable biomass solutions is spurring agricultural innovations that significantly help conservation efforts in Tennessee by encouraging sustainable farming practices that also preserve wildlife habitat and restore the land across the state.
Conservation Educator of the Year
Dr. Jonathan Evans of Sewanee, Tenn. with work spanning the southern Cumberland Plateau
Dr. Evans is a professor of biology at the University of the South in Sewanee, assistant provost for environmental stewardship and sustainability, and founded the Sewanee Environment Institute and Landscape Analysis Laboratory. He has taught hundreds of students the importance of forest conservation through collaborative research and strategic initiatives that promote sustainability and conservation for the university and the whole of the Cumberland Plateau.
Conservation Communicator of the Year
Dr. David Sloas of Cordova, Tenn. with work spanning Shelby, Fayette, Lake, and Obion Counties
Dr. Sloas is a respected physician in Bartlett and vocal advocate for the natural beauty of our state. First inspired to enhance patient areas with photography, his work is now on display across Tennessee and he has been recognized as one of the Nikon 100, which celebrates photographers around the world. Dr. Sloas also speaks, writes, and advises state and private entities about wildlife management and landscaping for wildlife.
Youth Conservationist of the Year
Cash Daniels of Chattanooga, Tenn.
At nine years old, Master Daniels is already leading the charge into a more conservation-conscious world. Known as “The Conservation Kid,” he organizes volunteers for monthly waterway cleanups and speaks with businesses and local agencies about reducing waste. Master Daniels is recognized by Keep Tennessee Beautiful as the youngest person to adopt a river mile and is a recipient of the international TruStage Community Spark Awards.
On Target Award
Lance Rider of McKenzie, Tenn.
The On Target Award is presented to an individual for outstanding support of the Federation’s Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP). Mr. Rider has been instrumental to the success of both the Tennessee SCTP and the shotgun shooting sports statewide. Mr. Rider was one of the first in the nation to field an all-girls squad and has led many teams to success during his coaching career. He’s served as an advisor for new teams and helped communities build and launch four new shooting ranges in West Tennessee.
Dan & Cherie Hammond Sharing the Harvest Award
Larry Ross of Hickory Valley, Tenn.
The Sharing the Harvest Award is given in recognition of their tremendous support of the Federation’s Hunters for the Hungry program. Mr. Ross loves to feed his community. As one of the first volunteers for Hunters for the Hungry, his support got the program off the ground in southwest Tennessee and set the standard for volunteers across the state. From raising tens of thousands of dollars, to securing 275,000 meals for hungry Tennesseans, to hand-delivering venison, to advising program leaders, Mr. Ross’s commitment to the program is singular.
Hunter Education Instructor of the Year
Gene Smith of Memphis, Tenn.
Mr. Smith has served as a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Hunter Education Instructor for nearly four decades. In that time, he’s certified 20,000 students–ensuring the next generation is equipped with the knowledge and training to safely and ethically hunt and enjoy the great outdoors. A devoted instructor, Mr. Smith has also volunteered his time to share his love of the great outdoors with thousands of innercity youth.