Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Awards given out for outstanding invasive species work in Illinois

June 2, 2014  Article by Chris Evans, chris.evans@illinois.gov, 618-435-8138

Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month (ISAM) started in May 2010. ISAM is a statewide campaign to increase the public’s awareness and knowledge about invasive species. It provides an opportunity for citizens of Illinois to participate in invasive species awareness events around the state and learn more about what they can do to help fight this threat. This year, over 120 events are being held across the state as part of ISAM.

In 2011, the ISAM committee decided to initiate an awards program to formally recognize and honor outstanding contributions to the prevention, control, and management of invasive species in the state of Illinois. For 2014, The Illinois Invasive Species Awareness Month Committee would like to recognize recipients in five categories: Professional of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Professional Organization of the Year, Business of the Year, and Educator of the Year. Recipients of the 2014 ISAM awards were officially recognized at an awards ceremony in Springfield at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) office. IDNR Office of Resource Conservation Director Jim Herkert was on hand to present the awards. The ceremony was part of the 2014 Illinois Invasive Species Symposium on May 29th, 2014 at the IDNR Office Building in Springfield, IL.

2014 ISAM Award recipients.  From left: Paul Bane, David Crady and Jeff Horn of the Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation (accepting the award for Professional Organization of the Year), Gary Knosher of Midwest Groundcovers, LLC (accepting the award for Business of the Year), Marilyn Leger of the East Central Illinois Invasive Plant Taskforce (Volunteer of the Year), Henry Eilers (accepting the award for Susan Shelton for Educator of the Year) and Pat Charlebois of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (Professional of  the Year)
This year’s recipients are:

Professional of the Year – Pat Charlebois, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Pat is receiving this award for her leadership in aquatic invasive species education, outreach, messaging, and policy throughout the state. Pat’s hard work has contributed significantly to increasing the public’s awareness of aquatic invasive species. Through her efforts, the new “Be a Hero, Transport Zero” campaign is being expanded towards a comprehensive campaign to address all invasive species spread throughout Illinois. In addition, Pat has been instrumental in supporting policy changes, such as the addition of 27 new aquatic plants to the Illinois Injurious Species list.

Professional Organization of the Year – Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation

The Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation is receiving this award for their leadership in invasive species control and natural areas management in northwestern Illinois. Jo Daviess conservation Foundation partnered with other organizations and took on a leadership role in the development, organization and implementation of the Northwest Illinois Invasive Species Strike Team. This team has been responsible for the treatment of over 650 acres of invasive plant populations in natural areas across six northwest Illinois counties.

Volunteer of the Year – Marilyn Leger, East Central Illinois Master Naturalists

Marilyn Leger is receiving this award for her dedication and leadership in invasive species work in east central Illinois and statewide. Marilyn has been a driving force to address invasive species in east central Illinois. Through the local chapter of the Master Naturalists, Marilyn founded and co-chaired the East Central Invasive Plant Task Force. Under her leadership, this task force has organized trainings, published invasive plant educational material and created the ‘Great Garlic Mustard Hunt.’ In addition, Marilyn has been heavily involved in the Illinois Invasive Plant Species Council and has been instrumental in the assessment of plant species

Business of the Year – Midwest Groundcovers, LLC

Midwest Ground Covers, LLC is receiving this award for their leadership in developing the relationship between green industry and conservation. Both Gary Knosher, President and CEO, and Trish Beckjord, Sales Consultant/Native Plant and Green Infrastructure Specialist, have served on board and committees with regional, state, and local organizations that address invasive species. Midwest Groundcovers, LLC’s willingness to work hard to keep the dialogue on invasive species and the green industry open and productive is invaluable to Illinois.

Educator of the Year – Susan Shelton, Litchfield High School

Susan Shelton is receiving this award for her leadership in invasive species education at Litchfield High School. Susan, for the last eight years, has guided her students to volunteers to control invasive plant species. Her classes have assisted the Shoal Creek Volunteers and the Montgomery County Natural Area Guardians to manage local natural areas and remove invasive species. Her efforts have led to over 2,400 volunteer hours contributed to remove invasive species. In addition to the on-the-ground benefits, Susan’s work has guided and taught students to importance of natural areas and management.

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