A Minnesota wildlife biologist will soon receive a prestigious national award for his efforts in advancing waterfowl and habitat conservation.
Ray Norrgard, wetland management program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, will receive the 2014 National Wetlands Award for State, Tribal, and Local Program Development on May 8 at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C.
He was selected for the award by a national panel of wetland experts. The Environmental Law Institute administers the award, which is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the Federal Highway Administration.
“It’s rewarding to see Ray’s work recognized by the institute and national conservation community,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “His commitment to wetlands and waterfowl has never faltered. His primary concern has always been doing what is best for the resource.”
Norrgard has worked on wetland and waterfowl conservation for nearly 40 years in government and non-profit positions. In his various roles at the DNR, Norrgard has taken a leading role in the development of several wetland programs. This includes, among many others, Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) – an initiative that has generated tens of millions of dollars annually to restoring wildlife habitat on marginal agricultural lands.
“Ray helped develop the RIM Program and worked to get the initiative passed through the state Legislature,” said Bradley Nylin, executive director of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. “Once passed, he helped develop grant programs that have served as national models for conservation.”
Norrgard has also been a key contributor to several natural resource management plans and reports. He was the primary author of Minnesota’s Long Range Duck Recovery Plan – the most ambitious duck plan in the state’s history. The plan calls for an average duck population of 1 million birds and management of 2 million acres of wetlands and grasslands. He also led the completion of the most comprehensive report to date on the ecology and management of northern wild rice.
Norrgard has also created an extensive legacy of education and outreach in the state. He has written articles, conducted interviews, and spoken at clinics and symposiums for youth, adults, and wildlife management professionals. “Ray has a unique ability to interact and engage with all levels of the conservation community from state conservation leaders to the average duck hunter to kids at Minnesota Waterfowl Association’s youth camp,” said David Scott, assistant regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s migratory birds and state programs in Minnesota. “He is an outstanding communicator with a unique ability to share complex biological concepts with the public.”
He has also volunteered countless hours of his free time to promoting wetlands. “[Ray] has never hesitated to apply the commitment [he has shown in his work life] to his volunteer life as well,” said David Zentner, past national president for the Izaak Walton League of America. “‘Off-duty, Norrgard has also made significant contributions to Minnesota.” This includes working with a citizens group that spearheaded a successful constitutional amendment in 2008 that increased the state sales tax to support habitat and clean water conservation, parks and trails, the arts.
“Quite simply put,” said Peter David, wildlife biologist for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, “there is no one in the region who has done more over their career to steward the wetland resources he dearly loves. Our wetlands – and our wetland professionals – are far better off because of Ray’s tireless dedication, and his legacy will be felt for decades to come.”
Norrgard also received the Minnesota Award at the 2014 annual meeting of the Minnesota Chapter of The Wildlife Society. The Minnesota Award is the TWS’s highest conservation award.