NOAA 2000-406
Contact: Theresa Shearer


Gary Lytton, manager of the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Ronald Swaim, reserve volunteer, have been named Environmental Heroes by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sally Yozell, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presented the awards at a news briefing today.

This is the fifth consecutive year in which NOAA has recognized local citizens throughout the United States who have contributed to the protection and preservation of the nation's environment. Vice President Al Gore sent each of the Environmental Heroes a personal letter of congratulations.

"I greatly appreciate your dedication in helping to protect our nation's environment," states Gore. "As we observe the 30th annual Earth Day, please know that by volunteering your time and energy, you are part of a large worldwide community dedicated to building a legacy that will last for centuries."

Lytton, an employee of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, is responsible for the management of 110,000 acres of coastal water and mangrove-forested wetlands. In addition, Lytton volunteers with the National Estuarine Research Reserve Association, a national, non-profit organization. As former president, he worked to increase visibility for the reserve system in Congress.

Swaim has volunteered with the reserve since 1997, assisting with many of the reserve's research projects and educational programs. Most recently, Swaim donated his time to implement a new computer network for the reserve. In addition to hands-on work at the reserve, Swaim serves on the board of directors for the Friends of Rookery Bay, a non-profit citizen support organization.

"In an arena of unprecedented growth and development, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve provides protection for one of the nation's few remaining relatively undisturbed mangrove estuaries," states Yozell. "The dedication of the reserve's manager, Gary Lytton, and volunteer Ronald Swaim has positioned this reserve as a leader in providing science-based information that is relevant to the needs of local coastal decision-makers. In fact, NOAA's entire reserve system has adopted training workshops for coastal professionals using the model developed at Rookery Bay."

"Sometimes our estuaries are taken for granted, forgetting their importance as a nursery for many of our marine species," said Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David B. Struhs. "We are indeed fortunate and grateful to have employees and volunteers like Gary and Ron who remember every day the importance of this unique and pristine environment."

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of 25 reserves administered by NOAA's National Ocean Service in partnership with coastal states. Managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the reserve currently encompasses 10,000 acres of mangrove forest, barrier beaches, coastal dry-zone scrub, pine flatwoods, seagrass beds and open, shallow waters.

Visit for more information on the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Visit to learn more about the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.