NOAA 2002-R412
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NOAA News Releases 2002
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Two researchers and an avid outdoorsman from the Coos Bay community have been honored as Environmental Heroes for outstanding contributions to the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, in Charleston, Ore. The award came from the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Doug Brown, of NOAA's Ocean Service, presented the awards during a dedication ceremony today for the reserve's newly constructed interpretive center. It was also the 100th meeting of the South Slough Management Commission.

Reserve employees Craig Cornu, stewardship coordinator, and Steve Rumrill, Ph.D., research coordinator, were presented with the NOAA award for their leadership in tidal wetland restoration at the reserve.

Long time community resident, Chalmer "Gus" Gufstafson, was named a NOAA Environmental Hero posthumously for his generous financial contribution to support the acquisition of lands to be added to the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The combined efforts of Cornu and Rumrill have been influential in placing tidal wetland habitat restoration on the agenda of NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System. They have carefully planned, implemented and evaluated the restoration of areas that were lost over the past century. In the Coos estuary, only 14 percent of the original coastal wetland remains relatively undistributed. This history of wetland loss and degradation may have contributed to the steady decline of salmon populations in Oregon over the past 100 years.

"Their contributions have provided pioneering on-the-ground examples of wetland restoration treatments that have influenced the design of numerous wetland restoration projects throughout the Pacific Northwest," states Brown. "Evaluation of the tidal wetland restoration activities at the South Slough Reserve has shed new light on the importance of tidal wetland habitats to northwest fish, including coho salmon."

Over the last 10 years, Cornu and Rumrill have focused on the recovery of native eelgrass beds, restoration of fresh and saltwater wetlands, the re-creation of lost habitat and winter refuges for fish, and the re-establishment of vegetation and upland forest.

When long time resident Gufstafson passed away in 1994, his will directed that his entire $1.6 million estate be donated to the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve for land acquisition. His decision to donate his life's estate represents the largest contribution ever made by an individual to the South Slough program.

Gufstafson had a lifetime love of the outdoors; he was an avid fisherman and hunting enthusiast. The son of Swedish immigrants, he grew up in Duluth, Minn., during the Great Depression. He worked in the U.S. Forest Service for a short time before enlisting in the Air Force during World War II. After receiving numerous medals for his distinguished service in the Solomon Islands, he took up a civilian career as an engineer. He came to Coos Bay, Ore., in 1952 to work for the Bureau of Land Management until his retirement in 1978 as district engineer. He lived modestly and was a patient investor.

"His contribution greatly enhances the capacity of the reserve to provide a stable environment for long-term environmental research and education," states Mike Graybill, manager of the South Slough Reserve. "His act of enormous generosity was done quietly, without, pretense or fanfare. His expression of his love of nature serves as an example for us all and qualifies him well to hold the title of environmental hero."

Established in 1995 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, the Environmental Hero award is presented to individuals and organizations throughout the United States who have contributed to the protection and preservation of the nation's environment. Previous recipients include oceanographers Jean-Michel Cousteau and Sylvia Earle, and actor Ted Danson, head of the American Oceans Campaign. There are a total of 27 honorees this year.

NOAA, an agency of the Department Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 25 protected areas dedicated to long-term research, education and stewardship. South Slough is the country's first National Estuarine Research Reserve. It is a partnership between NOAA and the Oregon Division of State Lands. To learn more about NOAA and the National Estuarine Research Reserve program, please visit