NOAA 03-R416
Contact: Theresa Eisenman
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Francis H. Smith, proprietor of Panton Plumbing and Heating, Inc., will be honored with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Environmental Hero Award on Monday, April 28, at the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Visitor Center, in East Falmouth, Mass. The award will be presented by Tim Keeney, deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The award honors NOAA volunteers for their "tireless efforts to preserve and protect our nation's environment." Smith is being recognized for initiating and leading a 29-year effort to restore the Quashnet River, located within the boundaries of the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.

“Fran Smith’s heroic efforts to restore the Quashnet River is a model for community service,” states Keeney. “The Waquoit Bay Reserve, NOAA and the nation are fortunate to have such dedicated community members volunteer so much of their time.”

Established in 1995 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Earth Day, the Environmental Hero award is presented to individuals and organizations that volunteer their time and energy to help NOAA carry out its mission. Previous recipients include oceanographers Jean-Michel Cousteau and Sylvia Earle and actor Ted Danson, head of the American Oceans Campaign.

Smith has been a volunteer with the Cape Cod Chapter of Trout Unlimited for many years. His volunteer efforts include raising funds, lobbying for protection, soliciting volunteers and spending his own time to restore the Quashnet River.

“Fran is an avid fly fisherman. He began his work on the Quashnet simply to improve local trout fishing,” states Brendan Annett, stewardship coordinator for the Waquoit Bay Reserve. “Soon after he began the project, Fran gained an appreciation for the importance of this habitat restoration project to the larger ecosystem. He is now one of our region’s top experts on the ecosystem. His commitment to this project is truly heroic.”

Once famous for its large and abundant sea run brook trout, the Quashnet River was virtually destroyed by over-fishing, dam construction and cranberry agriculture. Under Smith’s leadership, volunteers cleared the channel of debris, cut back nuisance brush from the banks, planted hundreds of trees and carefully installed habitat structures made of natural materials. The project has even involved erosion control and culvert stabilization. The result is a significantly improved habitat for fisheries, birds and other wildlife.

“Fran began this visionary project to bring the river back to life at a time when restoration was unprecedented in the area,” states Christine Gault, manager of the Waquoit Bay Reserve. “It is now a model for coastal stream restoration in the northeastern United States.

“I consider Fran the godfather of this project, but he would be the first to want to recognize the many other volunteers. He provided the vision, leadership and expertise to restore the river and to motivate other community members to take part,” said Gault.

“On behalf of the 12,500 men and women working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, I am pleased to present you with this 2003 Environmental Hero Award,” wrote retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in a letter to the recipients. “Your dedicated efforts and outstanding accomplishments greatly benefit the environment and make our nation a better place for all Americans.”

There are a total of 36 winners — 35 individuals and one organization. Five awards are being presented posthumously. Recipients of the 2003 NOAA Environmental Heroes Award are:

Recipient and Location

  • Phil Ruhle — N. Kingston, R.I.
  • William A. McLellan — Wilmington, N.C.
  • Robert Macedo — New Bedford, Mass.
  • Loretta Lawrence — Islamorada, Fla.
  • Patrick Repman — Midland, Texas
  • Marvin O. Hill — Beverly, W.V.
  • John Pulasky — Billings, Mont.
  • H. Don McFarland — San Antonio, Texas
  • Carl Ojala — Ypsilanti, Mich.
  • Francis H. Smith — Falmouth, Mass.
  • Morgan Angus and Tara Whittle — Lothian, Md.
  • Clyde Brown — Moss Point, Miss.
  • Capt. Krzysztof Romowicz, Capt. Adam Kedziora, Capt. Darek Grzybek, Capt. Marek Czapiewski, Mieczyslaw Miakinko, Robert Zuk, Januz Maslanka, Piotr Kaminski, Wlodzimierz Jarzynski, Andrzej Kalicki, Daniel Skrzypek, Konrad Socko, Marianna Pastuszak — Gdynia, Poland
  • Cathy P. McNeil — Golden, Colo.
  • Terry Onslow — Girdwood, Alaska
  • Ismael Figueroa — Miaramar, Puerto Rico
  • Thomas F. Kazo — Sunrise, Fla.
  • Milton C. Shedd (posthumous) — Irvine, Calif.
  • Jackie Ciano, Michael Newcomer, Emily Argo, Tom Hinds (posthumous) — Fernandino Beach and Sarasota, Fla.
  • Alabama Emergency Response Team (ALERT) — Calera, Ala.

NOAA 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 the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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