NOAA 03-R133
Contact: Crystal Straugn
NOAA News Releases 2003
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Thomas Kazo, director of the Wildlife Research Team, Inc (WRT), was recognized with a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Environmental Hero Award. The award recognizes Kazo for his community-based, environmentally sound, hands-on approach to large restoration projects. The award was presented by Daphne Macfarlan, habitat restoration specialist, on June 7th during a ceremony for Kazo at the The Wildlife Research Team 10 year anniversary at Matheson Hammock Park in Coral Gables, Fla.
Held in conjunction with Earth Day celebrations, the award honors NOAA volunteers for their "tireless efforts to preserve and protect our nation's environment." Hurricane Andrew struck hard in Miami-Dade County in 1992 flattening an entire mangrove forest and choking its tidal creeks with fallen trees and storm debris. Coastal cleanup was attempted, but none seemed to take a sustained approach to restore the hardest hit areas. There simply were not enough funds to restore Matheson Hammock Park, until Kazo stepped forward and put a plan in motion.

Kazo focused on unclogging the natural baitfish corridors that weave throughout this 629-acre mangrove preserve. He implemented a “hands-on” method of restoration and to this day does not utilize any mechanical equipment. In 2001, the Wildlife Research Team (WRT) was awarded a FishAmerica grant through the NOAA Restoration Center’s Community-based Program to spark their efforts. What was once Kazo’s unique vision has now resulted in an improvement of water quality and clarity, increased tidal flushing, enhanced vegetation, an increase in the presence of fish and even the visit of a saltwater crocodile.

Due to the project’s success, involvement of community partners and continued need for assistance, an additional grant was awarded directly from the NOAA Community-based Restoration Program to Kazo and his team in 2002 to continue their efforts.

“NOAA and the nation are fortunate to have such dedicated people volunteer so much of their time,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “They set a perfect example for others to follow in their communities. America needs more environmental heroes like them.”

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.

“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,” Lautenbacher wrote 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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