Department of Ecology News Release - February 12, 2013

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Gov. Inslee presents local conservation leader with top Ecology award for environmental excellence

LACEY – Gov. Jay Inslee today presented Capitol Land Trust (CLT) Executive Director Eric Erler with an environmental excellence award for going above and beyond his normal duties in achieving land conservation and promoting important conservation practices that are important for the South Sound and Southwest Washington’s environment and economy.

The award, from the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology), was given during today’s Capitol Land Trust breakfast held at St. Martin’s University in Lacey. The award reads: “Ecology recognizes Eric for exceptional contributions to conservation and protection of shorelines, estuaries, and natural resources in Mason, Thurston, and Grays Harbor counties.”

 “Without Eric’s dedication, local communities would not have achieved nearly 5,000 acres of lands conserved in Mason, Thurston and Grays Harbor Counties for the benefit of fish and wildlife,” Inslee said. “Eric embodies the Capitol Land Trust’s mission of maintaining the coexistence of people, wildlife and the natural habitats that sustain us all.”

Important conserved lands include significant shorelines of Oakland Bay, Eld Inlet and Gull Harbor, wetlands upstream to those and other marine waters, and prairie habitat along the Black River. 

John Konovsky, former Squaxin Island Indian Tribe environmental program manager and current CLT board member, said: “Although Eric works on behalf of the board and membership of the Capitol Land Trust and has a talented staff to assist him, it has been primarily his long-term insight and patience, his conservation and funding strategy, and his diverse community outreach program that has enabled the land trust to achieve its well-known success.”

Inslee said: “No one person, organization or agency alone can create the healthy environment we want, and need, for the future. That’s why effective leadership is so important to preserving our natural spaces and leading us toward a healthy future that supports both our quality of life and economic vitality.”

Gordon White, Ecology Shorelands and Environmental Assistance program manager, said: “Eric and the land trust’s work to preserve wetlands have been outstanding. Wetlands define so much of what we value in our environment, and Eric’s leadership has resulted in the preservation of these important nurseries for shellfish, crab, salmon, waterfowl and other wildlife.”

White added that wetlands serve important functions for people, too. For example, it would be costly to engineer manmade replacements for the natural stormwater control and improvements to drinking water that wetlands provide.

Highlights of recent accomplishments Erler has spearheaded include an effort to conserve two properties including the 85-acre Oakland Bay County Park and the 133-acre Twin Rivers Ranch Preserve, with a combined total of 6,000 feet of marine shoreline and 6,000 feet of stream channel.  A third effort is underway to conserve 75 acres of the Johns Creek estuary with 27 acres of tidal saltwater marsh, another 4,000 feet of marine shoreline and 2,000 feet of stream channel. 

Sally Toteff, Ecology Southwest Regional Director, said: “Eric is well known for his collaborative approach and his ability to form partnerships that create win-win situations.  He goes out of his way to learn about, and respect, people’s ties to the land, such as important family heritage and community traditions. This helps him form important relationships that lead to actions that are a success in everyone’s book.”

Erler also has been instrumental in furthering important water quality improvement efforts in Oakland Bay and the Deschutes waterway, Toteff said.

Toteff noted a recent success Eric significantly contributed to is the upgrade of a portion of Oakland Bay for shellfish harvest. The result will support healthy waters into the future, she said.

Konovsky said: “Eric occupies a unique role in the conservation of Southwest Washington, having built bridges to everywhere - from Master Builders associations, chambers of commerce and local banks, to the environmental community, the local Indian Tribes, and the state of Washington. He helps focus energy on a common mission to conserve the best of what we have.”

The Environmental Excellence Award is the Department of Ecology's highest award for recognizing environmental excellence in the state of Washington. The department issues the award to individuals, businesses, and organizations that have shown leadership, innovation, or extraordinary service in protecting, improving, or cleaning up the environment.

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Media Contact: Linda Kent, 360-407-6239, 360-791-9830 (cell); linda.kent@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

Ecology's Environmental Excellence Awards (http://www.ecy.wa.gov/environmental_excellence.htm)