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MDMR Executive Director to Receive Gulf Guardian Award

BILOXI, Miss. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf of Mexico Program Office recently announced that Dr. William Walker, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, will receive a First Place Gulf Guardian Award for 2011 in the Individual category. The Awards ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Meeting on August 3, 2011, beginning at 6 p.m. in the Ballroom at the Westin New Orleans Canal Place in New Orleans.

Dr. Walker has spent nearly 40 years researching and protecting the resources of the Gulf of Mexico. Growing up in Louisiana and working in Mississippi, Florida and Washington D.C., he exemplifies environmental leadership and stewardship for Mississippi and the entire Gulf of Mexico. A tireless leader, he actively seeks out collaboration from local, state, and federal governments, as well as from industry, academia, NGOs and citizens. Respected throughout the Gulf and across the nation, Dr. Walker has brought this collaborative approach to the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, forming the basis of a regional approach to restoring and sustaining Gulf of Mexico resources and coastal communities. As a resource manager, Dr. Walker has countless accomplishments including the acquisition of 870 acres of coastal wetlands; the restoration of 250 acres of wetlands; the creation of 50 acres of marsh habitat, 1,200 acres of oyster habitat, 51 inshore and 16 offshore artificial reefs; the installation of seven hydrological monitoring stations; the establishment of a national Heritage Area; the implementation of the Clean Marina Program; the planting of over 16,000 trees; and the development of the first comprehensive Gulf report on invasive species.

Dr. Walker has also worked with farmers in the Mississippi Delta and Iowa on nutrient reduction strategies and has helped secure resources for the implementation of best management practices identified in those strategies, thereby reducing nutrient runoff into the Gulf. Recognizing that protecting and improving the Gulf of Mexico can't be limited to the five U.S. Gulf States, Dr. Walker has built partnerships with the six Mexican Gulf States and, in 2009, he secured monitoring vessels to support the HABs programs in Campeche and Veracruz, Mexico. Dr. Walker's professional success is characterized by his commitment to and active engagement with public resource management. His technical and interpersonal skills result in his being extremely effective and highly respected, not only in the Gulf of Mexico region, but across the country. The high regard for Dr. Walker by his peers is reflected in President Obama’s appointing him to the National Ocean Council's Governance Coordinating Committee representing the Gulf of Mexico region.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given in seven categories: individual, business, youth environmental education, civic/nonprofit organizations, cultural diversity/environmental justice, partnership and bi-national efforts.

"I am both honored and humbled to be selected for this award," Walker said. "I am proud to accept it on behalf of all states, federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector companies, and others who work together through the Governors' Gulf of Mexico Alliance and in other ways to improve and sustain the environment and the economy of the Gulf of Mexico region that are so critical to maintaining the quality of life to which we have all become accustomed."

"I applaud this year's Gulf Guardian winners for their environmental leadership and commitment to protecting and restoring one of our nation's most treasured natural resources, the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Guardians are true environmental stewards and protectors of this vital ecosystem," said EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming.

Gloria Car, Acting Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, "This is the 11th year of the Gulf Guardian Awards Program, and I am proud to say that each year the winners in all categories have represented the very best of environmental accomplishments in the Gulf of Mexico. The partnership of the Gulf of Mexico Program works to improve the environmental health of the Gulf, and the Gulf Guardian Awards is an important way for us to recognize these valuable efforts. The 2011 award winners truly exemplify the enthusiastic and committed citizens, communities, governments, and businesses who address complex problems to improve, protect, and sustain our regional and national treasure, the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is dedicated to enhancing, protecting and conserving marine interests of the state by managing all marine life, public trust wetlands, adjacent uplands and waterfront areas to provide for the optimal commercial, recreational, educational and economic uses of these resources consistent with environmental concerns and social changes. Visit the DMR online at www.dmr.ms.gov.

Contact: Lauren Thompson
Phone: 228-523-4053

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