HENDERSON, Ky. – From among the many nation’s greater than 560 nationwide wildlife refuges, the supervisor of the brand new Inexperienced River Nationwide Wildlife Refuge in Henderson County has been honored because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as its nationwide refuge supervisor of the yr.
Michael Johnson, a 30-year veteran with the service, acquired the 2022 Paul Kroegel Nationwide Wildlife Refuge Supervisor of the Yr.
The Fish & Wildlife Service mentioned he “is named the face of the Nationwide Wildlife Refuge System in Western Kentucky.”
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The award is given in honor of Kroegel, who was the primary supervisor of the primary refuge established in 1903 at Pelican Island, Florida.
Johnson, who additionally manages the a lot bigger Clarks River Refuge close to Benton, Kentucky, and his crew are credited with getting the Inexperienced River Refuge established in 2019, when it grew to become the nation’s 568th refuge and solely the second in Kentucky.
Inexperienced River started with a 10-acre donation from the Southern Conservation Corp. (SCC), a non-profit Conservation Land Belief began in 2003. The Fish & Wildlife Service mentioned the donation resulted from Johnson’s prior work with SCC to preserve habitats in and round Clark’s River Refuge.
In 2021, Inexperienced River Refuge expanded to 707 acres with funding from the nationwide Land and Water Conservation Fund, consisting of offshore oil and fuel revenues. The eventual aim for the Inexperienced River Refuge is to develop to 24,000 acres via land acquisitions from prepared sellers.
The Inexperienced River Refuge is situated close to, however is solely distinct from the Inexperienced River State Forest close to Baskett.
“It undoubtedly is and can change into a really particular place,” Johnson mentioned of the Inexperienced River Refuge in a telephone interview. “All of our refuges are particular in their very own manner. All of us need it to occur tomorrow. It’s simply going to take time. So long as we keep affected person and keep the course, it is going to be one thing we’re all happy with, not simply that neighborhood however all people — anyone coming in visiting, all people.”
Acreage eligible for the refuge contains:
- The Horseshoe Bend space northwest of Henderson;
- The land throughout the Ohio River round Ellis Park racetrack that’s a part of Kentucky;
- Excessive floor south of the Inexperienced River and east of Henderson that’s known as the Bluff Unit;
- The huge Scuffletown river bottomland north of the Inexperienced River from the mouth of the Inexperienced River to the Daviess County line; and
- Land south of the Inexperienced River stretching from Spottsville to the Daviess County line that’s known as the Inexperienced River Unit.
Johnson mentioned the need is to accumulate contiguous property as a lot as attainable. “Now we have centered on the Horseshoe Bend and Bluff areas” in these early years of land acquisition, he mentioned.
In describing how lengthy it’s going to take for a big refuge resembling Inexperienced River to develop to tens of hundreds of acres, he mentioned, “We sometimes say it’s long run, anyplace from 20 to 40 years, however in actuality, we’ll in all probability be at it onerous and heavy for a number of years, as much as eight or 10 (years) and see the place we’re at and see if that emphasis and wishes continues for one more 30 years.
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“That actually depends upon the neighborhood and the way a lot they wish to maintain it on the forefront. Administrations change, positions change, but when the neighborhood is staying engaged. it’s going to all the time carry on the forefront,” he mentioned. “We’ll stick with it so long as I’m round, however it’s going to take the neighborhood” to stay over the lengthy haul.
The brand new refuge features a 5,000-square-foot facility which is able to function refuge headquarters.
“Michael’s skill to kind relationships and work with various teams of individuals was important in establishing and garnering public assist for the Inexperienced River Refuge,” Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, the service’s Southeast Regional Director, mentioned in a information launch.
“He listened and labored with the communities to collect their assist for the brand new refuge,” Miranda-Castro mentioned. “Because of this, the neighborhood understood that lands for this refuge would complement native and state efforts to preserve the world’s pure heritage and to offer elevated public entry for leisure alternatives, resembling looking and fishing. Native supporters additionally acknowledge that refuge lands will maintain working for each individuals and wildlife, together with agricultural use and different land administration strategies.”
Johnson leads a workers of six individuals who oversee each the 9,500-acre Clarks River Nationwide Wildlife Refuge, established in 1998, and the Inexperienced River Refuge. He has managed Clark’s River for 18 years.
In 2019, the workers of Clarks River Refuge, together with Johnson, was introduced the Tennessee River Ripple Impact Award for the Authorities Division class for works to guard and enhance Tennessee River Valley waterways.
Most lately, Johnson acquired the Service’s Southeast Regional Director Honors Award for excellent efficiency in 2021 for his efforts and dedication to establishing Inexperienced River Refuge.
Johnson can be lauded as a mentor. As supervisor of Clarks River, he assisted greater than 22 pupil volunteers with employment in federal, state, and non-profit wildlife conservation businesses.
One in all Johnson’s priorities for the brand new Inexperienced River Nationwide Wildlife refuge was forming an lively Associates of Inexperienced River NWR group that’s supporting acquisitions and useful resource administration actions and high quality wildlife dependent recreation the neighborhood.
Johnson and his crew deliberate and celebrated the formalization of this partnership at a digital signing ceremony in 2020 for Associates Group members and repair regional leaders in the course of the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chase Fulcher, president of the Associates of Inexperienced River NWR, mentioned when his good friend Mike Morton recruited him to change into a part of the group, “He instructed me all about Michael and I met Michael and I used to be so impressed. I can name him at 5 within the morning or 7 or 8 at night time. I by no means met somebody who works as an worker of federal authorities who acts prefer it’s his personal private enterprise.”
Fulcher praised Johnson’s “work ethic, ardour, honesty and willingness to do no matter it takes to get the job executed and benefitting Henderson, and he’s not even from Henderson.”
Fulcher added that he expects that after the ceremonial groundbreaking for the method to the deliberate Interstate 69 bridge east of Henderson, he expects the Inexperienced River Refuge to develop exponentially within the coming years as land is acquired to mitigate the lack of wetlands due to the freeway development.
In response to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, permitted actions on the Inexperienced River Refuge at present embrace images; bicycle and horseback using on refuge graveled roads or improved trails; and picnicking, wildlife remark, and train and meditation, all throughout daytime solely. Different public makes use of, together with looking and fishing, are anticipated to ultimately be permitted after planning and rulemaking are accomplished and extra land is acquired.