Virginia Conservation Network Honors Awards, May 16, 2006 - John Eckman presenting to Ed Clark

I expect that a majority of us attending tonight have had the privilege of working with Ed Clark, President of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, on some project, campaign or committee over his decades of work in the state. We know and honor his work here, but that is only a small part of Ed's contributions, and our award tonight, is one of many that have recognized his efforts. In reviewing his biography, I noticed that Ed hasn't received a major Virginia conservation honor since the Virginia Wildlife Foundation recognized him as Conservation Educator of the Year in 1987. In the interim, he has received honors from the United Nations Environment Programme, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and in 1997, received the Chuck Yeager Award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. More recently the Venezuelan Ministry of Education recognized Ed's work in rural communities and the Venezuelan Guardia Nacional commended his efforts in combating the illegal trafficking of neotropical wildlife. Obviously, Ed has done much more than just think globally. Ed's career started with gutsy vision and values. Beginning in 1978 he worked with many of you to establish Wilderness Areas in Virginia, protecting 80,000 acres of national forest land including my two Augusta County favorites, Saint Mary's and Ramsey's Draft. In 1979, Ed served as the first Executive Director of the Conservation Council of Virginia Foundation, a precursor to today's VCN. In 1982 Ed co-founded the organization he still leads, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, now based at the foot of the Blue Ridge in Waynesboro. Those of you who have been touched by the Center's work how powerful these connections with wildlife can be. The Center has provided education programs for 1.4 million people since it's foundingÑfrom elementary school kids to post-doctoral students of veterinary medicine. The Center is globally recognized as a premier wildlife veterinary medicine training institution, and has done a remarkable job of helping people understand the connections between natural systems, wild animals, and human health. Active in tracking West Nile Virus and other pathogens, this year the Center received support from the Institute for Defense and Homeland Security to create the North American Wildlife Disease Surveillance Network, an effort to watch for nature's warning signs that may signal bioterrorism threats against the U.S. This growth and notoriety have never shaken a core mission of the Wildlife Center, which I believe speaks to Ed's caring nature. Children and adults from around the Valley, across the state and beyond know that if they find an injured bird, a disabled rabbit, or even a struggling turtle, there is a place to find help. The Wildlife Center of Virginia has cared for more than 44,000 wild animals over the years. Very few people in the conservation field have had the opportunity to connect their dedicated local efforts to national and international successes. Ed was deeply involved in the battle to have Virginia ban the harmful granular pesticide Furidan, which led to an EPA ban nationwide. This move saved not only Bald Eagles but also an estimated 2 million songbirds annually. Finally, those of you who do not know Ed from working with him personally, may recognize him as the television conservationist who doesn't chase down lions or wrestle alligators. Ed has taken advantage of his considerable talents as a public speaker and educator to reach broader audiences through his Virginia Outdoors series, on national shows like Larry King and Today, and on the CenterÕs show, "Wildlife Emergency" on Animal Planet. Ed has spoken to and educated audiences of all sorts, and manages to maintain his calm demeanor even with a large raptor on his arm. No one has done a better job of using the chance for a photo op with a Bald Eagle to wrangle time with key politicians. I think you'll all agree that with EdÕs telegenic personality, his pragmatism, optimism, savvy, vision, and devotion to his cause, we are certainly glad he is on our team. On behalf of the Virginia Conservation Network and all those people and other beings he has helped over the years, it is my pleasure to present VCNÕs Scarlette Award to Ed Clark.