Ralph W. Abele
Conservation Heritage Award
Dr. Edward Bellis
Dr. Edward Bellis, a retired Penn State professor and conservationist whose long list of
accomplishments includes heading a task force examining the impact of sedimentation from dirt
and gravel roads to Pennsylvania streams, has been named the recipient of the Ralph W. Abele
Conservation Heritage Award for 2002. The honor is the highest recognition the Pennsylvania Fish
and Boat Commission can confer on persons who distinguish themselves in the cause of
Bellis is a Pennsylvania native who was born in Ridley Park (Delaware County) in 1927. He
grew up in Gratz (Dauphin County) and graduated from Millersburg High School. Upon graduation in
1945, he served in the US Army’s 88th Infantry Division in northern Italy during World War II.
Following his time in the service, Bellis pursued his education. After receiving a Bachelors of
Science in Zoology and Entomology from Penn State, he went on to earn his Master in Zoology from
the University of Oklahoma and his Doctorate from the University of Minnesota. Following a brief
stint as an investigator for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Bellis joined Penn State
University’s Biology Department from 1958. He taught a variety of ecological topics at PSU for
the next 31 years, until his retirement in 1989.
He was one of the original members of the Dirt and Gravel Roads Task Force (1992) that
highlighted the risks runoff associated with these paths. The work he and others performed in
raising awareness of the issue developed into the award-winning Dirt and Gravel Road Center at
Penn State. He successfully lobbied for legislation that amended the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle
Code to provide a funding source for maintaining and improving dirt and gravel roads to reduce
Bellis also helped found the Keystone Coldwater Conference, a semi-annual forum to deal with
issues related to protection and conservation of the state’s coldwater streams. As a long-time
leader within Trout Unlimited, Bellis worked on the formation of the Coldwater Heritage
Partnership, a joint program of the PFBC, PATU and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation
and Natural Resources.
As a participant on the Governor’s 21st Century Environmental Commission, the Department of
Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Regulatory Negotiating Commission and the DEP Water Resources
Advisory Committee, Bellis continues his life’s work to protect Pennsylvania’s waters.
“Through his notable professional career and his proactive approach to aquatic resource
protection, Dr. Bellis embodies the spirit of the Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award.
Generations of Pennsylvanians have benefited from the contributions by previous Abele Award
winners and Dr. Bellis’s many accomplishments deserve to be recognized among them,” said PFBC
Executive Director Peter A. Colangelo. “We at the Fish and Boat Commission are not alone in that
thought; we received a total of 24 nominations touting Dr. Bellis for the 2002 award. He is a
true Pennsylvania conservation hero.”