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January 22, 2007

A pioneering scientist, a hands-on conservationist, an innovative sportsmen and an educator have been honored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission for their unique contributions that have furthered the work and mission of the agency.

The awards were presented today at a special ceremony at the Commission winter quarterly meeting in Harrisburg. “The awards honor the recipients for the important contributions they have made in their respective fields. It is my privilege to be in the company of so many outstanding individuals. Each is most deserving of this recognition - and our thanks,” said Commission President Donald Anderson in introducing the recipients.

Award winners
Award winners from left to right: Gerry Secrist, Thomas Kerr, Harry Miller, and Dr. Ruth Patrick

Dr. Ruth Patrick and Thomas J. Kerr were named as recipients of the Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award.

Dr. Ruth Patrick holds the Francis Boyer Chair of Limnology at the Academy of Natural Sciences and has been an advocate of environmental protection and resource conservation in Pennsylvania and around the world. In the late 1940s, Dr. Patrick developed methods for monitoring environmental health that are now the standard for evaluating rivers and streams. Much of Dr. Patrick’s career has been spent studying the main stem of the Delaware and its tributaries and analyzing the impact of human development.

She was one of the first scientists to apply an “ecosystem approach,” using both biological and physical conditions of a river to evaluate water quality. She was the first environmental scientist to sit on the board of the DuPont Corporation. She served as an advisor on water pollution and acid rain to presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan.

Thomas Kerr is the former chief executive officer of Wildlands Conservancy, one of the largest organizations of its type in the state. He worked extensively with Pennsylvania and United States law makers to advance environmental legislation and to fund support for the implementation of Wildlands projects and programs.

Kerr is one of the founding board members of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and has served on the board of the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers. He led two countywide initiatives to pass ballot referenda to establish a total of $67 million for open-space and park acquisition in 2002. He helped ensure the passage of the Growing Greener II environmental bond fund referendum in May 2005.

A resident of Kempton, Kerr will be presented with his award at a later date.

The Commission established the Abele Award to recognize citizens of Pennsylvania who have made outstanding contributions to the protection, conservation and enhancement of the aquatic resources of the Commonwealth, through one or more of the following accomplishments:

  • Personally invested heavily in the long-term education of Pennsylvania's youth on conservation issues vital to an improved aquatic environment.
  • Put at risk their person and livelihood to undertake public activities and positions on behalf of improving and protecting the aquatic resources of Pennsylvania.
  • Led a regional or statewide environmental effort that has been recognized for its duration and success in protecting and enhancing the aquatic resources of Pennsylvania.
  • Played a leading role in reclaiming and enhancing a major significant natural water resource within the Commonwealth.
  • Led an effort to pass major environmental legislation for the protection, conservation and enhancement of the natural environment of Pennsylvania.
  • Brought national recognition to Pennsylvania through personal activities, actions and contributions to the aquatic resources.

The award serves as a memorial to Ralph Abele for his steadfast and courageous work in protecting and conserving our natural resources. Past Abele Award winners were: Ken Sink, Dr. Maurice Goddard, Lenny Green, Dr. William Kodrich, Robert W. McCullough, Jr., Peter Duncan, James L. Myers, Larry J. Schweiger, Enoch S. ("Inky") Moore, Robert P. Ging, Jr., Raymond Savel, Dr. Ed Bellis, Edward Kissell, Rozell Stidd and Dick St. Pierre.

Ralph W. Abele served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish Commission from 1972 until 1987.

The first-ever Paul J. Mahon Access For All Award was presented to Harry Miller of Latrobe. Miller helped establish the Pennsylvania Sportsmen for the Disabled organization in 1989. Harry, the president of the organization, is the western Pennsylvania spokesperson for disabled people who enjoy the outdoors. He has worked with various organizations and state and federal legislatures to gain support for the disabled.

Through a partnership with the PFBC and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Harry developed and implemented a “shoreline enhancement” program that allows disabled persons to fish from shore at Keystone State Park. He received an appreciation award from the Commission for this program. Harry also received the Working for Wildlife Award from the Pennsylvania Game Commission for his efforts on behalf of the disabled.

The Mahon Award recognizes Pennsylvania citizens or organizations that have made outstanding contributions to improving fishing and boat access to the resource for the disabled. The award also honors Mahon, of Clarks Summit, for his efforts in the field. Mahon served for 15 years as a Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioner (1991-2006). The hallmark of his tenure was his unflagging efforts to ensure accessibility to the waterways of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for all individuals interested in fishing and boating, regardless of physical ability.

To be eligible for the Mahon Award, potential recipients must have:

  • Been personally involved in the provision of angling or boating activities that directly support the recreational needs of the disabled.
  • Led a regional or statewide effort to improve access to angling and boating resources by the disabled.
  • Played a lead role in the development and construction of a major facility for disabled anglers and/or boaters.
  • Significantly improved or enhanced the quality of the angling and boating experience in ways that make a substantial difference for persons with a disability.
  • Worked passionately and selflessly, over an extended period of time, to improve recreational use of Pennsylvania waters on behalf of the disabled angler and boater.

The final award of the evening was presented to Gerry Sechrist of Lemoyne. Sechrist, a teacher and later an aquatic instructor, assisted in adding boating safety to the Cumberland Valley School District’s Aquatics Program. Gerry was instrumental in starting the West Shore School District’s Boating Safety Awareness Course and the Aquatics Program. In 1998, the West Shore School District won the Boston Whaler Boating Safety Youth Program of Excellence Award.


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