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Office of the Secretary
April 21, 2008
Joan Moody
(202) 208-6416

Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne Presents Cooperative Conservation Award Honoring The Late Mark Benedict, The Conservation Fund, West Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C.— At a ceremony in the nation's capital today, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne recognized the outstanding contributions of the late Dr. Mark Benedict of West Virginia for "furthering the Department's conservation mission and promoting community-based collaboration." Accepting the award on behalf of Dr. Benedict were his wife, Georgia Jeppesen, and their son, Skylar Jeppesen Benedict.

The 21 awards recognized the work of more than 700 groups and individuals who achieved excellence in conservation through collaboration and partnerships.

"These outstanding partnerships and cooperative efforts represent a fundamental way in which our Department provides stewardship for America with integrity and excellence," Secretary Kempthorne said. "They embody a broad spectrum of conservation work from restoring wetlands, rangelands and mine lands to protecting wildlife, conserving water and fighting invasive species to teaching conservation values to the next generation."

In the mid-1980's, Dr. Mark Benedict emerged as a persistent advocate for developing a statewide system of greenways in Florida. He envisioned the open spaces as a living network for people and for wildlife - a way to protect native ecosystems and to connect people to the land.

Building on his experience in Florida, Dr. Benedict joined The Conservation Fund, and began to advance landscape-scale conservation nationally. He developed guidelines for practitioners and promoted a strategic, systematic "green infrastructure" approach to conservation. He developed a training program first launched in May, 2001, at the Fish and Wildlife Service's National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W. Va.

Dr. Benedict's vision for networks of conservation lands lives on today through the work of many people he reached through courses, workshops and, most recently, through his book entitled Green Infrastructure: Linking Landscapes and Communities, co-authored with his colleague Ed McMahon.

"The work of Dr. Mark A. Benedict made a substantial and enduring contribution to the protection of the nation's natural resources through an innovative approach to conservation that is both strategic and proactive, that is sustainable, and that also balances positive economic growth with the protection of important lands," the award citation notes.

"Today, we honor Dr. Benedict, who passed away in December 2006, for his passion and his enduring commitment to teaching others the value of conservation across large landscapes," it was noted at the ceremony.

The Department of the Interior's Cooperative Conservation Award recognizes conservation achievements resulting from the cooperation and participation of individual landowners, citizen groups, private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and Federal, State, local, and/or tribal governments.

"This is a fitting start to a week of Earth Day activities," the Secretary told the crowd at the main Interior auditorium. "If anyone were to ask me why America is the world leader in conservation of natural resources, I would simply point to the people in this auditorium. You are the spirit and you are the hands of cooperative conservation."

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