Richard Hamilton (left) accepts the Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award from Gordon Myers, executive director of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.
RALEIGH, N.C. (Aug. 25, 2011) – Richard Hamilton, who served the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission for 37 years, most notably as the executive director from 2004 to 2007, was honored with the Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award at the agency’s business meeting today.
Gordon Myers, executive director of the Commission, presented Hamilton with the award, along with a framed print and plaque.
“The Quay Award recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to wildlife diversity in North Carolina and who are leaders in wildlife conservation,” Myers said.
“Recipients are not recognized only for a single contribution but rather for a series of contributions that reflects a dedication to their vocation and their passion for conserving all species of wildlife in their natural habitats. They are also characterized by their mentorship of others and this year’s recipient, Richard B. Hamilton, embodies all of these qualities.”
While Hamilton’s career at the Wildlife Commission focused mainly on game animal conservation and management, he was the driving force behind many agency actions that benefited nongame animals, such as the formation in 1986 of the Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee, an 18-member committee that advises the agency on nongame and endangered wildlife issues across the state.
He also helped initiate the Cardinal Foundation, a non-profit organization that works on behalf of the Wildlife Commission to support charitable, scientific and educational enterprises promoting the conservation and appreciation of wildlife and their habitats in the state.
Among key projects that flourished under Hamilton’s leadership and that now benefit all North Carolinians who appreciate the outdoors are the development of wildlife viewing areas where the public can observe wildlife in their natural habitats and the formation of the N.C. Birding Trail, a partnership project that established a driving trail linking great birding sites across the state.
He led the agency’s efforts for legislative approval of a specialized nongame wildlife vehicle license plate and income tax check-off for taxpayers to designate a portion of their refunds in support of nongame wildlife conservation. To date, the Commission’s Wildlife Diversity Program, which conducts projects on behalf of nongame wildlife, has received nearly $10 million from tax check off donations and license plate purchases.
Perhaps his most significant accomplishment for wildlife in North Carolina was his avid and vocal stance against a proposal by the U.S. Navy to construct an outlying landing field adjacent to the Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge in eastern North Carolina, one of the premiere wintering sites on the East Coast for migratory and resident waterfowl. Due to the tireless tenacity of Hamilton and other conservation leaders to prevent the destruction of this pristine habitat, the U.S. Navy announced in 2008 that it was abandoning plans to build the field.
“In the truest sense of the term, Dr. Quay is a lifetime sportsman, understanding the inherent value of all wildlife and the importance of managing for both game and nongame animals. As testimony, he was one of the first to purchase a sportsman’s license even though he didn’t hunt or fish,” Hamilton said. “While a student, I had a lot of interaction with Dr. Quay, and I saw firsthand his love of wildlife and his contributions to wildlife. For these reasons and many others, I am truly humbled and honored to receive this award.”
Hamilton is the sixth person to receive the honor, which recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to wildlife diversity in North Carolina and who are considered leaders in wildlife resources conservation.
The first recipient was Dr. Quay himself, a retired professor of zoology at N.C. State University and self-described “full-time volunteer and unpaid environmental activist.” Dr. Parnell, professor emeritus of biological sciences at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, received the award in 2007 in recognition of his pioneering research on colonial nesting waterbirds and shorebirds on dredge-material islands. Former Wildlife Commission employee and section manager of the Wildlife Diversity Program, Randall Wilson, received the award in 2008. In 2009, Tom Henson, a retired Wildlife Diversity Program Coordinator with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, won the award. George Burdick, a retired professor and former Wildlife Resources Commission employee, received the award in 2010.
For more information on the agency’s Wildlife Diversity Program, visit the Commission’s website.