Employees with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission have been recognized by a plethora of local, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and other natural resources-related organizations for their contributions to fisheries, wildlife, and habitat management and conservation, as well as the protection of the state's wildlife and its citizens.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission bestows the prestigious Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award and Lawrence G. Deidrick Small Game Award to recipients who have made outstanding contributions to wildlife and wildlife conservation in North Carolina.
The Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award recognizes individuals who provide leadership in the conservation of wildlife diversity in North Carolina. The award is named for the late Thomas Quay, a retired professor of zoology at N.C. State University who passed away in 2012. A self-described “full-time volunteer and unpaid environmental activist,” Quay served on a variety of conservation boards while lobbying state agencies for various environmental causes.
2020 Recipient - Allen Boynton, Troutdale, Va.
Allen Boynton, a former Assistant Chief of the Commission's Wildlife Management Division, received the 2020 Thomas L. Quay Wildlife Diversity Award during the Commissioners' business meeting on April 22, 2021. Executive Director Cameron Ingram read the "Resolution of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Honoring Allen Boynton" and presented Boynton with a portrait depicting a few of Boynton's favorite wildlife species, painted by Dr. Keith Bridle, a former member of the agency's Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee.
With close to 40 years’ experience with two state wildlife agencies (18 years in Virginia and 20 years in North Carolina), Boynton has devoted his career to the conservation and restoration of wildlife in the Southeast. In Va., Allen headed up a successful elk reintroduction effort in the state, often collaborating with neighboring states on their elk reintroductions. Allen was the principal biologist working to restore Peregrine Falcon to western NC; his successful involvement in a complicated project yielded him the Management Excellence Award from the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society. While working for the NCWRC, Allen was the premier biologist to initiate bat monitoring in the state and he co-led the work to develop NC species conservation plans for state listed species, starting with American alligator. He was instrumental in organizing and mediating a stakeholder committee who developed NCWRC’s Alligator Management Plan, by successfully navigating competing interests and shaping a contentious process. Allen worked hard to develop separate State Wildlife Grants for Cooperative Research and participated in the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources, which seeks to find a new model for conservation funding. Allen retired from the NCWRC in 2018.
While there is so much more that could be mentioned of Allen’s professional accomplishments, his non-professional influences were great as well. Allen is a passionate and avid birder, photographer and iNaturalist user. He has personally contributed over 1,286 observations of 627 species on iNaturalist, identifying species in 7,419 posts. He is a longtime, ardent supporter of the Mount Rogers Naturalist Rally and received the honor of being the keynote speaker at the 44th Spring Rally in 2018. Combining his love of the rally, Mt. Rogers and birds, Allen has often led bird trips since 2008.
Leading by example, Allen has helped develop future generations of would-be conservationists and naturalists through his patient demeanor, big-picture thinking, uncanny strategic abilities, kind and empathetic mediation, demonstration of working well under pressure, and down to earth practicality, encouraging everyone to find their passion and balance in life.
Ann Berry Somers, a Greensboro resident, has dedicated her life to the conservation and management of reptiles and amphibians, collectively known as “herps.” A Senior Lecturer and Lloyd International Honors College Faculty Fellow at UNC-Greensboro since 1989, Somers has been recognized multiple times during her career for teaching excellence having developed many innovations in teaching, mentoring student-service learning projects in science and publishing numerous pieces of wildlife conservation research, curricula and literature.
She and her students were the driving force behind the creation of the Commission’s new Wildlife Conservation license plate, which features an artistic rendition of the Pine Barrens tree frog, the official state frog of North Carolina. Twenty dollars from each plate goes to the agency’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Fund, which is used to fund projects and programs benefitting native nongame wildlife.
Somers is a member of several herp-related organizations, such as North Carolina Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, and is a 40-year charter member of the North Carolina Herpetological Society. She also has served on numerous conservation-related boards and committees, including a 20-year stint on the Commission’s Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee(NWAC), a board comprising 15 North Carolina citizens who advise the agency on nongame wildlife conservation issues across the state.
Somers has been a motivating force behind the Federation’s efforts to conserve nongame species, including the protection of native turtles from overharvest and the conservation of aquatic ecosystems for freshwater mussels and threatened herpetofauna.
Nelson MacRae, a native and resident of Wilmington, led a voluntary wildlife conservation initiative among private landowners resulting in permanent conservation easements on 18,000 acres of exemplary wildlife habitat along Town Creek and the lower Cape Fear River, including the MacRae family’s Old Town, as well as other former rice plantations such as Clarendon, Goose Landing, Pleasant Oaks and Orton.
The benefits of protecting wildlife habitat were obvious to MacRae.
“Hunting and conservation go hand in hand. Wildlife management has been my passion for close to 50 years now, and I believe that landowners are really custodians of these special places and they should preserve and protect and pass on for future generations to enjoy,” MacRae said. “The driving force for me has always been the convention that wildlife has the right to exist also and in order for it to thrive, these wild places must be preserved.”
MacRae developed an appreciation for wildlife resources as a youth while fishing, hunting, and spending time outdoors — interests that lent themselves to his professional life.
“I have worked for my family company, Oleander Company, for over 40 years where part of my job was and still is managing our properties for wildlife habitat,” MacRae said. “I’m known for saying, ‘There ought to be a place for wildlife too.’”
MacRae graduated from UNC-Wilmington with majors in history and business. In addition to serving as president of Oleander Co., Inc., MacRae was president and a board member of the N.C. Coastal Land Trust for two terms.
The N.C. Coastal Land Trust was established in 1992 to work with land owners to conserve open coastal areas to help ensure the continued existence of significant wildlife habitat, forests, and water quality, and to offer historical and recreational opportunities. The land trust currently spans across 30 North Carolina coastal counties.
Over the span of nearly 50 years, Alvin Braswell has developed a reputation as a leading researcher and conservationist in the field of herpetology — the study of reptiles and amphibians. The Raleigh resident worked for more than 40 years at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences where he started his career as a research curator and later became Curator of Herpetology, Laboratory Research Director and Deputy Director. Braswell contributed greatly toward the conservation of the state’s native wildlife, particularly turtles. He was instrumental in helping to develop legislation in 2003 that led to the prohibition of the take of more than four turtles without a permit — a law that has helped to sustain turtle populations in the state.
Braswell also has authored or co-authored more than 55 journal articles as well as two well-known and respected guides for identifying reptiles and amphibians in the mid-Atlantic region — Reptiles of North Carolina and Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia.
Braswell was a key player in bringing together a small group of herpetology enthusiasts in 1978 to form the N.C. Herpetological Society, whose members work to foster appreciation and a better understanding of North Carolina’s herpetofauna through field trips, mentoring and education programs. He served as a member of the N.C. Plant Conservation Scientific Committee for 26 years, seven as the chair, and served as a member of the Wildlife Commission’s Nongame and Wildlife Advisory Committee (NWAC) for 23 years. The NWAC comprises 15 North Carolina citizens who provide advice to the Commission on nongame wildlife conservation concerns across the state.
While Braswell is well known for his conservation work in herpetology, he is also considered one of North Carolina’s premier naturalists, having conducted field studies in every county of the state. He knows the Tar Heel state’s many and varied wildlife species, their habitats and their behaviors and he readily shares his knowledge with his fellow professionals, many friends and acquaintances and students across the state.
Upon his retirement from the museum in 2015, Braswell was granted an Emeritus Research Coordinator position at the museum, which has allowed him to return to the field and the classroom, where he can continue his conservation work.
The Lawrence G. Diedrick Small Game Award recognizes efforts in habitat management, education, research, the Hunting Heritage Program, or other meaningful contributions that benefit small game. In some cases, small game populations may benefit significantly from efforts focused on non-game or other species with similar habitat requirements. The award is given annually, or when appropriate, to individuals and organizations whose actions significantly and positively impact any of North Carolina’s small game populations (bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse, squirrel, rabbit). The award is named for the late Larry Diedrick, a lawyer and wildlife commissioner from Rocky Mount who passed away in 2002. Diedrick was a passionate small game hunter and strong conservation advocate throughout his lifetime.
Terry Sharpe, of Ellerbe, has been a driving force for small game management across North Carolina for many years. As a NCWRC employee he led efforts as “Small Game Project Leader” among other positions. Terry’s accomplishment in his WRC career were many, and he truly left a legacy upon his retirement.
In his retirement Terry has not slowed down very much. He continues to promote management for small game. Terry has been very involved with the NC Prescribed Fire Council, The Wildlife Federation and the LandTrust for Central North Carolina.
While his retirement business is working as a registered forester and certified biologist he goes over and above his professional responsibilities. Terry regularly serves as a guest speaker at meetings, conferences and workshops. He is always willing to share his knowledge and discuss management options with other professional “pro bono”. Not only does he motivate others, he does practice what he preaches, managing his own property to provide an excellent balance of production and habitat.
Maybe most importantly he inspires many to explore and appreciate the natural world. Terry has been involved with the Fur, Fish and Game Rendezvous for many years. He coordinates a crow hunt as part of this 4-H summer camp that allows youth from many backgrounds to experience hunting. As part of this camp he also opens his property to the campers who fish and forage the property.
Past, Present and Future Terry Sharpe has been a leader in in small game management in North Carolina for nearly 40 years.
The North Carolina State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NC-NWTF) has a long history of providing funding and equipment for North Carolina projects that have benefits for species far beyond turkeys, including numerous small game and nongame wildlife species.
In 2016, NC-NWTF donated $21,343.50 for four Wildlife Commission projects involving reclamation of old open land areas, establishment of new open land areas, and purchase of equipment to manage ground cover vegetation.
In 2017, NC-NWTF obligated $50,575 for seven Wildlife Commission projects involving contract prescribed burning and purchase of equipment to create and/or maintain early-successional habitat. These recent projects, as well as numerous past projects that have received NC-NWTF support, have benefited numerous small game species (e.g., rabbit, quail, woodcock, grouse, etc.) in all regions of the state.
The NC-NWTF’s long-term commitment to fund or otherwise support quality habitat management practices that benefit small game and other wildlife species, and their continued strong partnership with the Wildlife Commission, certainly make it deserving of this award.
Shikar-Safari Club International is a conservation organization that recognizes conservation officers across the nation annually who show outstanding performance and achievement. This year Shikar-Safari Club International named Master Officer Darby D. W. Enoch as its 2020 North Carolina Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Officer Enoch has been a N.C. Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer since 2013. He was selected for this honor due to his exemplary conduct and initiative in the performance of his duties. Officer Enoch serves as a field training for new wildlife officers, as well as serving as a general instructor, ASP Instructor, Subject Control Arrest Technique (SCAT) Instructor, Physical Fitness Instructor and a TASER Instructor.
The Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA), consisting of 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, annually recognizes significant contributions to fisheries management. Jeff Evans, Superintendent at Watha State Fish Hatchery, was the recipient of the 2020 SEAFWA Fisheries Biologist of the Year Award. Throughout his career, Jeff has freely shared his knowledge and expertise on the culture of warmwater fishes, specifically American Shad, Striped Bass and Hybrid Striped Bass. He has provided technical guidance to multiple states starting their own American Shad propagation efforts. He provides insight into the production aspect of proposed research projects and has worked with multiple universities to assist with research by providing data, fish and technical guidance.
Each year, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) honors individuals for their commitment to conservation. The highest honor is the Seth Gordon Award, given to the individual who has worked steadfastly and effectively for the best use of North American natural resources in the public trust and for contributions to the programs of the Association. Throughout Gordon Myers’ nearly 30-year career with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, including 12 years as Executive Director, his contributions as a public administrator and advocate for public trust resource management were significant.
Capt. Steve Bullins with the agency’s Law Enforcement Division was the recipient of the 2020 Governor’s Award, the highest honor a state employee may receive for dedicated service to the State of North Carolina and its residents, for “Safety and Heroism.” On Jan. 8, 2020 at approximately 9 p.m., Capt. Bullins was in his office at his residence when he heard a loud noise that he thought may be a gunshot. Capt. Bullins rushed to get his uniform on and proceeded in his patrol vehicle onto Roaring Gap Church Road to locate the potential unlawful poaching activity. Unable to locate the suspected vehicle on the roadway, Capt. Bullins redirected his attention to the agriculture areas off the roadway. Capt. Bullins noticed some flashing lights in a ravine in a cow pasture off the road. He initiated his emergency lights and contacted NCWRC communications of a possible vehicle accident. As he approached on foot, he found a vehicle on its side that had collided with a large tree. He was unable to contact anyone verbally in the vehicle and noticed gas pouring from the gas tank. Unfortunately, Capt. Bullins had witnessed a similar situation like this earlier in his career when emergency personnel were unable to free a person from a burning vehicle, which resulted in the motorist’s death. Capt. Bullins’ experiences aided his accelerated response to free the driver of the wrecked vehicle. He climbed on the top side of the truck and yelled to the driver for a response. The driver made a mumbling noise and was unable to make any movements to exit the vehicle. Capt. Bullins was able to reach the driver through the driver’s side window and pull him from the wreckage. The driver suffered from head trauma, a broken arm, cuts and loss of blood. Capt. Bullins displayed a great deal of courage in this emergency by risking his life to save another.
2017 Wildlife Conservationist of the Year Commissioner Mark Craig
Presented by the N.C. Wildlife Federation, this award was given to Commissioner Craig recognizing the outstanding work he has accomplished for nongame wildlife in North Carolina. He has served on the Commission's Habitat, Nongame and Endangered Species Committee since 2014, where he seeks and employs sound science and leadership to advocate sustainable recommendations for wildlife management.
2017 Order of the Long Leaf Pine Commissioner Wes Seegars
Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have reserved their hightest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, for persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.
2016 Land Conservationist of the Year Commissioner Tom Berry
Presented by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, the Land Conservationist of the Year recognizes individuals that demonstrate an unwavering commitment to conservation and an exceptional resolve in protecting natural resources across the state.