2012 Pelican Award Winners
By Frank Tursi
Alice and Fred Stanback
OCEAN – A grassroots organization that fought off a smelting plant, a county that encouraged innovative techniques to control stormwater and farmers working to restore wetlands won 2012 Pelican Awards from the N.C. Coastal Federation.
The Clean County Coalition in Morehead City, Pender County officials and the Mattamuskeet Drainage Association in Hyde County are among the 16 award recipients from across North Carolina. The winners will receive the awards Saturday at a luncheon at the N.C. History Center in New Bern.
The annual Pelican Awards recognize exemplary action to protect and preserve the coastal environment, noted Todd Miller, the federation’s founder and executive director.
“These awards are our way of recognizing extraordinary commitment to protecting and preserving our coast,” he said. “We should never underestimate the power that many people bring to the effort of assuring that our coast remains a healthy and vibrant place. We can’t thank them enough.”
This year, in honor of its 30th anniversary, the federation is giving a special award to Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury. Donations from the Stanbacks and their family members have had a huge effect throughout state in protecting the environment and in building the capacity of dozens of conservation groups, including the federation, Miller noted.
“In fact, over the years they have become the single most influential force in building the capacity of citizens to watch out for environmental quality in North Carolina,” he said. “Their financial support exceeds any other form of environmental philanthropic giving.”
Northeast Coast Winners
Pat Armstrong sits with here students at Columbia Middle School. She won a Pelican Award for her environmental education.
The foresight and cooperation of the 30 landowners in the Mattamuskeet Drainage Association in Hyde County will have sweeping consequences for the health of Pamlico Sound
The 42,500 acres now part of the Mattamuskeet association were intensively ditched and drained in the 1960s and ‘70s for forestry and farming operations. Over the past 20 years landowners have placed nearly half the land in the Wetland Reserve Program, a federal initiative that restores former wetlands and protects them with conservation easements. By partnering with the federation through a series of projects, the easements will be further enhanced to improve water quality and reopen closed shellfishing waters in Pamlico Sound.
2011 was a benchmark year. Two landowners within the association enrolled nearly 4,400 acres in the wetlands program, bringing the total acres of land enrolled and available for restoration to over 20,000.
The Pelican Award recognizes this achievement and the cooperation of the farmers to develop a long-range restoration and management plan for the land and water, said Erin Fleckenstein, a federation scientist who heads the group’s regional office in Manteo.
The cooperation of the association, the federation, the federal government and other partners is a shining example of a non-traditional alliance working toward environmental conservation that can serve as a template for other projects, she said.
The other regional award winners are: Pat Armstrong, a retired teacher in Columbia, won an education award and Marcia and Jim Lyons of Buxton won for their volunteer work.
Central Coast Winners
The Clean County Coalition won a Pelican Award for stopping a sulfur smelter at the state port in Morehead City.
The plans for a sulfur smelter at the state port in Morehead City had been shrouded in secrecy when the first reports dribbled out in the spring of 2011. The project had received most of its needed state permits when Leigh Johnson, Renee Coles, John Nelson and Neil Littman called some people together at the old train depot in Morehead City. Seated around the table were people representing downtown businesses, the Realtors Association, the local tourism agency and environmental groups.
They formed the Clean County Coalition, which for the next two months rallied people against the smelter. Hundreds of people attended town board meetings. Thousands packed two public informational meetings that the coalition sponsored. Its members organized petition drives and public rallies and marched at the port gate.
It all came to a stunning conclusion when Gov. Beverly Perdue held a press conference in Morehead City to announce that the smelter plans were being scrapped. Though that issue faded, the coalition did not. It intends to remain involved in important local issues.
“Most of these types of fights don’t end in such a clear-cut victory,” Miller said. “That this one did is a testament to the coalition’s broad public support and its tireless dedication.”
Other regional award winners are: East Carolina Community Development Inc. of Beaufort, the N.C. History Center at Tyron Palace in New Bern, Second Wind Eco Tours & Yoga Studio in Swansboro and the Roberson family of Swansboro for their volunteer efforts.
Southeast Coast Winners
J. Taylor Ryan, right, works with students on an oyster project in St. James. Ryan and a town committee won a Pelican Award for the work.
The Pender County commissioners in 2010 involved many people and groups in the county to develop and adopt a comprehensive land-use plan and a unified development ordinance. Included in the plan and ordinance are several goals and policies to encourage the use of low- impact development, or LID, which are techniques that reduce stormwater runoff by mimicking natural hydrology.
Recognizing the multiple benefits of LID, Ben Andrea with the Pender County Planning Department wanted to ensure that developers were provided information and tools to better understand and use these methods in future projects. Andrea drafted policies that encourage LID. The commissioners approved the policies in the fall of 2011. Planning staff solicited input from the Business Alliance for a Sound Economy and the federation. Both organizations strongly supported the effort.
Other winners for work in the region are: The N.C. Department of Transportation for LID pilot projects on roadways mostly in Brunswick County; Terry Brinson, a teacher in Wilmington, for environmental education; Lovey’s Café in Wilmington for business; J. Taylor Ryan and the town stormwater committee in St. James for building oyster reefs in the Intracoastal Waterway; the Lumina News in Wrightsville Beach for local media coverage of environmental issues; and Dustin Miller and Heidi Messina of the Department of Media Production at University of North Carolina-Wilmington for producing the federation’s award-winning documentary, Habitats, Heroes & Hallelujah: Stories of Hope from the North Carolina Coast.