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.
2018 Recipient - Nelson MacRae, Wilmington
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.
2017 Recipient - Alvin Braswell, Raleigh
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.
2016 Recipient – Dr. Stephen Hall
Dr. Stephen Hall is a distinguished ecologist, invertebrate zoologist and dedicated conservationist. Hall, a resident of Chapel Hill, retired from the N.C. Natural Heritage Program as a landscape ecologist. He dedicated his 25-year career to conservation of invertebrate wildlife, particularly moths, butterflies and grasshoppers. A self-described champion of moth and grasshopper conservation, Hall is well known for his work with the federally endangered Saint Francis Satyr, a butterfly found only in Cumberland and Hoke counties, and the globally rare Venus Flytrap moth. Hall’s work has provided essential information to the conservation of these two species.
Hall has participated in the field investigation for and publication of eight county and regional natural area inventories, as well as nine distributional studies of moths, butterflies and grasshoppers in North Carolina. In 2010 and 2011, he conducted an extensive inventory in the Uwharrie Mountains, collecting 6,328 records for 849 species. His vast amount of work has helped the Natural Heritage Program track invertebrate species better, which has given biologists a new perspective on conservation planning and action.
Hall also developed and applied a methodology for assessing landscape integrity and terrestrial habitat quality. This methodology is now incorporated by land-use and transportation planners, as well others, across the state in their conservation-planning efforts.
After his retirement in 2014, Hall continued working with invertebrates to develop Moths of North Carolina, a website which houses an atlas and distributional data on nearly 3,000 species. The website allows collectors to input their data and track species occurrences by date and location and is a source of information for the public, as well as biologists, on the distribution, rarity and habitat needs of North Carolina’s moths.
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.
2018 Recipient - Terry Sharpe, Ellerbe
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.
2017 Recipient - The N.C. Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation
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.
2016 Recipient – The Palmer Family
Seven generations of the Palmer family of Haywood County in North Carolina’s western mountains have lived on family land, and this land encompasses some of the best wildlife habitat to be found on private lands anywhere in the state.
The Palmer family has owned their land since 1913. The property lies at high elevation (some above 5,000 feet) and contains a variety of habitat types, including hardwood forests, mountain meadows, wetlands and high mountain balds. Balds are mountain summits or crests covered primarily by thick native grasses or shrubs occurring in areas where forest growth would be expected. They were historically common in western North Carolina and maintained by lightning fires, fires set by Native Americans and the grazing of large ungulates such as bison and elk. Unfortunately, balds have decreased in area across North Carolina over the last century as fire has decreased and bison and elk have disappeared from the land scape. Recreating the unique habitat provided by balds is something quite special and important for wildlife in our mountains.
The property was grazed by cattle and sheep until the late 1980s when the family removed livestock and began a management regime that maintained early successional habitat for wildlife. Management practices include setting back succession in forested stands by cutting trees, spraying herbicides on stumps to stop tree sprouting and using prescribed burning to maintain and enhance critical grass and shrub habitat for declining and high priority species. Essentially, the Palmers are reinventing the habitat conditions that were common in the southern Appalachians prior to European colonization over 200 years ago. The creation of this unusual early successional habitat has proven very important for a wide variety of wildlife species.
Two high priority species that benefit from the Palmer’s habitat management include the golden-winged warbler and the Rocky Mountain elk. Golden-winged warblers are listed as a special concern species because populations have declined over 90 percent throughout the Appalachian Mountains, and wildlife officials fear the species might become threatened or endangered under federal law. Golden-wings love the open and shrubby areas and meadows created by the Palmers’ management efforts. Additionally, the property provides important habitat for elk leaving the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. While often thought of as a forest dwelling animal, elk are classic grazing animals more at home in a grass land. The habitat provided by the Palmers attracts a number of resident elk the family sees on a regular basis. Other species that have been seen on the property include black bears, cotton-tailed rabbits, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, mourning doves, indigo buntings, hooded warblers and dozens of other songbirds.
The Palmers have managed their land for over 100 years and currently provide critical and unique early successional habitat in an area of the state where such habitat is quite limited.
2017 Wildlife Conservationist of the Year Commission 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.