The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) named the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s former Southeast Regional Director Cindy Dohner the 2017 C. W. Watson Award winner at their annual meeting in Louisville this week. The award is the highest honor bestowed by the Association.
“Cindy has been a visionary in wildlife management and partnership engagement,” said SEAFWA President Alvin Taylor. “Conservation leaders across the nation are looking at her groundbreaking efforts to establish a unified, all-encompassing plan for conservation in her region, and they are all looking for ways to follow her lead.”
Named the Southeast Regional Director for the USFWS in 2009, Dohner oversaw the management of 130 national wildlife refuges, 14 national fish hatcheries, six migratory bird field offices, five fishery assistance offices, and 16 ecological services field offices.
During her eight years as RD, Dohner was instrumental in the establishment of the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS), the first region-wide, partnership-directed, science-oriented, comprehensive conservation plan. The SECAS includes all wildlife habitat types, considers past, present, and future forecasts for climate change and urban growth, and includes cultural and socio-economic dimensions.
“The SECAS reflects the southeast region’s vision that all wildlife management agencies and conservation-focused partner organizations will work together to innovate, lead, and help the people of this region ensure the future of our natural resources,” Taylor said.
Dohner has been instrumental in collaborating with the Department of Defense and other stakeholders to develop the first ever pre-listing conservation strategy for the entire range of the gopher tortoise. The gopher tortoise is a candidate species for the threatened and endangered species list found only in the longleaf pine savannah habitats of the southeast.
She served as the Department of the Interior authorized official and representative on the RESTORE Trustee Council in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. She led the nine-member Trustee Council’s transition from start to finish while handling the largest Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) effort in the history of the U.S. Dohner also fostered creation of the seven Trustee Implementation Groups, which are responsible for setting priorities and developing restoration plans.
Dohner worked for the USFWS for 24 years in a number of positions. She also worked for three state agencies, two other federal agencies, and in the private sector. She has a bachelor’s degree in marine biology and a master’s in fisheries and aquaculture.
The C.W. Watson award is presented to the career individual who, in the opinion of the Award Committee, has made the greatest contribution to wildlife or fish conservation during the previous year or years. This award is presented jointly by the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society, the Southeastern Section of the Wildlife Society, and the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
The Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (SEAFWA) is an organization whose members are the state agencies with primary responsibility for management and protection of the fish and wildlife resources in 15 states, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. Member states are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.