Clemson honors alumni and national leaders in nature conservation
Clemson University’s Institute for Parks honored a professor, a national park superintendent, a conservation program director and a university department head for their life’s work helping to manage and preserve local, state and national parks at the George B. Hartzog Jr. Awards Luncheon on Oct. 31.
Each year, the luncheon precedes the annual Hartzog Lecture, which showcases leading figures in the field of conservation. Bob Powell, director of Clemson’s Institute for Parks, said the luncheon and awards ceremony have never failed to bring together individuals who have had an unquestionable impact on parks and protected areas across the globe.
“The Institute for Parks is honored to recognize these individuals,” Powell said. “They have made significant contributions to humankind’s health and well-being through the protection and improvement of our local, regional and national parks.”
The four awards presented are named for Benton H. Box, former dean of Clemson’s College of Forest and Recreation Resources; Walter T. Cox, former president of Clemson University; Dwight A. Holder, former chairman of the South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism Commission; and Fran P. Mainella, who was the first female director of the National Park Service.
Sarah Milligan-Toffler was awarded the Fran P. Mainella Award for sustained and innovative achievement by a woman in the management of North America’s natural, historic or cultural heritage.
Her 30-year career has been focused on ensuring that women, vulnerable children, people with disabilities, veterans and other underserved populations have access to the healing power of nature in their everyday lives. From 1990 to 2013, Milligan-Toffler served as the associate executive director of Wilderness Inquiry, a national leader in providing wilderness trips and environmental education activities for more than 30,000 underserved children and families annually.
Since 2013, Milligan-Toffler has served as the executive director of the Children & Nature Network and is leading efforts to grow the global movement to increase equitable access to nature. She also helped grow the evidence base for nature through the network’s research library to more than 600 scientific articles regarding the impact of nature on child development.
In collaboration with St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Christopher Coleman, Milligan-Toffler established a partnership between the National League of Cities and the network to create Cities Promoting Access to Nature. This initiative engages mayors and municipal leaders across the U.S. and encourages them to reimagine cities as places of nature connection for more children where they live.
Dr. Jeffrey Skibins
Dr. Jeffrey Skibins, an assistant professor of park management and conservation at Kansas State University, received the Dwight A. Holder Award. This award recognizes outstanding work by doctoral graduates from Clemson’s departments of parks, recreation and tourism management and forestry and environmental conservation.
Skibins’ research addresses how parks, protected areas, zoos and aquariums can increase public participation in wildlife conservation. The main focus of his work is to understand how people’s emotional connection to wildlife influences their pro-conservation behaviors.
Skibins oversees projects in Africa, Australia, Europe, South America, Asia and several U.S. national parks, and has completed projects addressing conservation of grizzly bears, the African “Big 5” koalas, Tasmanian devils and Leadbeater’s possums. Recently, he has been appointed to the International Union for Conservation Nature Commission on Education and Conservation.
A graduate from Illinois Wesleyan University, he holds a master’s degree in conservation biology from Illinois State University and a Ph.D. from Clemson’s department of parks, recreation and tourism management.
Dave Hallac received the Walter T. Cox Award, which recognizes sustained leadership and achievement in public service. Hallac serves as superintendent of Cape Hatters National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial in eastern North Carolina. In this role, he and his team partner with local communities to further the preservation of park resources.
His planning efforts involve outreach to local communities, stakeholder groups and other park users for which he recently won the 2016 Southeast Region Superintendent of the Year Significant Accomplishment Award. During his career, Hallac worked for the fish and wildlife service in south Florida, evaluated conservation efforts in the Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks and implemented ecosystem restoration projects including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.
From 2011 to 2014, Hallac served at Yellowstone National Park as the chief of the Yellowstone Center for Resources where he led the park’s natural and cultural resources, scientific research, Native American tribal relations and planning and compliance programs. He helped to advance major park conservation initiatives related to bison management, native fish restoration and large carnivore management across jurisdictional boundaries.
Hallac holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in wildlife and fisheries biology from the University of Vermont.
Troy Hall, chair of Oregon State University’s forest ecosystems and society department, received the Benton H. Box Award, which recognizes a leader who works to preserve the natural environment and an educator who inspires in students the quest for knowledge and encourages curriculum innovation.
Hall’s research program focuses broadly on topics in environmental psychology, which has helped shape policies guiding management of recreation in protected areas. She serves as a subject matter expert for the U.S. Forest Service team that developed the national protocol for monitoring wilderness character. She has been an associate editor for several journals, and has served for six years as editor-in-chief for Society & Natural Resources.
Hall oversees undergraduate degree programs in natural resources and in tourism, recreation, and adventure leadership, as well as on-campus and online graduate programs at the University of Oregon State University. During her 14 years at the University of Idaho, Hall moved up through the faculty ranks and was appointed head of the conservation social sciences department. Hall previously taught in Virginia Tech’s forestry department.
A graduate of Pomona College, Hall holds a master’s degree in anthropology from Duke University. While she was in school, she worked seasonally for the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in the Pacific Northwest, which led her to pursue her Ph.D. degree in Forestry with a human dimensions emphasis at Oregon State University.
The George B. Hartzog, Jr. awards program is held in conjunction with an annual lecture named for George B. Hartzog Jr. who was born in South Carolina and became the seventh director of the National Park Service. Through his leadership, he oversaw the largest expansion of the National Park Service as well as the passage of several important policies such as the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The Institute for Parks, whose mission is to provide research, training and outreach to support and protect the world’s parks and protected areas hosts this annual event to honor the legacy of George B. Hartzog, Jr. and the people who continue to promote and preserve national, local, state, regional and national parks and protected lands.