TennGreen’s Christie Peterson Henderson at Mitchell Cove, a recent conservation success in Marion County. (Photo: Contributed)

Earlier this month, the Tennessee Wildlife Federation hosted its 53rd Annual Conservation Achievement Awards in Nashville. The ceremony recognized those whose contributions to wildlife and natural resource conservation deserve statewide appreciation. Awards were given in sixteen categories, to recipients selected by a statewide committee of natural resource conservation experts.

Christie Peterson Henderson, Director of Land Conservation at the Tennessee Parks & Greenways Foundation (aka TennGreen) was named Land Conservationist of the Year at the event.

“Christie has endless positive energy,” Tennessee environmentalist, George Lindemann said. “She is passionate about conservation and a pleasure to work with.”

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Since she began work with TennGreen—Tennessee’s oldest accredited, statewide land trust—in 2012, she has secured more than $3.26 million in grants to conserve some of Tennessee’s most important natural areas and iconic features. She has directed the protection of more than 14,000 acres, much of which is in the Cumberland Plateau region, including the creation or expansion of five state/municipal parks, two state natural areas, and eight wildlife management areas. In addition to her work at Devilstep Hollow and Head of Sequatchie Springs, Black Mountain, and Brady Mountain, Henderson has played a key role in the expansion of Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park, directing the transfer of nearly 1,000 acres of land along the southern portion of Grassy Cove to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

“Christie has been incredible to work with,” said TDEC GIS/Land Acquisition Manager, Bill Avant. “She has helped build the relationship between TDEC and TennGrenn with her open communication and willingness to assist where she can. Her dedication to resource protection is contagious. This is well deserving.”

In 2017 alone, she helped protect more than 4,200 acres of pristine land for habitat enhancements, public access, and/or conservation easements. She is currently leading more than eleven projects in 9 counties, all of which are expected to close within the next two years.

“Christie’s multi-disciplinary expertise, passion for conserving the best of Tennessee, and unwavering commitment to protecting the land that sustains us all is a tribute to her character, professionalism, and leadership,” said TennGreen Executive Director, Steve Law. “She is an environmental champion now and will continue being a conservation leader far into the future. We are all so proud of her.”

Awards presented to those based in the Chattanooga area include:

Forest Conservationist of the Year

Tennessee Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, based in Chattanooga, with work spanning the state.

The Tennessee Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation has cultivated and transplanted more than 4,000 blight-resistant chestnut trees in hopes of restoring native forests to Tennessee. Further, the organization has developed assay testing for blight resistance and monitoring the health of chestnut tree specimens. These tests are being used regularly by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and as a learning tool for other conservation students and professionals.

Conservation Communicator of the Year

Mark Pace, of Chattanooga

Mark is a young but accomplished journalist who covers the outdoors and environment for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Eager to connect with his reader’s interests, Mark’s portfolio proves he is comfortable covering everything from outdoor recreation to conservation policy and wildlife management. His enthusiasm for the outdoors is sincerely conveyed through his writing and brings conservation issues to the forefront of the public consciousness.

On Target Award

Brian Weas, of Dunlap, who works with youth in Bledsoe, Hamilton, Rhea and Sequatchie Counties.

A shooting sports athlete himself, Brian was inspired by his daughter to begin coaching Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program athletes. In turn, he has inspired many athletes and mentored them to higher levels of competition. Off the field, Brian is a strong advocate for the sport – finding and creating practice spaces to ensure everyone who is interested has the opportunity to participate.

Read about the entire list of award winners here.

“Tennessee is the most biologically diverse inland state in the nation and we have a long and rich outdoor heritage in our state. No one organization or person can conserve it own their own,” said Michael Butler, CEO of Tennessee Wildlife Federation. “When our organization was just 20 years old, we started these awards to celebrate those making a meaningful difference to Tennessee’s natural resources. Even after fifty-plus years and more than 600 award winners, we are inspired by the work of this year’s honorees.”

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