Leaves of a buckeye tree hang across the foreground, as we look downstream of a river, banks lined by trees and green summer foliage.
Big Darby Creek Buckeye tree overhanging Big Darby Creek in Central Ohio. © Randall Schieber

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The Nature Conservancy in Ohio Announces 2021 Conservation Award Winners

Awards recognize leaders across Ohio for their dedication to science, collaborations with partners and creation of solutions for conservation.

Today, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recognized three Ohio conservation leaders with the organization’s prestigious conservation awards.

“These recipients were chosen because of their important roles in conservation. In many ways, they embody what it means to be fearless as conservationists,” said Bill Stanley, state director for The Nature Conservancy. “These are courageous leaders for conservation in Ohio. This year, we are thrilled to honor Dr. Jeff Reutter, Mary Mertz, and Carol Kauffman for their work to find solutions to some of the biggest environmental problems of our time.”

Given to individuals who show a dedication to science and desire to engage through collaborative partnerships with a diversity of individuals and organizations, the 2021  Conservation Awards were presented in a virtual ceremony on Tuesday, April 27th.

TNC’s first-ever Conservation Hall of Fame inductee is Dr. Jeff Reutter, former director of Ohio State University’s Stone Lab, who has helped develop and inform multitudes of students, members of the public, policy makers and others on data, science, methodologies and conservation actions related to aquatic life, habitat, and the environment.

“Jeff has served as a valued Nature Conservancy board member for 11 years, including as board chair, and is now an Honorary Life Trustee. So it’s an understatement to say we know him well. We are thrilled to welcome him as the first member of our Conservation Hall of Fame in recognition of his selfless action in the interest of water quality, to save fish and other aquatic life, and for climate stabilization in Lake Erie and beyond. I have heard him referred to as a rock star for Lake Erie because of all that he is done and how well he is known in Ohio and beyond,” said Stanley.

“TNC’s strength lies in its ability to use a science-based approach to blend land preservation with policy advocacy and education and awareness. I am incredibly honored and humbled to receive this award. I have had the absolute pleasure of working with a tremendous Board of Trustees and an incredibly talented staff to accomplish some great things for Ohio, the country, and the world,” said Reutter.

TNC’s Public Service Award is presented to Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), to honor her ability to advance bold and far-reaching concepts and programs that protect lands and waters in Ohio.

“We are especially grateful for Mary’s leadership in the development and successful implementation of the natural infrastructure portion of the H2Ohio program,” said Stanley. “The success of this innovative program is a testimony to her dedication in developing partnerships and using science-based approaches to advocate for the use of wetlands to help address Ohio’s water quality problems.”

“Ohio is an incredibly special place and I am honored to work with the team at ODNR each day to preserve and protect it,” said director Mertz. “ I appreciate our partners in conservation, like The Nature Conservancy, who share our commitment to improving the quality and diversity of our natural resources and improving water quality for generations to come. Thank you for this award.”

TNC’s Excellence in Conservation Award is presented to Carol Kauffman, manager of corporate social responsibility for Scotts Miracle-Gro, for supporting conservation in Ohio through charitable giving, volunteerism, in-kind donations, public engagement, and as a partner in the development of policy.

“We are grateful for the many ways Carol demonstrates that she and her colleagues value TNC and other partners,” said Stanley. “We also appreciate the leadership that Carol and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company provide as part of the Advisory Council to the Ohio Water Trust, which helped lead to a robust, scientifically-sound H2Ohio program.”

"The Nature Conservancy has long been a champion for Ohio's environment. I'm honored to receive this award, and I look forward to working together to protect our state's natural resources for many years to come,” said Kauffman.

Nominations for these awards are solicited on an annual basis. Nominees are voted on and approved by a team of staff and The Nature Conservancy in Ohio’s board Executive Committee. Awards are not necessarily given every year, but may be presented for any of three categories: Hall of Fame, Public Service, and Excellence in Conservation.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.