Remarks of Clara Wheatley, Chair, Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission, on Presentation of KSNPC 2003 Biological Diversity Protection Award to the Kentucky Resources Council and its Director, December 2, 2003
Each year, the commission selects an individual to honor for their work to protect the biological integrity of our commonwealth. The recipient of the Biological Diversity Protection Award for 2003 is the very deserving Tom FitzGerald. But first, I would like to say a few words to explain why he was chosen.
Tom FitzGerald began his work protecting Kentucky's environment in the 1970's with the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky. He began work with the Kentucky Resources Council in 1984 and has been its Director to this day. The Kentucky Resources Council, or KRC, is a private, non-profit environmental advocacy organization. It provides resources ? legal, technical and advisory to individuals, communities, and social justice organizations on environmental issues that affect the quality of their life.
Over the course of his nearly 30-year tenure "Fitz's" name has become synonymous with environmental protection in Kentucky. He is a primary mover in several other major environmental non-profits. His expertise spans the full breadth of environmental protection issues: surface and underground coal mining; air and water quality; solid, hazardous and radioactive waste; zoning and land use planning and many non-environmental issues with a green impact.
Tom was a leader in the cause to successfully reform broad form deed law in Kentucky. He has been involved in, if not central to, every "Lands Unsuitable Petition" filed under the surface mining program in the Commonwealth. Tom filed the lands unsuitable petition in 1998 to protect Black Mountain. It resulted in the protection of the significant upper elevations of Black Mountain, Kentucky's highest elevation, and a place of keen biological interest. More recently in 2000 he filed the successful lands unsuitable petition on behalf of the Pine Mountain Settlement School, which helped spur the school to dedicate the James E. Bickford State Nature Preserve just this past September.
But I hesitate to focus on a few of his major accomplishments, because I risk ignoring many other activities that Tom is active in. He critiques and challenges Kentucky's environmental regulatory programs. He is the recognized voice for environmental issues in the General Assembly and is its most credible and respected environmental lobbyist. He is the most regular and informed liason to the Kentucky press on environmental issues. In fact, he is the primary educator of the entire community on everything environmental from the legislative process to biodiversity issues.
And last, but certainly not least, and I dont know how he does it, but Tom still finds time to be a dedicated husband, father and soccer coach. He is certainly an inspiration for us all.
Tom's unceasing efforts for environmental protection for over 25 years have accomplished as much as anyone in the history of Kentucky to protect and conserve our native biological diversity. On behalf of the Kentucky State Nature Preserve Commission, I am proud to present the 2003 Biological Diversity Protection Award to Mr. Tom FitzGerald.