Wildlife group can’t find a hero in state legislative

In an unprecedented move, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation has declined to honor a Legislator of the Year for the first time in the history of the organization’s 49-year-old Conservation Achievement Awards program.

These awards are the highest conservation honors in North Carolina, yet in the wake of one of the most wildlife and environmentally hostile General Assembly sessions of the last half-century, no legislator was singled out for heroic effort.

Politicians rolled back or severely weakened protections, and undertook policies that ran counter to science and economics, according to Tim Gestwicki, executive director of the Wildlife Commission.

“Under the cloak of a recession, many lawmakers gutted conservation protections that hunters, anglers and other citizens value and treasure,” Gestwicki said. “This is a very poor, short-sighted subterfuge that is a dark blight on our state’s history.”

The indictment is not a reflection of all state legislators, however.

“While there are certainly some elected officials trying to make intelligent decisions as to how our natural resources are best managed for the citizenry, it is undeniable that, as a whole, the N.C. Legislature took many steps backwards in conservation matters,” said awards committee chairman Edward Nickens.

At its awards banquet last week, the N.C. Wildlife Federation honored conservation accomplishments in other categories, including individuals, businesses, nonprofits, scientists, journalists, volunteers, teachers and government agencies.

As for a conservation hero in the lawmaker category, there was a missing spot on the award program with the words “keeping fingers crossed for 2013.”

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