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Saturday April 13th, 2013

Posted at 1:00pm

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Dave Kraus, Betty Learmouth, Dr. Dan Krutsch, Dan Mennill

The Essex Region Conservation Authority recognized four new Conservation Champions as part of its initiative to honour 40 individuals during its 40th year of conservation.

Professor Dr. Dan Mennill, educator Dave Kraus, engineer Dan Krutsch and Betty Learmouth – environmental educator, volunteer and activist, were all honoured.

Dr. Dan Mennill is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Windsor who inspires professors, students and the community to work together to research and protect the many incredible bird species of our region and beyond. A conservation biologist, Dan has conducted research on endangered bird species in Central and South America, and his work has led to significant insight into the birds that live in the Neotropical Dry Forest, the most endangered ecosystem in the tropics. Locally, Dan and his students have developed a project that uses acoustic surveys to monitor the migratory behaviour of birds in Essex County. “Dan loves to teach about ornithology and animal behaviour and he has earned many teaching accolades, including awards for the top teacher in the Faculty of Science and in the University as a whole,” said ERCA Chair Joe Bachetti.

Dave Kraus is a science teacher at Essex District High School and is actively involved in a number of organizations and projects focussing on local environmental concerns. Dave shares his passion and appreciation for our region’s biodiversity with his students. He inspires them to be actively involved in environmental restoration, and organizes hands-on field trips where the students participate in local conservation efforts. For many years, he was the administrator of the Wetland Habitat Fund and through this role, was instrumental in helping to create many wetlands and diverse habitats across the Essex Region. He leads by example, and continues to restore acres of his private property to natural habitat. He has long been a champion for wetland conservation and creation, and educates young people about the importance of a clean and healthy environment.

Dan Krutsch is a professional engineer with extensive experience in civil engineering design and analysis. As a consultant, Dan has worked with ERCA on many different studies and construction projects across the region including Belle River Flood Control, Turkey Creek and Grand Marais Drain Improvements, several projects on the Lake Erie Bluffs, Pelee Island Dykes, and many Detroit River shoreline stabilization and habitat enhancement projects, to name a few. While ERCA works with many consultants, Dan stands out for his exceptional creativity, dedication, and enthusiasm in addressing numerous challenging projects. His leadership can be credited for the way our community now finds creative and environmentally sustainable methods of solving engineering challenges.

For nearly three decades, Betty Learmouth has contributed to most of the nature organizations and many of the local environmental projects in our region. In 1984, she and a group of fellow volunteers founded the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Club to help preserve natural habitats. She oversaw the group’s heritage fund which eventually grew to $64,000 and was used to protect 60 acres of natural habitat in the Stone Road Alvar complex on Pelee Island. Betty has been a member of the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory and has volunteered at the Hawk Fest for close to 20 years. She helped found the Canada South Land Trust, which works with woodlot owners to protect their properties enjoyed for generations to come. Over the years, she has taken part in numerous inventories of hawks, butterflies and rare plants, and has written countless newsletters to protect natural areas. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty, and conducts annual clean ups, pulls garlic mustard and picks up trash and recyclables when out for walks. “Betty uses every opportunity she has to do something for our environment,” said Bachetti in recognizing her achievements. “Her dedication and enthusiasm has been integral to the success of many projects, but perhaps her greatest contribution has been the mentoring of others.”

Nominations for Conservation Champions will be accepted throughout the year online at www.erca.org. Since 1973, the Essex Region Conservation Authority has served as a community-based organization dedicated to protecting, restoring and managing the natural resources of the Essex Region.

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