The annual Cardinal Awards were also presented.
COLUMBUS -- Four individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the protection and enjoyment of the state's natural resources were inducted today into the Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame, the state's highest conservation honor. The four were Christine Freitag of Akron, the late Ora Anderson of Athens County, Ralph Ramey of Westerville and the late Mike Utt of Bellefontaine.
ODNR Director Sam Speck presented the awards during a ceremony at ODNR's Fountain Square Headquarters in Columbus.
Thirty years ago, Christine Freitag was at the forefront of the movement to create what has now become the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. One of Ohio's most effective conservationists, she is a lifelong activist for the stewardship of threatened natural resources and for greater public access to outdoor recreation. Freitag was also recognized for many other achievements, including the founding of the Garden Club of America's "Partners for Plants" project. She is also co-founder and executive director of Scenic Ohio, and the founder and president of The Friends of Metroparks.
Ora Anderson's passion for land conservation and wildlife protection spanned more than seven decades. As a young reporter and editor in the 1930s, he chronicled the establishment of the Wayne National Forest. Throughout his long and varied life of 94 years, Anderson wore many hats, including that of president of the Ohio Forestry Association and chairman of the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy in recognition of which the O.E. Anderson Compass Plant Prairie State Nature Preserve in Lawrence County was named in his honor. His career in conservation came full circle when, shortly before he died, Anderson narrated a documentary on the history of the Wayne National Forest.
As a tireless supporter of Ohio's natural resources and an enthusiastic advocate for getting out and enjoying those resources, Mike Utt focused his energies on the importance of clean water, particularly in Big Darby Creek and the Scioto River. He shared that passion through the many riversweep cleanup events he organized, the "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs" programs he led, and the workshops he organized to teach young Ohioans the importance of conserving wetlands. Utt was considered to have been a leading supporter of legislation to increase wetland impact fees, which passed into law shortly after his death in 2005. An avid angler, he was a strong proponent of making smallmouth bass the official state fish of Ohio.
With more than 50 years under his belt as an advocate of natural resources, Ralph Ramey has earned the respect and admiration of countless people for his dedication to the preservation and interpretation of Ohio's natural heritage. He pushed for the creation of the ODNR Division of Natural Areas & amp; Preserves in the 1970s, and later served as the division's chief. Ralph also has shown a lifetime devotion to the protection and restoration of Ohio's prairies. One of the state's premier naturalists, he has authored numerous nature books and hiking guides featuring his home state.
The ODNR Cardinal Awards honor individuals and organizations demonstrating exceptional awareness and concern for ideals reflected in the department's mission statement: to ensure a balance between the wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all.
A special recognition also was given to Ohio's First Lady Hope Taft for her commitment to the state's natural resources, and her creation of the Heritage Garden at the Governor's Residence. The Heritage Garden is a 3.5-acre living representation of our state's five major ecosystems, featuring the special plant and geologic qualities of each region.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) also presented its annual Cardinal Awards for conservation achievement to Jim Bissell of Cleveland, Bob Brown of Kent and Cecilia Duer of Mentor.
The Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame was established by ODNR in 1966. To date, 142 individuals have been accorded the honor, which recognizes a lifetime devoted to the preservation, protection and wise management of Ohio's natural resources. Previous honorees include the legendary Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman), Ohio-born explorer John Wesley Powell, botanist Lucy Braun and conservationist/novelist Louis Bromfield.