Dr. James Utter, Stormville, N.Y., Associate Professor of Environmental Science at Purchase College, will be honored with the 2007 Community Leadership Award by the Board of Directors of Camp Herrlich in Patterson, N.Y. for his work as Chairman of the Friends of the Great Swamp (FrOGS). He will receive the award at a Dinner Dance Celebration on October 19.
The camp, located in the watershed area near the Great Swamp, provides environmental education programs for school groups, year round school-age leadership programs, as well as a summer children’s camp.
The event will raise funds for camper scholarships and celebrate the establishment of the Carl Gallo Scholarship Fund provided by the Jet Foundation.
Dr. Utter has promoted conservation education and action in the Great Swamp Watershed for over 20 years. As current Chairman of the Friends of the Great Swamp, he promotes awareness of values and vulnerability of the land and is active in land conservation throughout the watershed.
A native of Oneonta, N.Y., he earned his bachelor’s degree in Secondary Science Education at SUNY Oneonta and his PhD at Rutgers University. He became a founding faculty member at Purchase College in 1971 where he helped develop a program in the newly emerging field of Environmental Science. His teaching and research focus on ecology, animal behavior and conservation, with a primary emphasis on wetlands and their inhabitants.
Dr. Utter’s research with his students on the use of the Great Swamp by breeding and migratory birds was instrumental in the Great Swamp being designated a New York State Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society. His current research on habitat use and management of the endangered bog turtle has led to his participation in regional recovery-planning discussion teams.
When he became Chairman of FrOGS in 2001, the organization was well established as a “Voice for the Swamp.” He has since fostered active participation in land protection which began during a conservation effort stimulated by Governor George Pataki and led by the Nature Conservancy. To begin funding this effort, he wrote a $1 million Federal grant proposal under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Funded in 2002, the grant became the cornerstone of the wetlands protection project of the coalition of 13 partner organizations, including New York State, Putnam County, the Town of Patterson, the Nature Conservancy and the Putnam County Land Trust. Dr. Utter directs the $3.2 million effort which, when completed in a few months, will have protected more than 1,000 acres of the Great Swamp and its buffer. The project has fostered cooperative action of several conservation groups and FrOGS has made significant progress toward its conservation goals. His own research data on wetland-dependent migratory birds contributed to convincing the NAWCA Council to support habitat protection in the Great Swamp.
Dr. Utter is a member of the Scientific Advisory Panel for the New York State Biodiversity Research Institute. He is on Audubon-New York’s Conservation Committee and has been on the Bedford Audubon Society’s Board of Directors. A certified wetlands scientist, he has been a consultant to organizations and town planning boards on issues relating to land use impact on wetlands.