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Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: Award honors Whitehurst’s wildlife efforts in state

A SENIOR executive with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is the recipient of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ most prestigious conservation award.

David K. Whitehurst, director of the Wildlife Resources Bureau, was presented the Clarence W. Watson Award in Hot Springs, Ark., at the association’s annual conference.

The award is presented to a career professional deemed to have made the greatest contribution to wildlife or fisheries conservation during the previous year or years. These contributions can be in such areas as research, administration, law enforcement, information and education, or wildlife and fisheries management.

Whitehurst, a North Carolina native, has been with VDGIF for 38 years and has served in management positions spanning the gamut of agency programs. His nomination credits his role in bringing “science-based management to Virginia’s fisheries and wildlife conservation programs.”

Among his conservation achievements cited are:

  • Restoration and enhancement programs for striped bass at Kerr Reservoir and Smith Mountain Lake.
  • Driving the acquisition of the department’s Stewarts Creek Wildlife Management Area.
  • Establishing the 845-acre Briery Creek Lake, which is now a premier largemouth bass fishery.
  • Taking a leading role in efforts to restore waterways for anadromous fish, including the breaching of Embrey Dam on the Rappahannock River.
  • Establishing a fishway on Bosher’s Dam on the James.
  • Establishing the Virginia Master Naturalist Program.
  • Developing the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.
  • Developing the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan.

    The other VDGIF recipients of the award are the late agency director Chester Phelps in 1971 and Game Warden John Crumb in 1968.

    SPORTING PRESIDENTS

    The presidential election had folks at the Sportsman Channel contemplating America’s top sportsman presidents. See if you agree with their list and rationale for the rankings. They are presented in the order they were ranked.

    Atop the list is Theodore Roosevelt. The 26th president was known for his love of the outdoors, hunting and exploration.

    He chronicled his adventures in many books, and his conservation efforts led to national parks and more than 125 million acres of national forests. Roosevelt easily tops my personal list.

    Portly Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president and enjoyed camping, deer, duck and quail hunting, shooting, and fresh- and saltwater fishing. He also wrote books about fishing and hunting.

    George Washington is noted for his horsemanship and love of fox hunting. He reportedly hunted ducks and fished often on Mount Vernon’s 8,000-plus acres.

    Herbert Hoover, America’s 31st president, was cited for his love of fishing. He fished all across North America, and a trout camp on the upper Rapidan River was said to be a place where he could escape the political world. He wrote about fishing’s relaxing, life-enhancing benefits and is credited with saying: “Next to prayer, fishing is the most personal relationship of man.”

    Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, was picked for his shooting prowess, including steely-nerved dueling.

    Chester A. Arthur, the 21st president, loved fly fishing and belonged to the Restigouche Salmon Club, a group of New York anglers who fished in Canada. He once held an Atlantic salmon record with a 50-pounder. “There is nothing I loved more than fishing for salmon,” Arthur said.

    Dwight Eisenhower, our 34th president, was a lifelong fisherman. Ike frequented Camp David and a friend’s Colorado ranch to fish for trout.

    Wrapping up the list was Calvin Coolidge, who was known to spend up to eight consecutive weeks in the summer away from Washington on fishing trips. Supposedly, a Secret Service agent got “Silent Cal” hooked on fishing.

    NO ‘FLYOVER’ STATE

    The Texas Hill Country increasingly morphed into broad patches of brown and green as my flight climbed from San Antonio last week. It had been a simultaneously grueling and tedious week in the Lone Star State, filled with 14-hour workdays.

    Sadly, there was no opportunity to add a little outdoors fun to the expedition.

    About 30 minutes away from landing in Baltimore, I gazed out the window on the right side of the aircraft. It was one of those perfect autumn days, with deep blue skies and no hint of haze. As we descended, I started recognizing bodies of water. The foliage colors progressed every few minutes as we sped farther north.

    We crossed the James River and soon afterward—from about 15,000 feet, I guessed—I began making out some features of Fort A.P. Hill amid the oasis of vegetation. King George County and the Potomac arrived in view, the Nice Bridge at Dahlgren serving as a reference point. The tributaries and fingers of land down to Cole’s Point and beyond were visible.

    For the rest of the flight, the Chesapeake Bay’s western shoreline fixed my attention. Boat traffic appeared minimal and the water reflected the blue of the sky. The fall colors became more vibrant as we swung on final approach, the Bay Bridge now visible in the distance.

    Pockets of human congestion interspersed with patches of incredible outdoor beauty filled every view.

    Everyone should get to see the area like this. While the outdoors diversity is wonderful, it is also very fragile. From 15,000 feet, it’s easy to see how it won’t take too many more conversions of those beautiful patches of green space before the natural world that makes this place special and scenic is irretrievably lost.

    We’re clearly not one of those “flyover” states with, seemingly, nothing going on, that country singer Jason Aldean references in his recent hit song. Sometimes, though, I wish we were.

    Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at outdoors@freelancestar.com.

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