Carolinians Honored With Conservation Awards

Lt. Todd Radabaugh was recognized as the Wildlife Officer of the Year by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation at the 49th Annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards.

A 22-year veteran with the Wildlife Commission, Radabaugh chairs the governing committee for the multi-agency “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign. He organizes special hunting opportunities for youth and disabled veterans and is nationally recognized as a training officer for law enforcement agencies. Radabaugh serves in Pender County.

The awards were presented during ceremonies on Sept. 8.

“What impressed the awards committee so much about Radabaugh was his willingness to pitch in on tasks large and small,” said T. Edward Nickens, a longtime outdoors writer and master of ceremonies for the awards banquet. “After more than two decades as an enforcement officer, his enthusiasm for getting the job done seemed to have diminished not one bit.”

The Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards are meant to inspire North Carolinians to take a more active role in protecting the natural resources of the state, according to Tim Gestwicki, executive director of the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

“This awards program brings together a remarkably diverse group of conservationists to highlight the ‘good news’ about wildlife conservation in North Carolina,” Gestwicki said. “Our primary focus is to applaud and honor these people who work so hard for wildlife and the air, water and land that they and all of us depend upon.”

Former Wildlife Resources Commission employee Chris McGrath was honored with the Wildlife Conservationist of the Year Award. A resident of Buncombe County, McGrath was with the agency for more than 22 years, serving most recently as coordinator for the Wildlife Diversity Program.

During his time with the Wildlife Commission, McGrath was involved in the management and conservation of a number of wildlife species, including freshwater mussels, Carolina northern flying squirrels, peregrine falcons and bats. He is well known throughout the natural resources community as a knowledgeable, enthusiastic biologist with an unwavering passion for nongame and endangered wildlife.

“Many times I have mentioned to other scientists in other regions that I’d crossed paths once or twice with Chris McGrath, and that comment has almost always prompted a compliment,” Nickens said. “Literally, the last time I mentioned his name, to a biologist in Virginia, I was told, ‘We lost one of the best when Chris McGrath stepped down.'”

The Cumberland County Wildlife Club was honored as the Hunter Safety Education Organization of the Year. The wildlife club began offering hunter education classes in 1992, with three of the group’s instructors volunteering more than 1,000 hours to the Wildlife Commission’s Hunter Education Program.