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The Compleat Wetlander: Lifetime Achievement: Jon Kusler Honored by the Society of Wetland Scientists

Jon Kusler, Associate Director and co-founder of the Association of State Wetland Managers, is this year’s winner of the Society of Wetland Scientist’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  This special award is given biennially to individuals in recognition of a distinguished and extensive career in wetland science and management

I’ve known Jon for 20+ years now.  I can dimly remember our first meeting a few months after I started working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).  We were both attending a conference on state wetland programs in September of 1988.  Jon was Executive Director of ASWM back then and had been invited to speak at the conference.  He and his wife Pat Riexinger were awaiting the imminent arrival of their first child.  For years after I thought their son, Gilbert, was named after the Category 5 hurricane that hit the Yucatan peninsula that month  It was only much later that I realized it was Gilbert White, the nation’s leading expert on floodplain management and Jon’s mentor and friend, for whom Gil was named   Knowing Jon it was entirely conceivable to me that he would name his son after a hurricane.

Those people who are familiar with Jon will recognize my first introduction to him as a typical ‘Jon’ meeting.  He swept in from nowhere talking a mile a minute about several different topics and before anyone quite knew what was happening 10-12 of us were seated in a restaurant having a  ‘business’ dinner.  I can’t remember the precise topic of conversation—and with Jon it could have been any one topic, or perhaps a number combined.

What makes Jon unique is his extensive expertise– in wetlands science and policy, and  floodplain law and policy, and river and ecosystem restoration, and climate change and carbon sequestration, and so on—combined with his enthusiasm for sharing that information and challenging people to think about issues in new ways.  For over 35 years he has published and lectured and taught and hosted conferences on a wide range of issues   Jon has helped us understand how the pieces fit together.  Wetlands and bird, rivers and floodplains, courts and wetland policy, ecotourism and local planning; the list goes on and on

He has done it with enormous energy and enthusiasm.  Jon was Executive Director of ASWM from its inception in 1983 to 2001 and past board members still reminisce about pre-breakfast meetings, breakfast meetings, dinner meetings and late evening get-togethers.  Many of those  meetings and conferences led to major changes in wetlands science and floodplain policy.  Equally important I have heard a number of stories over the years from many of his friends about how coming into contact with Jon changed their careers.   Jon’s ideas are so good that people have to listen to him.

The creation of the Association of State Wetland Managers is a case in point.  In the early 1980s states were developing wetland programs and hungry for information about what their colleagues were doing.  Jon was a consultant who was talking to all of them, sharing ideas and bringing people together.  Finally in 1984, Jon, along with a group of wetland managers and a handful of other wetland professionals, decided to have a conference on wetlands at the University of Florida, School of Law.  They organized it in a period of three weeks and had a couple dozen people pre-registered.  An additional 300 people showed up at the conference.  The Association of State Wetland Managers was born and Jon became the executive director.

Jon will receive his award at the Society of Wetlands Scientists 2009 annual meeting in Madison, Wisconsin on June 23

Congratulations, Jon!!!
Then and Now!

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7 Responses to The Compleat Wetlander: Lifetime Achievement: Jon Kusler Honored by the Society of Wetland Scientists

  1. Kim Diana Connolly says:

    Yeah Jon! Yeah SWS! And yeah ASWM for all your GREAT work (with the help of Jon and other truly terrific folks)!!!

  2. David Burke says:

    I can’t think of a more deserving person than Jon Kusler to be honored with the SWS Lifetime Achievement award. I’ve met alot of hard working, effective people in my life, but Jon is right up there with the best of them. In the mid-eighties I was fortunate enough to have benefited from his wise counsel in helping me to craft an innovative non-tidal wetlands program for the State of Maryland. I learned a great deal from Jon about the politics, science, governance, educational and coalition building aspects of making a wetland regulatory program work. I am forever grateful for this and I’m sure hundreds more can echo their thanks in other matters. He has influenced so many important issues on the national and local level – it makes my head spin!

    Congratulations Jon!

    David Burke

  3. Bill Mitsch says:

    Way to go Jon! Congratulations!
    I still recall fondly our collaborations on many wetland adventures including the Scientific American article on Wetlands and the Traverse City Michigan wetland controversy. On both your legal wetland mind was at work, helping to simplify what appeared to be overwhelming tasks.
    And I guess I have been invited to about 100 of your ASWM meetings too! But it is an honor to be so invited by Jon.
    See you in Madison!

  4. Don Witherill says:

    Jon Kusler should truly be named the National Godfather of Wetlands Management, but hey, a lifetime achievement award ain’t bad either! As a young and impressionable state wetlands program manager back in the 80’s, I too learned a tremendous amount from Jon, from the potential pitfalls of our state regulatory approach, to the workings of Washington D.C. politics (not to mention, how to organize a conference, mini-conference, workshop, etc.). I miss those early days, including Jon’s indomitable energy and words of inspiration that gave me the courage to push forward here in Maine.

    Jon, congratulations on a well deserved honor!

    Warm Regards,

    Don Witherill, Director
    Division of Watershed Management
    Maine Department of Environmental Protection

  5. Larry Larson says:

    Surely well deserved Jon!
    Jon and I have collarborated since the 1970s, and he was most instrumental in assisting us in forming the Assn. of State Floodplain Mgrs. which we discussed as we walked the shores of Lake Mendota. In Wis. I ran both wetland and floodplain programs at one time, and Jon was always full of ideas.My experience was that in 2 hours of conversation, Jon would throw out at least 100 ideas—then you would pick what you could implement from the list. One of the great minds in natural resources and hazards integration in the world and a mentor to so many of us. He can deal with the theory, but also the practice –a rare and effective combination.

  6. Ann L. Riley says:

    This recognition is way over due. Jon does have extraordinary skills, but I assume most folks don’t realize he can canoe holding an umbrella while paddling backwards. I have a photo to prove this if there is any skepticism.
    A.L. Riley
    Watershed and River Protection Advsor
    California Water Boards

  7. John William Kusler says:

    Congratulations Jon,
    I grew up on a farm that was situated on a lake. As a result, I guess that I am somewhat amphibian in nature, part water, part land.

    As times progress, people tend to forget how essential the natural world is.

    I appreciate the work that you have done to ensure that future generations can see some of the things that I grew up with. Thank you.

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