Association of State Wetland Managers - Protecting the Nation's Wetlands.

The Compleat Wetlander: Celebrating the Contributions of Two Outstanding Public Servants

cwlogoBy Jeanne Christie, Executive Director, ASWM

“How lucky I am to have something that makes
saying goodbye so hard.”

A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

As January 2017 comes to a close, two people retiring from the federal civil service will be sorely missed by myself, the staff of the Association of State Wetland Managers and many other wetland/aquatic resources professionals around the country.  Their careers have followed different tracks, but their respective impacts on wetlands and aquatic resource protection and conservation have been significant.

Stephen Samuels is retiring from his position as Assistant Section Chief in the Environmental Defense Section. He is a nationally recognized expert on Clean Water Act jurisdiction and has spent much of his career successfully supporting the U.S. government’s position on Clean Water Act issues.  His contributions have been many, but I can only speak to his importance to myself and state wetland managers.

samuels012617For 15+ years he has made presentations in various ASWM venues on changes in Clean Water Act jurisdiction providing state wetland managers and other attendees with critical insights. CWA jurisdiction has been a continually changing area of public policy particularly since the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. Army Corps of Engineers 2001 Supreme Court decision significantly reduced Clean Water Act jurisdiction over wetlands. This was followed by the Rapanos v. the United States in 2006 which provided additional constraints and uncertainty.  Steve helped us make sense of the decisions themselves and the various challenges making their way through the courts around the country.  This allowed states to determine how these changes to Clean Water Act on a national level impacted individual state programs.  To hear from Steve directly about how he chose a career in public service, there’s a video! Why I chose a Career in DOJ’s Environmental Defense Section.

Dave Evans is perhaps less well known, but his contributions have been very important. He has had a long career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency serving most recently as Wetlands Division Director beginning in 2005 and then as Deputy Director of the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds since 2013.  As Wetland Division Director, Dave was a regular participant at ASWM meetings. Among his many accomplishments, he has been a strong advocate for improving the capacity of states and tribes to carry out wetland programs including supporting establishment of the Enhancing State and Tribal Programs (ESTP) initiative.  He has also encouraged actions by the EPA to support state and tribal assumption of the Section 404 program.

evans012617It is difficult to articulate the contributions of these two extraordinary individuals over all the years I have had the privilege of working with them. What I remember best is not a catalogue of legal briefs by Steve or program initiatives by Dave but their accessibility, intellect, dedication and humor.

Steve liked to lighten his admittedly dense presentations on Supreme Court decisions with images of fruit on his PowerPoints pointing out that the opinions of the various Supreme Court justices were not apples to apples but rather apples to oranges to cherries. But most memorable was Steve’s careful, deep thinking about the details and ramifications of decisions by the various courts.  And he also made that information accessible to non-lawyers who needed to understand these cases to carry out their work.

Dave, as a representative of USEPA has been perpetually positive and interested in understanding the viewpoints of everyone at the table.  He brings a calm sense of purpose and possibility to every challenge.  This is particularly important working in the arena of wetlands and public policy because the challenges never stop coming. We had many conversations about wetland science, wetland programs and public policy changes over the years and Dave’s ability to take the long view and put day to day events in a larger context has made him a valued participant in national policy discussions.  On a more personal note we share a love of running and routinely catch up on our latest adventures on the road and trail.

Dave Evans and Stephen Samuels have characteristics in common:  honor, integrity, and a commitment to serving the public good.  They leave big shoes to fill.  Wherever they are bound for next, I hope we continue to have an opportunity to work together.  After all…

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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