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News and events

News & events

VCU Life Sciences alum receives top honors for protecting Commonwealth waters

June 3, 2015

The Environmental Law Institute has announced that David L. Davis received the 2015 National Wetlands Award for State, Local, and Tribal Program Development. Mr. Davis and six other award recipients were honored at a ceremony at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., on May 21, 2015.

A Virginia native who grew up fishing and clamming on Chincoteague Island, David L. Davis has over 25 years of wetlands experience. He majored in biology at the College of William and Mary, completed some graduate work in wetland science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and completed a master’s degree in environmental policy and administration at Virginia Commonwealth University. He has gone on to play an essential leadership role in the evolution of Virginia’s wetland program. "Before 2000, Virginia did not have an independent wetlands program," said Davis. After several court decisions limited federal jurisdiction of wetland protection, Virginia decided that it should have a say in impacts affecting its wetland resources.

In 2000, Davis was appointed to serve on the Technical Advisory Committee for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), where he was tasked with drafting the Commonwealth’s new wetland regulations. A year later, he joined DEQ staff as a wetland ecologist, and ultimately became the Director of DEQ’s Office of Wetlands and Stream Protection in 2007.

Next month, after a more than 10-year effort, Virginia will be launching its Wetland Condition Assessment Tool (WetCAT). Under Davis’ leadership, Virginia has become a flagship state when it comes to wetlands monitoring and assessment, being one of only three states in the Mid-Atlantic region to have completed this effort. The web-based tool will allow the public to better understand the health and condition of Virginia’s wetland resources, as well as analyze the impacts of development and other wetland stressors.

“Throughout his professional career, Davis has shown the dedication, skill, and common sense needed to be an effective state wetland manager and to move the ball forward on wetland protection,” said Ellen Gilinsky, Senior Policy Advisor for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water.

“I have worked very hard to collaborate, and the National Wetlands Award shows there is value in collaboration,” said Davis. “If we go to our separate corners then none of our problems are solved—no better economy and no clean water. I don’t accept the concept that the economy and the environment are mutually exclusive. It’s too easy to fall into that trap. You have to give up some things in order to get things done.”

Excerpts from the Environmental law Institute publication

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