ALBANY — Chehaw’s Ben Kirkland was presented the Jim Fowler Environmental Award recently. Kirkland received the award for his exceptional service and commitment to preserving the natural world.

Kirkland currently serves as Chehaw’s natural resources manager. Officials at the park say he takes great pride in caring for the Chehaw’s natural resources. He has developed a comprehensive forest stewardship plan for the park, which includes a prescribed fire plan, timber harvests, managing native flora and fauna, eradicating exotic invasive species, insects and disease, and managing wildlife populations.

Kirkland has worked at Chehaw since 1986, when he started as the park Ranger. His title changed in the ’90s to ranger/chief naturalist, and then to his current title as natural resources manager.

Kirkland’s myriad responsibilities have included forest management, wildlife management, campground, playgrounds, picnic grounds, boat dock, fish pond, security and operating the park’s ticket booth, gift shop and concessions.

Officials at Chehaw say Kirkland has also served as organizer of the park’s popular Native American Festival, Frontier Festival and Traditional Skills Gathering. Chehaw was awarded the prestigious Forest Stewardship Award thanks to his painstaking care of its natural resources.

Kirkland has also been named Hunter Safety Instructor of the Year. He holds an associate of science degrees in wildlife technology and forest technology, both from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, and a certificate in prescribed burning from Auburn University. He is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist, a Georgia Forestry Commission-certified Prescribed Burn Manager, a Georgia Department of Natural Resources-certified Hunter Education Instructor, and past facilitator in Project Wild, Project Learning Tree, and Project Wet.

Previous Jim Fowler Environmental Award recipient Don Dally nominated Kirkland for the award. Dally commended Kirkland’s forestry management skills and perseverance in overcoming a multitude of natural disasters over the past several years. He also praised Kirkland for his more than 30 years of educating children and adults across the state in the importance of history and preserving the natural world.

The award was initially created in 2009 and features the sculpture “Windblown Tree” by artist Derek Taylor. The award is currently displayed at the Creekside Center at Chehaw. Previous recipients include the award’s namesake and Dally.

Chehaw is a nonprofit organization located at 105 Chehaw Park Road in Albany and is open every day of the year. Chehaw’s vision encompasses the principles on which the wild animal park and zoo were founded: conservation, education and preservation. For more information, call (229) 430-5275.

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