March 30, 2015 -- Robert Love, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries division administrator, was honored Saturday by the Louisiana Wildlife Federation with the 2014 Governor’s Award for Conservationist of the Year.
Love, who manages the Coastal and Nongame Resources Division at LDWF, was recognized for leading the department’s biologist team involved with the reintroduction of the whooping crane to Louisiana.
“Every species recovery success LDWF has managed through the years has had a point person setting goals, directing personnel and handling the administrative duties so the biologist team can focus on the critical field work,” said LDWF Secretary Robert Barham at the ceremony in Baton Rouge. “Bob Love has taken that lead with whooping cranes and provided the vision to start and sustain the project.”
“The vision that awareness leads to appreciation which leads to protection is working; and I’m hopeful that our citizens can take pride in accomplishing yet another major conservation achievement, in restoring this long lost iconic and charismatic wildlife species,” said Love. “The vast majority of Louisianans respect, appreciate and support our wildlife resource management efforts.”
As Coastal and Nongame Resources Division administrator, Love oversees the division that includes LDWF’s Alligator Management Program, furbearer management including the Coast-wide Nutria Control Program, Louisiana’s Wildlife Action Plan, the Natural and Scenic Rivers Program, the Louisiana Natural Heritage Program, Oil Spill Response and Natural Resource Damage Assessment, plus Coastal Operations including management of 10 wildlife management areas and refuges, and White Lake Wetlands Conservation Area (WCA) in Vermilion Parish -- within the same geographic area in which the cranes had at one time thrived.
Love initially secured approval for the whooping crane reintroduction project to begin by proposing a funding model which has value-added component utilizing privately raised funds. He also led efforts to define the entire boundary of Louisiana as a non-essential, experimental population status with the Department of Interior. This designation allows the experimental population to be treated more like threatened, as opposed to endangered status. It also allows much greater public acceptance of endangered species restoration, as these birds will not impact the normal lifestyle and activities on the Louisiana landscape.
Guiding staff biologists working with the experimental population of whooping cranes that have been in Louisiana since 2011, Love’s interaction with US Fish and Wildlife Services, the Whooping Crane Recovery Team, the International Crane Foundation, and the US Geological Survey Research Center in Patuxent, Maryland, and corporate partners have been key.
He established a regular team meeting management approach to the project, integrating staff field biologists, LSU research biologists, LDWF administration, a formal education program, public awareness and outreach program, maintenance staff, as well as veterinary and law enforcement staff to more fully utilize all available resources for derived benefits to the restoration effort.
Relative to project funding, Love has directed fundraising to gather resources, additional to state and federal dollars, to make the project financially stable during the formative years. Those fund raising efforts have brought in $1.5 million since 2011.
Love began his career in 1981 as a wildlife specialist in the Baton Rouge District VII office for the Wildlife Division. Early in his career he worked with many game species, nuisance wildlife species and species of special concern, including alligators.
After working on all state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) throughout the Florida Parishes, he was promoted through the biologist ranks to serve as biologist program manager for nine years, responsible for purchasing more than 80,000 acres of conservation lands for WMAs and refuges. He served 18 years in the Wildlife Division before serving the last 15 years in what was previously known as the Fur and Refuge Division.
Love received his undergraduate degree in biology from Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois in 1975. He received his master’s degree in wildlife management in 1981 from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. His master’s degree thesis focused on the food habits of nutria in brackish marshes, with field work on the State Wildlife Refuge in Vermilion Parish.
Over his career, Love has been involved in wildlife groups including the Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, LSU Forestry Wildlife and Fisheries Alumni Association, The Wildlife Society, LA Professional Biologist Association and others. He was honored most recently with the Acadiana Sportsmen’s League 2013 Emeritus Award.
For more information, contact Bo Boehringer at 225-765-5115 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Photo caption: (left to right) LDWF Secretary Robert Barham, Robert "Bob" Love, LWF President Barney Callahan.