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Nature Conservancy Leader Gets Environmental Award

Director the The Nature Conservancy of Virginia Receives

Erchul Environmental Leadership Award from VMI for 20 Years of Service

LEXINGTON, Va., April 7, 2010 — The Virginia Environment Symposium has presented its 2010 Erchul Environmental Leadership Award to Michael Lipford, director of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia.

The Erchul Award recognizes a Virginian who has made significant individual efforts to better the environment through vision, expertise, commitment, integrity, communication skills, accomplishments, and diplomacy.  The award is named for retired Virginia Military Institute (VMI) Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Ronald A. Erchul, the founder of the Environment Virginia Symposium, hosted annually on the VMI Post.  

Forty-three Virginians were nominated for the award.  After an online voting process to winnow the field to 5, Mr. Lipford was selected by a panel of judges comprised of past award winners.

The Award will be presented to Mr. Lipford by Capt. Ronald A. Erchul and Ms. Ann Jennings, Virginia executive director of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the 2009 winner of the award.   This is the 21st year of the Symposium. 

“I am humbled by this award from VMI,” said Michael Lipford.  “It is an incredible privilege to be able to help protect the place you were born and love.  The Commonwealth’s unique landscapes and wildlife are worth protecting, so future generations of Virginians have the same opportunity we had to explore and love our beautiful state.”

Under Lipford’s leadership, The Nature Conservancy in Virginia has grown to be one of the largest, most successful, and most respected conservation organizations in the state, with a well-earned reputation of working with all stakeholders to secure lasting results for Virginia’s lands and waters.  Those results include the protection of thousands of acres of ecologically significant land under his tenure, from the mountains of southwest Virginia to the marshes of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. 

Most recently, Lipford led the Conservancy’s efforts to secure the largest conservation easement in Virginia history, a 13,350-acre project in the Dragon Run and Mattaponi River watersheds in eastern Virginia.  

His nomination for the Erchul Environmental Leadership Award reads:

In addition to Michael’s outstanding land conservation leadership work here in Virginia, he is regularly called upon by The Nature Conservancy to help formulate and lead new conservation initiatives with regional, national and global impact.  These range from his key role in formulating The Nature Conservancy’s Eco-regional Conservation by Design framework to a yearlong assignment in 2009 to formulate coordinated multistate land conservation initiatives in the mid-Atlantic region.

In addition to the lasting natural legacy he continues to leave for Virginia, Michael is universally admired and respected as a kind, thoughtful, and optimistic person.  He is a conservationist steeped in a strong science background.  He is passionate without being shrill, and committed without being confrontational.  He is a gentleman conservationist and a true leader.

The award includes a $1,000 donation to The Nature Conservancy in Virginia’s Clinch-Powell Clean Rivers Initiative in southwest Virginia.

Lipford celebrates his 20th anniversary with The Nature Conservancy this year, 18 of which he’s served as director.  Prior to joining The Nature Conservancy in 1992, Michael was the first Director of the Virginia Division of Natural Heritage and held this position from 1986-1992.  The Program was started by The Nature Conservancy and transferred to the Department of Conservation and Recreation in 1988 and has been twice recognized as the outstanding natural heritage program in the Western Hemisphere.  

Lipford holds a BS in biology from Virginia Tech 1978, and an MS in biology from James Madison University, 1984.  He and his wife Elizabeth reside in Richmond with their three daughters Aylett, Ellen, and Mary Michael.