Press Release Oct 20, 2017

National Park Leaders Honored with Stephen T. Mather Award

NPCA presented its annual Stephen T. Mather award to Mojave National Preserve Chief of Resources Debra Hughson and the late Frank Hays, who most recently served in the Park Service’s Northeast Regional Office. The Mather award is named after the first director of the National Park Service, and given to individuals who have shown steadfast leadership and persistent dedication to our national parks.

WASHINGTON – National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today presented its 33rd annual Stephen T. Mather award to Mojave National Preserve Chief of Resources Debra Hughson and the late Frank Hays, who most recently served in the Park Service’s Northeast Regional Office. The Mather award is named after the first director of the National Park Service, and given to individuals who have shown steadfast leadership and persistent dedication to our national parks.

“In a time when science is being bent and ignored, Debra represents the care, curiosity, and willingness to act that are the core values for managers of some of the most beloved and sacred lands in our nation,” said David Lamfrom, California Desert Director for National Parks Conservation Association. “Debra’s dedication to science and park resources is second to none.”

For more than 15 years, Debra has applied her sharp intellect and science background to projects and proposals within and outside of the boundaries of Mojave National Preserve. Her work has helped increase understanding about the importance of connecting large landscapes, with national parks including Mojave and Castle Mountains National Monument as anchors. Debra’s scientific focus has helped inform decisions surrounding projects outside of park boundaries that threaten resources within, including the Cadiz Inc. water mining proposal, the industrial-sized Soda Mountain solar proposal and the Silurian Valley Solar and Wind Project. Debra has also served as a leader on desert tortoise recovery actions, on bighorn sheep connectivity and research, the preservation of rare and endangered desert fish, and on research into the impacts of emerging technologies like large-scale renewable energy and studying and understanding the immediate impacts of climate change on our national parks.

Frank Hays’ dedication to the National Park System and overall conservation spanned decades, and was applied to national parks across the country. Throughout his career, Frank worked as a transformative superintendent of Manzanar National Historic Site in California, served in leadership roles in the Alaskan Arctic and in Hawaii, and most recently, joined the Park Service’s Northeast Regional Office where he served as Associate Regional Director for natural and cultural resource stewardship and science. During his time in the Northeast regional office, Frank played an intricate role in the fight to protect historic Jamestown and nearby national park sites from Dominion Energy’s proposal to build a massive transmission line across the James River in Virginia. From writing numerous letters and making phone calls, to spending countless hours on the road traveling to stakeholder meetings, he was relentless in his mission to protect our nation’s most historic and cherished places. When Frank passed away unexpectedly in early March, NPCA and the Park Service lost a trusted colleague. However, Frank’s stewardship and accomplishments throughout his distinguished Park Service career will live on.

“Frank was a warrior for America’s national parks,” said Joy Oakes, Senior Director for NPCA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. “He was incredibly passionate about our national parks, and inspired all who worked with him. Frank was a leader in the fight to protect historic Jamestown from industrialization, a campaign that NPCA continues to carry forward. From his tremendous knowledge in park protection, to his relentless advocacy efforts to protect our most treasured places, Frank’s legacy will continue for generations to come.”

The Stephen T. Mather Award, endowed by Booz Allen Hamilton, was presented at this year’s 40th annual Ranger Rendezvous in Estes Park, Colorado.

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.3 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historic, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.