Release Date: 03/14/2006

Noel W. Kinler, a biologist program manager in charge of the Alligator Research and Management Program for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), was honored as the Professional Conservationist of the Year at the 42nd Conservation Achievement Recognition Banquet held in Alexandria on March 4.

LDWF Secretary Dwight Landreneau and Earl Matthews Region 8 director of the National Wildlife Federation were on hand to present eight-conservation awards at the banquet held during the Louisiana Wildlife Federations (LWF) 67th Annual Meeting.  A panel of independent judges with expertise in a wide range of conservation fields selected the award winners.    

Kinler, who works out of the New Iberia Office, has spent most of his 27-year LDWF career as a fur and alligator biologist and has been in his current position for the past six years.

To have the work we do rewarded by LWF is very encouraging and noteworthy, both for me and the department, Kinler said.  I would not have received this award without the administrative support from LDWF and the effort put forth by the alligator program staff for which I am grateful.

The American alligator is one of Louisianas most recognized symbols of wild nature.  In addition to its status as one of Louisianas most charismatic species, it also is the basis of a multimillion-dollar industry.  Its former status as an endangered species, international regulations governing the trade of its parts, and the relationship between wild alligator populations and the alligator farming industry, make managing and conserving the species a complex challenge.

The most gratifying part of working with alligators is that under our current sustainable use management program we strive to make the alligator a valuable natural resource by regulating harvest programs that provide income to alligator hunters, alligator farmers and wetland landowners, Kinler said.  In doing so, we not only protect the alligator itself, but we also provide income and incentive to landowners to protect wetland habitats that are critical to many other fish and wildlife species.

Kinler is highly regarded at LDWF for his work ethic and leadership.  He was rewarded with the LDWFs Secretarys Award, which is the departments top honor, at the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting in February.

This award confirms that we (LDWF) made the correct choice for our prestigious Secretarys Award, said Landreneau.  Noels experience and dedication is an asset to this department.

Kinler has conducted LDWFs annual alligator nest surveys for the past 26 years by flying helicopter routes through the marsh to index population abundance.   From the flights, he has used the experience gained in recognizing habitat types based on plant communities and salinity gradients to adapt digital imagery for more refined assessments of alligator densities with respect to property ownership.  This information is vital to the correct allocation of alligator tags. 

Last year he was able to secure federal funds for alligator disease research.  Kinler was appointed representative to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, representing the Southeastern Association of fish and wildlife agencies.  He is a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Crocodile Specialist Group, where he is the Regional Vice Chairman on the Steering Committee for North America.  He has also authored or coauthored 50 scientific papers dealing with alligators, furbearers and wetlands research.

It seems that each year we harvest more wild alligator eggs, harvest more farm raised alligators, allocate more wild harvest tags and release more farm raised alligators to the wild to maintain the wild population, Kinler said.  Recognition of the challenges that face the department as we strive to manage all aspects of a growing industry while providing the necessary protection to the wild alligator resource is an important highlight of this past year. 

Now we face a new challenge, assessing the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the wild alligator population, he said.

Conservationist of the Year awards were also presented to Thad Bellow of St. Amant in the Volunteer Category, Kellon Lee (Youth) of St. Joseph, Architecture + (Business) of Monroe, Rex H. Caffey (Educator) of Baton Rouge, Rep. Karen St. Germain (Elected Official) of Pierre Part, C.C. Lockwood (Communicator) of Baton Rouge, and Ducks Unlimited (Organization).  The late B.E.M. Ben Skerrett of Lafayette was also honored with the Governors Award for conservationist achievement.

EDITORS: For more information, contact Noel Kinler at 337-373-0032 or nkinler@wlf.louisiana.gov.