March 8, 2022
Arlington, VA – After multiple postponements of the 2020 and 2021 Melissa Laser Fish Habitat Conservation Award presentations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Atlantic Coastal Fish Habitat Partnership (ACFHP) was pleased to present Andrew Goode of the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Wenley Ferguson of Save the Bay – Narragansett Bay with the 2020 and 2021 awards, respectively, during a virtual ceremony on March 3rd. The ceremony was led by Kent Smith, ACFHP Chair, and attended by the ACFHP Steering Committee and friends and colleagues of Mr. Goode and Ms. Ferguson. Jeremy Bell, Climate Adaptation Program Director at The Nature Conservancy in Maine; Patrick Keliher, Maine Department of Marine Resources Commissioner; and Dan Kircheis, NOAA Fisheries Penobscot Bay Salmon Recovery Coordinator, gave remarks on Mr. Goode’s successful career restoring fish passage in Maine. Chris Powell, ACFHP Steering Committee member (Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, retired); and Jonathan Stone, Executive Director of Save the Bay – Narragansett Bay spoke on Ms. Ferguson’s accomplishments in restoring Narragansett Bay.
Mr. Goode is responsible for leading the negotiation and implementation of dam removals on the Penobscot and Sheepscot Rivers in Maine. He recognized the important work Dr. Laser started on Coopers Mills and Head Tide Dams and committed to seeing them through to completion. Mr. Goode developed a solution at each site that restored fish passage to over 50 miles of river and tributary habitat for Atlantic salmon, alewife, American shad, striped bass, American eel, sea lamprey, and sea run brook trout. As a river with a longstanding and historic commercial alewife harvest, his efforts increased the sustainability of the Sheepscot River harvest for future generations.
Ms. Ferguson facilitated community-based restoration projects by working with towns, cities, and other partners to improve water quality and habitat in Narragansett Bay. Her recent efforts have focused on studying salt marsh response to sea level rise and working with federal, state, and local partners on adaptive management strategies to improve resilience of these habitats. She has built coalitions and constituencies to envision, plan, implement, and secure millions of dollars in funding for dam removal, eelgrass restoration, salt marsh restoration, and coastal adaptation. Ms. Ferguson has organized, led, partnered, and promoted fish passage projects in Rhode Island, including projects on the Mussachuck Creek; and the Ten Mile, Pawtuxet, Pawcatuck, and Kickimuit Rivers.
The accomplishments of Mr. Goode and Ms. Ferguson directly support ACFHP’s vision of providing healthy, thriving habitats of sufficient quantity and quality to support all life stages of Atlantic coastal, estuarine-dependent, and diadromous fishes. The Melissa Laser Fish Habitat Conservation Award is bestowed upon individuals deemed to further the conservation, protection, restoration, and enhancement of habitat for native Atlantic coastal, estuarine-dependent, and diadromous fishes in a unique or extraordinary manner. The award was established in memory of Dr. Melissa Laser who passed away unexpectedly on April 27, 2010. Melissa was a biologist with the Maine Department of Marine Resources where she worked tirelessly to protect, improve, and restore aquatic ecosystems in Maine and along the entire Atlantic coast. As an astute strategic thinker and leader, Melissa edited and coordinated the Strategic and Operational Plan for the Restoration of Diadromous and Resident Fishes to the Penobscot River. She coordinated fish passage projects, managed and oversaw the biological field staff for the Maine Western Region, and was the Bureau of Sea Run Fisheries and Habitat Program lead for habitat restoration studies and projects. She was also an effective champion for Atlantic salmon, directing and coordinating Endangered Species Act-related actions pertaining to the species. Melissa brought her smiling dedication and enthusiasm to ACFHP’s Steering Committee.
ACFHP will start accepting nominations for the 2022 Melissa Laser Fish Habitat Conservation Award in the upcoming weeks. The announcement will be made via our newsletter, website, and Facebook page. For more information on the Melissa Laser Award, please visit: https://www.atlanticfishhabitat.org/ melissa-laser-fish-habitat-conservation-award/.