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Joe Manchin III, Governor

Frank Jezioro, Director


News Release : March 23, 2007


Hoy Murphy , Public Information Officer (304) 558-3381
Tom Chapman (USFWS) 304/636/6586 or Hoy Murphy (WVDNR) 304-558-2003 ext. 365

WVDNR Biologist Craig Stihler Wins National Conservation Recognition

Craig Stihler, a biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources in Elkins, has received the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2006 National Recovery Champion award, according to Tom Chapman of the Service’s West Virginia Field Office. The Recovery Champion award recognizes outstanding contributions of Service employees and their partners toward recovering threatened and endangered species in the United States. “The Recovery Champion award not only recognizes the exceptional conservation ac complishments of the honorees, it also provides the public with a unique opportunity to learn about endangered species conservation,” said the Service Director H. Dale Hall. “These Recovery Champions are extraordinary conservationists dedicated to protecting and restoring our nation’s wildlife and ensuring that future generations of Americans enjoy the natural treasures we experience today.”

Stihler worked to protect and conserve endangered species at the WVDNR for more than 20 years. He is recognized as an expert on a number of species including the Cheat Mountain salamander, the flat-spired three-toothed land snail and the West Virginia northern flying squirrel. “His uncompromising and tireless work to conserve West Virginia’s rarest species make him most deserving of this prestigious award and make us proud to have him as an employee,” said Curtis Taylor, Wildlife Resources Section Chief.

Although Stihler’s recovery efforts have not been limited to any one group or species, his passion is bats, particularly the Indiana bat and the Virginia big-eared bat. Stihler has been instrumental in leading efforts to reduce human disturbance in caves, a major threat to both species. He has worked to educate recreational cavers on the importance of scheduling their activities to avoid disturbing the bats during critical times.

Stihler also has worked to build trust and rapport with private landowners who own the entrances to the caves. As a result of his inter-personal skills, many landowners have implemented voluntary measures to protect threatened and endangered species, and have allowed state and federal biologists to access caves to conduct population monitoring and research.

The effectiveness of Stihler’s focus on bat recovery is clear. Over the past 15 years, the number of Virginia big-eared bats in West Virginia maternity caves has increased by 55 percent and the population of Indiana bats hibernating in West Virginia has increased by almost 220 percent.

“Craig’s technical expertise and endless enthusiasm for wildlife have made the WVDNR an invaluable partner to the Service in our effort to protect endangered species. We were privileged to nominate Craig for this award,” said Chapman.

Craig Stihler is originally from Monroe County, Mich., and is married to the former Chris Taylor. They reside in Elkins.

For additional information please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Champion website at: or the WV DNR webpage at: West Virginia DNR - Wildlife Resources

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million- acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices, and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American Tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to State fish and wildlife agencies.

The WV Division of Natural Resources is the state agency charged with protecting all wildlife resources of the state for the use and enjoyment of its citizens and for their recreational, economic, scientific and educational values.


WVDNR biologist Craig Stihler, left, was recently awarded the national Recovery Champion Award by Tom Chapman, right, of the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Elkins field office.

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