Green Mountain Power honors Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ loon expert for recovery work
Vermont Business Magazine Eric Hanson, a biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) who spearheaded recovery of the formerly endangered common loon in Vermont, was presented the 2019 GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award today. The award, named for Milton resident Meeri Zetterstrom, who inspired recovery efforts that lead to the removal of the osprey from Vermont’s endangered species list, was presented at Lake Iroquois, one of the state’s most recently established loon nesting sites.
2019 GMP-Zetterstrom Award Winner Eric Hanson, Vermont Center for Ecostudies Loon Biologist (center) with Steve Costello, GMP Vice President (left) and Susan Hindinger, Vermont Center for Ecostudies Associate Director (right) on the shore of Lake Iroquois in Williston, Vermont. GMP photo
“Eric’s remarkable dedication, leadership and engagement of Vermonters is inspiring in the same way as Meeri Zetterstrom,” said GMP Vice President Steve Costello, who worked on osprey recovery efforts with Zetterstrom for years. “When a Vermonter hears the haunting and distinct call of a loon, we have Eric to thank for his restoration work and leadership.”
Hanson, leader of VCE’s Vermont Loon Conservation Project, in close cooperation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, collaborated with hydroelectric operators like Green Mountain Power, anglers, lake associations, game wardens, the Nature Conservancy, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, individual property owners, and hundreds of volunteers.
Hanson’s efforts over the past 21 years have included work to educate Vermonters about loons and their nesting needs, protect nest sites, assist injured and sick loons, and ultimately build a sustainable breeding population. Hanson’s leadership led to loons’ removal from Vermont’s endangered species list in 2005. Statewide, loons have rebounded from a low of only seven nesting pairs in the mid-1980s to nearly 100 the past two summers.
Chris Rimmer, executive director of VCE, said that when Hanson learned of the award, he was characteristically humble, and insistent that the credit was widely shared.
“Without question, a major reason for the successful comeback of loons in Vermont is that boaters and lakeshore owners have been made aware of what loons need, and they’re eager to help,” Hanson said. “I have over 1,400 people on my contact list, including individual volunteers, lake associations, state parks, game wardens, and other groups. These people share their love of loons with thousands more than I could possibly reach.
“VCE connects people and science for conservation, and that’s exactly what I've been doing for over 20 years,” he said.
“It is no understatement that Eric has accomplished more for conservation of Vermont’s environment, focusing on the common loon, than any of us will ever truly realize,” Rimmer said. “He has led VCE’s efforts to increase loon nesting nearly tenfold, and engaged hundreds of citizen scientists and members of the public in the process. He’s one of the greatest collaborators I’ve ever known, and delivers results that have a big impact for the environment.”
Zetterstrom was known as “Grandma Osprey.” She began her efforts to restore ospreys at Milton’s Lake Arrowhead in the late 1980s. Her vision, collaboration and leadership prompted utilities, the state, and landowners to work together, and ospreys were removed from the endangered species list in 2005. The award was created shortly before she died in 2010.
The GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award is given annually to one person, business, group or non-profit that has made a significant contribution to Vermont’s environment. The award is accompanied by a $2,500 donation to the winner’s environmental cause.
Past Zetterstrom Award recipients include Sally Laughlin, a pioneering conservationist whose work was instrumental in early efforts to restore loons and other endangered birds; Michael Smith, founder of Rutland’s Pine Hill Park; Margaret Fowle, who led Vermont’s peregrine falcon restoration program; the Lake Champlain Committee, which works to protect and improve Lake Champlain; Kelly Stettner, founder of the Black River Action Team; Roy Pilcher, founder of the Rutland County Chapter of Audubon; Lake Champlain International, which works to protect Lake Champlain and its communities; Marty Illick of the Lewis Creek Association; and Steve Parren, a state wildlife biologist.
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Source: GMP 4.23.2019