Eric Hanson wins GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award

Green Mountain Power honors Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ loon expert for recovery work

Eric Hanson, loon biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies / © Caleb Kenna

WILLISTON, VT,  April 23, 2019 — 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.

“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.

About Green Mountain Power
Green Mountain Power (GMP) serves approximately 265,000 residential and business customers in Vermont and is partnering with them to improve lives and transform communities. GMP is focused on a new way of doing business to meet the needs of customers with integrated energy services that help people use less energy and save money, while continuing to generate clean, cost-effective and reliable power in Vermont. GMP was the only utility named to Fast Company’s 2018 list of Most Innovative Companies for Energy and is the first utility in the world to get a B Corp certification, meeting rigorous social, environmental, accountability and transparency standards and committing to use business as a force for good. J.D. Power’s 2018 rankings also put GMP among top utilities for customer satisfaction.

About Vermont Center for Ecostudies
The Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) advances wildlife conservation from Canada to South America using the combined strength of scientific research, long-term monitoring, and citizen engagement. With roots firmly in Vermont, VCE’s focus on northeastern North America’s migratory wildlife leads their work across the western hemisphere to unite people and science for conservation.

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Eric Hanson, loon biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies / © Caleb Kenna

Eric Hanson sharing a few words after being presented with the GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award on Lake Iriquois in Williston, VT on April 23, 2019 / © Karen Bourque

 

GMP’s Steve Costello with VCE’s Eric Hanson and Susan Hindinger at the GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award ceremony on the shores of Lake Iriquois in Williston, VT. / © Karen Bourque