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2024 southern region award winners announced: celebrating excellence and innovation in forestry

The Southern Group of State Foresters honored award recipients from Georgia, Florida and North Carolina during their 2024 Annual Meeting

Wilmington, NC – The Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) today hosted its annual awards ceremony to recognize the outstanding work of forestry professionals in the Southern Region. The event was held in downtown Wilmington during the SGSF 2024 Annual Meeting, hosted by the North Carolina Forest Service.

The ceremony celebrated the achievements of forestry professionals who have made significant contributions to wildfire prevention, forest management and stewardship, and water resources management. The awards were given to those who demonstrated exceptional leadership, innovation and collaboration in their work.

“We are proud to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the southern forestry community,” said Russell Bozeman, SGSF Chair and Mississippi State Forester. “These individuals have significantly influenced our region by embracing hard work, innovative solutions and collaboration to ensure the sustainability and vitality of our forests.”

This year’s awardees included:

The award ceremony, which was attended by a diverse group of forestry professionals, dignitaries and industry leaders, highlighted the dedication and hard work of the honorees and the positive impacts they have had toward the conservation, protection and enhancement of southern forests.

2024 Awards Ceremony

2023 Robert E. Browning Award

Nassau County Fire Prevention Team
District 7, Florida Forest Service


The USDA Forest Service Region 8 Robert E. Browning Award honors outstanding efforts in preventing human-caused wildfires. In 2023, the Florida Forest Service District 7 Nassau County Fire Prevention Team, consisting of Sean Dowie, Salvador Dalu, Ande Williams, Tim Steed, Kinsey Langshaw, Cierra Moore, Damian Abbott and Matthew Clark, demonstrated exceptional commitment to fire prevention. Through innovative displays, community events and educational programs, the team increased their outreach efforts by 218%, leading to a 35% reduction in human-caused fires. Their participation in the Northeast Florida Fair, Hilliard Annual Town Cleanup, Woods & Water Family Fun Day and various school events reached nearly 48,000 people, showcasing their dedication to promoting fire safety and protecting the community.

2024 Awards Ceremony

2023 Robert E. Browning Award

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Chattooga River Ranger District

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Chattooga River Ranger District, including Amy McClave, Thomas Black, Bret Sparks, Tim Dean, Steven Roberts, Donna Olson, Rose Rudisill, Barb Ramey, Casey Quarterman and Ryan Williams, are being recognized for their efforts in fire prevention, including an emphasis on education as a key part of their fire prevention strategy and coordinated events involving numerous first responder partners, reaching audiences of all ages.  The District team utilized one-on-one contacts, displays and Smokey Bear appearances, including a 13 foot Smokey Bear inflatable. Their programming reached over 7,100 people and fire management leadership are confident their efforts reduced unwanted ignitions across the district and beyond.

2024 Awards Ceremony

USFS Southern Region Forest Stewardship Forester Award

Keith E. Sanders
Management Forester III
Georgia Forestry Commission

Keith Sanders, a dedicated field forester with the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) since 1990, has made impactful contributions to forestry across five counties in the Chattahoochee Fall Line Area. Renowned for his leadership in GFC’s Forest Health initiatives, he has conducted successful outreach programs and educational events, significantly influencing forest management practices. In 2023, Keith’s achievements included managing 202 cases that enhanced over 16,000 acres of forestland, with 17 Forest Stewardship Plans covering 2,351 acres. His commitment to excellence extends to prescribed burns, firebreak inspections, and critical pest control projects. Known for his positive attitude and eagerness to help, Keith has built lasting relationships with landowners, colleagues and the community.

2024 Awards Ceremony

George E. Dissmeyer Forest Water Resource Outstanding Service Award

Bill A. Swartley (Retired)
Tom A. Gerow, Jr. (Retired)
Water Resources Branch
North Carolina Forest Service

Bill Swartley and Tom Gerow have made significant contributions to forestry and water quality management over the course of their careers with the North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS). Prior to retirement, both Bill and Tom, as Water Resources Branch Program Head and Water Resources Staff Forester respectively, led efforts to advance communication, assessments and implementation of forestry best management practices (BMPs) for water quality. They developed essential programs like the bridgemat loaning initiative and the annual Forestry Water Quality Year-In-Review, which highlights the branch’s accomplishments. Their work includes creating educational materials such as pocket guides and newsletters, supporting research projects that demonstrated BMP effectiveness and updating the North Carolina Forestry BMP Manual. Their efforts have resulted in NCFS being recognized for having one of the premier state forestry water resource programs in the country.