George Ellison

Wild South held its Fifth Annual Green Gala, celebrating the 2012 Roosevelt-Ashe Society’s Conservation Award winners, last Friday March 22. Wild South is a regional nonprofit with offices in Asheville, Nc. and Moulton, Ala. that works to protect, conserve and enhance the wild places and wild things across the South. According to Wild South’s website the Roosevelt-Ashe Society is “a select group of individuals and businesses committed to sustaining the protection of the Southeast’s wild places. They uphold the legacies of President Theodore Roosevelt and Mr. W.W. Ashe by making personally significant contributions to support Wild South programs.”

And every year, through open nominations, Wild South selects Roosevelt-Ashe nominees in at least five categories to recognize the outstanding work being done to help protect the wild things and wild places of the South. “These awards recognize present day conservation heroes for their contributions to protect wild places and wild things across our region” said Tracy Davids, Wild South’s Executive Director, in a recent press release. “Like Teddy Roosevelt and W.W. Ashe for whom our giving society and awards are named, their work exemplifies passion, dedication, and leadership.”

“Wild South’s Roosevelt-Ashe Conservation Awards always attract high caliber nominees, and this year is no exception. These conservation heroes have their own amazing stories of passion for a cause, tenacity and victory,” said Todd Witcher, Award Selection Committee member.

This year’s nominees and winners are: Outstanding Business in Conservation – Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (Asheville, Nc.); Cherokee Historical Association (Cherokee, Nc.) and Avondale Brewing Company (Birmingham, Ala.): Outstanding Journalist in Conservation – Bob Davis (Anniston Star, Ala.); Harry Austin (Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.) and George Ellison (Freelance Writer, Naturalist, Nc.): Outstanding Educator in Conservation – Mark Case (Southern Guilford High, Nc.); Tracy Childers (West McDowell Jr. High School, Nc.) and Heather Montgomery (McDowell Environmental Center, Dragonfly EE Programs, Ala.): Outstanding Youth in Conservation – Mirel Crumb (Food for Life, Sierra Club, Tenn.); Maya Crumb (Food for Life, Sierra Club, Tenn.) and Avalon Thiesen (Conserve it Forward, Fla.): Outstanding Conservationist – Charles Rose (Shoals Environmental Alliance, Ala.); Margaret Copeland (Friends of Noxubee, Audubon Society, Miss.) and Chris Oberholster (The Nature Conservancy, Ala.) An independent committee composed of respected conservationists from around the South selects the winners every year. And it’s a job I sure don’t envy because when I looked around that room last Friday night at the nominees – they were (are) all winners.

I feel especially fortunate to have been present on the evening my friend, George Ellison, won his award for Outstanding Journalist in Conservation. Ellison’s literary accomplishments are many and varied. He wrote the biographical introductions for the reissues of two Southern Appalachian classics: Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders and James Mooney’s History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. A collection of his essays, Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina, was published in 2005 and that just scratches the surface as he continues to have his work published. In 2012 The History Press published Permanent Camp: Poems, Narratives and Renderings from the Smokies that includes his wife Elizabeth Ellison’s art.

And after decades of leading natural history programs and seminars in indoors and outdoors settings across the mountains of Western North Carolina for groups and venues ranging from North Carolina Arboretum, University of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountain Field School, North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, to the Intentional Growth Center, Center for Life Enrichment, to the Swag Inn on the Cataloochee Divide, Ellison is still the most sought after naturalist in the Western North Carolina mountains. Congratulations friend.