The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has selected Kathleen Foley, director of education and outreach for the San Juan Preservation Trust, to be one of six international 2010 Disney Conservation Heroes.
Foley was chosen for her leadership of the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project in the San Juan Islands in Washington State, and is the only American to receive the award.
The Disney Conservation Hero award recognizes citizens around the world for their tireless efforts at the local level to save wildlife, protect habitats and educate the communities around them.
“Conservation efforts around the globe and in our own backyard rely on the local community and direct involvement of dedicated people like our Disney Conservation Heroes,” said Dr. Jackie Ogden, Vice President, Animal Programs and Environmental Initiatives, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “These are extraordinary individuals who are passionate about protecting animals and habitats in areas of critical concern.”
Once a common sight in the San Juan Islands, the Western bluebird disappeared completely from the archipelago in the early 1960s. To reintroduce this extirpated species, Foley has been leading a community outreach effort in support of the San Juan Islands Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project, a partnership that includes American Bird Conservancy, Ecostudies Institute, San Juan Islands Audubon Society, Department of Defense Fort Lewis Military Installation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, and the San Juan Preservation Trust (Foley’s employer).
Just completing its fourth year, this reintroduction project has enjoyed resounding success, recording annual increases in returning bluebirds, nesting populations and number of birds fledged. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund specifically called out Foley’s tireless efforts to integrate the island community into the project by reaching out to residents, businesses and tourists, speaking to schools, enlisting and leading volunteers, and educating landowners about habitat values on their properties.
“Kathleen has single-handedly elevated awareness of wildlife habitat conservation in our islands,” said Tim Seifert, executive director of the San Juan Preservation Trust. “It is gratifying to see her acknowledged for the inspirational work she is doing.”
Project manager Bob Altman of American Bird Conservancy added, “The success of the Western Bluebird Reintroduction Project is directly related to Kathleen’s passion and commitment to the birds, the habitat, and the people on the San Juan Island.”
This year’s other Disney Conservation Hero honorees are leading conservation programs across the globe to protect habitat on behalf of chimpanzees in Guinea, diving ducks and birds of prey in Madagascar, lizards in Guatemala, spectacled bears in Peru, and leatherback sea turtles in Papua New Guinea. Recipients each receive a $1,000 cash award. Foley has already dedicated her award to the bluebird reintroduction program.