SEWE Launches Inaugural Conservation Award

For the last two years, the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition team has been quietly working to facilitate an award that recognizes individuals making exceptional contributions to wildlife and nature conservation all around the world.

At this year’s SEWE, those efforts will come to fruition as the first Award for Conservation Excellence is presented an awards ceremony on Feb. 14.

Known as ACE, the award was created out of a partnership between SEWE and Banovich Wildscapes Foundation. John Banovich, a former SEWE Featured Artist, and friend of the Cabela family, had long envisioned this award as way to recognize conservationists and honor the founders of one of the world’s largest outdoor retailers, explained John Powell, executive director of SEWE.

John Banovich & Jack Hanna
John Banovich & Jack Hanna

As the idea for the ACE took shape, Powell says they visited members of the Cabela Family Foundation, coming away with a $50,000 commitment and another $50,000 from Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, which is supported by customer donations at the point of sale. Banovich is also friends with Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, who also generously pledged $50,000 for the award.

There are people around the world coming together to make this happen, and it is possible due to the support from two of the largest outdoor retailers” Powell says, noting that members of the Cabela family and Morris will attend the awards ceremony. “These are the most influential people in the history of the outdoor retail industry.”

Nearly 50 individuals from around the globe were nominated for the award, giving the steering committee and judging committee plenty of qualified options. The nominees were narrowed down to five finalists:

George Archibald, Ph.D., co-founder of the International Crane Foundation

Joel Berger, Ph.D., Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair in Wildlife Conservation in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, & Conservation Biology at Colorado State University

K. Ullas Karanth, Ph.D., director for Science-Asia, Wildlife Conservation Society in Bangalore, Karnataka, India

David Macdonald, Ph.D., director of WildCRU, Zoology, University of Oxford, Recanati Kaplan Centre in Tubney, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

Tim McClanahan, Ph.D. and Nyawira Muthiga, Ph.D., founders of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Coral Reef Program

The first-place winner will be awarded a $100,000 cash prize and a $5,000 Cabela’s gift certificate. The four finalists also will receive awards and recognition.

All the causes and organizations they support are worthy,” Powell says of the ACE finalists. “This award is a game-changer in the conservation arena for those who often fight tooth and nail for funding.”

Right now, Powell says the plan to continue the award every other year and he’s hopeful the existing sponsors and new partners will want to get on board.

Tables are still available for the Feb. 14 ACE dinner and awards ceremony at Charleston Gaillard Center. Several high-profile guests will be in attendance, including Jack Hanna, Charlie Duke (Apollo 16), Jeff Foxworthy, Johnny Morris and members of the Cabela family.