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BRC’s Eric Hiegl Named Land Conservationist of the Year

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Last Updated on July 20, 2022 4:33 pm

RALEIGH, NCNorth Carolina Wildlife Federation has announced the winners of its 58th Annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards. Honorees for 2022 include agency professionals, elected officials, volunteers and organizations committed to North Carolina’s wildlife, habitat and natural resources. Eric Hiegl, Blue Ridge Conservancy’s Director of Land Protection, has been named the 2022 Land Conservationist of the Year.

“It is a distinct honor to work with Eric Hiegl,” says BRC Executive Director Charlie Brady. “He is the consummate professional, having devoted his entire working life to land conservation in North Carolina. The achievements realized over his twenty-year career are substantial and have earned him the respect of others in this field. He possesses immense knowledge of the technical requirements necessary to acquire land and conservation easements.”

Brady goes on to say: “However, his skills of working with landowners and other interested parties are even more impressive. He earns the trust of landowners because he conveys genuine honesty and concern for their interests. No one is more deserving to receive the Governor's Award for Land Conservation than Eric.”

Hiegl joins an elite group of dedicated conservationists with BRC ties to win this award, including last year’s winner and former BRC Executive Director Walter Clark and 2017 winner Margaret Newbold, current BRC trustee and past board chair. Mike Leonard, winner of BRC’s Stanback Conservation Leadership Award in 2021, was recognized in 2011, and James Coman, former Director of Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust, was honored in the early 2000s. 

Land Conservationist of the Year, Eric Hiegl (Boone)

From ecologically significant mountains to working farms in the valleys, Eric Hiegl loves exploring North Carolina’s diverse landscapes. His commitment to conserving the state’s natural resources guides him in his role as director of land protection and stewardship for Blue Ridge Conservancy.

Hiegl’s deep knowledge of the high country, strong relationships with landowners, and passion for protecting critical tracts have led to numerous land protection successes. 

Grandfather Mountain, Elk Knob, Three Top Mountain and Pond Mountain are among North Carolina’s treasures known for their spectacular views. Hiegl was instrumental in protecting these significant natural resources – and dozens of tracts along the Blue Ridge Parkway – through land acquisitions and easements. 

His seven-year pursuit and purchase of Paddy Mountain was filled with twists and turns but ended in conserving 152 acres. Hiegl also played a pivotal role in creating the Middle Fork Greenway, a multi-use trail that connects Boone and Blowing Rock. 

Hiegl tells the story of the how the Paddy Mountain project came together, and discusses future plans for the mountain, which include the Northern Peaks Trail trailhead.
Ben Lucas, BRC’s Director of Stewardship, and Hiegl in front of Three Top Mountain, which is an ongoing land conservation focus area for BRC.

2022 Governor’s Conservation Achievement Award Recipients

  • Conservationist of the Year – Dr. James F. Parnell, professor emeritus, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Biological Sciences, Wilmington, NC
  • Wildlife Conservationist of the Year – Jeff Hunter, senior program manager, National Parks Conservation Association, Southeast Regional Office, Burnsville, NC
  • Sportsman of the Year – Wes Seegars, commissioner, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Goldsboro, NC
  • Land Conservationist of the Year – Eric Hiegl, director of land protection & stewardship, Blue Ridge Conservancy, Boone, NC
  • Marine Conservationist of the Year – Tom Roller, founder, owner and operator, Waterdog Guide Service, Beaufort, NC
  • Forest Conservationist of the Year – Alton Perry, director of the sustainable forestry and land retention program, Roanoke Electric Cooperative, Aulander, NC
  • Environmental Educator of the Year – Lauren Daniel, water education program manager, N.C. Division of Water Resources, Swansboro, NC
  • Young Conservationist of the Year – Lauren Zuravel, Terry Sanford High School, Fayetteville, NC
  • Conservation Organization of the Year – North Carolina Urban Forest Council, Raleigh, NC
  • Legislator of the Year — Senator Jim Perry, North Carolina General Assembly, Kinston, NC
  • Business Conservationist of the Year – Maxie B’s Bakery, Robin Davis, founder and CEO, Greensboro, NC
  • Natural Resources Scientist of the Year — Todd Ewing, program coordinator, Southeast Aquatic Research Partnership, former assistant chief, Inland Fisheries Division, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Fuquay-Varina, NC
  • Wildlife Volunteers of the Year – Herb and Pat Amyx, Wake Forest, NC
  • Public Lands Conservationist of the Year – Gretchen Smith, president, Friends of the Lower Haw River State Natural Area, Chapel Hill, NC
  • NCWF Chapter of the Year – Island Wildlife Chapter, Wilmington, NC
  • NCWF Affiliate of the Year – Mainspring Conservation Trust, Franklin, NC

N.C. Wildlife Federation will honor the 19 award recipients, including the to-be-announced wildlife enforcement and marine patrol officers of the year, at a banquet on Saturday, Sept. 10, in Cary.

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