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Prominent Ecologist New Forest And Bird President

June 18, 2001 - Wellington

MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Prominent Ecologist New Forest And Bird President

Forest and Bird, New Zealand’s largest environmental group, has a new president - 47 year old ecologist and tourism operator, Dr Gerry McSweeney.

The 78 year old Society, for the first time in its history, had a presidential election, with Dr McSweeney challenging incumbent President Keith Chapple.

“Forest and Bird is an extremely successful environmental group. Its large membership is spread throughout New Zealand in 52 branches ranging from Stewart Island to the Far North,” said Dr McSweeney. It combines members’ passion for the outdoors and for our unique plants and animals with the advocacy needed to preserve New Zealand’s unique mature heritage and natural environment in a fast changing world.”

“Much of the present boom in our tourism industry is centred around the 30% of New Zealand that is protected as Parks and Reserves largely through the efforts of Forest and Bird members over the last 78 years. Forest and Bird’s challenge is to make sure that the tourism industry does not degrade New Zealand’s Parks and Reserves network. The Parks also face ongoing threats from introduced pests and predators such as deer, possums, stoat and rats. Forest and Bird will give every support to weed and pest control operators to save our unique wildlife heritage.

“Our rivers, lakes, tussock grasslands and marine systems are all under pressure from rapidly expanding farming, hydro energy proposals and the fishing industry. Forest and Bird, in partnership with other non-government environmental and recreation organisations, must argue the case for environmental protection in the face of ever increasing industry demands.”

“Above all, we want New Zealanders to get involved with Forest and Bird. They can go on field trips every weekend in virtually every New Zealand town and city. They can join in practical conservation projects to restore nature, replant forest and wetlands. By becoming members of Forest and Bird people can add their voice to New Zealand’s most powerful organisation arguing to preserve our heritage.”

Dr McSweeney paid tribute to the extraordinary dedication of outgoing Forest and Bird Society President, Keith Chapple, who has led Forest and Bird for the last 4½ years.

“Keith has spearheaded efforts to restore our river systems to their natural glory. He has broadened Conservationists’ horizons beyond birds and trees to rivers, lakes and marine systems, that make New Zealand such a special place.”

Ends

Note to Editor:

Dr McSweeney hails from Arthur’s Pass in Canterbury where he and his wife, Anne Saunders, run a high country sheep station. At Arthur’s Pass and at Lake Moeraki, in the Southern West Coast, they operate two Wilderness Lodges and are very involved in eco-tourism. Dr McSweeney was Forest and Bird National Conservation Director from 1983-89, Park Scientist at Westland National Park 1979-83, and has a Doctorate in Ecology and Resource Management from Lincoln University.


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