Huron-Manistee National Forests biologist earns lifetime achievement award

Portrait photo of Phil Huber in Forest Service uniform
Phil Huber, recipient of the 2019 Lloyd W. Swift, Sr. Award. USDA Forest Service photo.

MICHIGAN – The USDA Forest Service awarded the prestigious Lloyd W. Swift, Sr. Award to Huron-Manistee National Forests biologist Phil Huber. The award is presented periodically to current or past Forest Service employees who demonstrated a lifetime of dedication, commitment and leadership in the management of the wildlife and fisheries of the United States.

“I can think of no employee more deserving of this honor,” said Huron-Manistee National Forests Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo. “Phil’s 37-year career is a testament to the power of partnerships, education and technology in overcoming seemingly intractable conservation challenges.”

Huber is best known for his contributions to Kirtland’s warbler recovery efforts. When he first arrived on the Huron-Manistee National Forests in 1981, there were only 232 known pairs of the Kirtland’s warbler. Census data from 2017 revealed nearly 2,200 pairs, and in 2018 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the bird from the federal endangered species list.

The growth of the Kirtland’s warbler population was a result of more than 35 years of collaboration among the Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and numerous partner organizations. For more than 20 years, Huber played a pivotal role in this cooperation via the Kirtland’s warbler recovery team, an interagency group that facilitated information sharing and activities critical to the species’ recovery. More recently, Huber has helped guide the recovery team’s transition to a conservation team that will continue to focus on long-term conservation efforts.

Kirkland warbler standing on a tree branch
The Kirtland’s warbler nests almost exclusively in northern Michigan’s young jack pine forests. In 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to remove the warbler from the Endangered Species List as a result of successful conservation efforts. USDA Forest Service photo.

Throughout his career, Huber has taken a long view of wildlife conservation. He has mentored dozens of younger employees, some of whom went on to distinguished careers as Forest Service biologists, botanists, and technicians. Moreover, Huber has cultivated relationships with higher educational institutions throughout the Midwest and The Bahamas to prepare the next generation of natural resource professionals.

Recognized by his colleagues as an early adopter of new technologies, Huber has leveraged geospatial applications and other tools to enhance the management of the Huron-Manistee National Forests. He continues to ensure that his coworkers are trained those technologies and has been at the forefront of enhancing the efficiency of analyses conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Forest Service will formally present the Lloyd W. Swift. Sr. Award to Huber at the Rise to the Future Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 11, 2019. The name of the awards ceremony is appropriate, as Huber’s vision remains fixed on future wildlife conservation efforts.

“Recovery of the Kirtland’s warbler is the result of hundreds of dedicated individuals over the past five decades,” said Huber.  “This award is really about the great work of biologists, foresters, researchers, volunteers and others that have worked together to make recovery possible. My hope is that this will bring attention to the strong and innovative partnerships that made Kirtland’s warbler recovery efforts so successful.”