At the Florida Wildlife Federation’s 75th Annual Conservation Awards Banquet held June 16, at the St. Petersburg Bayfront Hilton, 19 outstanding Florida conservationists were recognized for their achievements. The Federation’s annual selection of conservation award winners is one of the oldest in the state. Award winners are chosen from nominations made to the Federation’s board of directors based on their accomplishments on behalf of Florida’s fish, wildlife and native habitats. Officer Kenny McCain, US Fish & Wildlife Service, has been selected as the organization’s Francis S. Taylor Outdoorsman of the Year.
Ken “Kenny” McCain was born in Cedar Key on the Gulf of Mexico and has made his home in the region ever since. First employed with the Division of Forestry as a firefighter, in 1990 he came to work at the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges. He has been described as a “jack of all trades and master of many,” a tireless worker with a positive, can-do attitude. McCain is also definitely someone who would rather be out in the woods than sitting behind a desk.
The Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, encompassing 53,000 acres, was established in 1979 to protect a vast, unspoiled river-delta system. It straddles both sides of the Suwannee River in both Dixie and Levy counties and is fairly remote. It is a 55 mile drive to get from one side of the Refuge to the other due to the river bisecting the property. Officer McCain knows these woods and waters better than anyone since coming to the Refuge. He is also very familiar with the Cedar Key Refuges, a 762-acre collection of 13 islands in the Gulf.
Certified as a law enforcement officer in 1992, McCain served as both an officer and as a forester on the Refuge. From 2004 until 2011, he was the only law enforcement presence on the Refuge, making cases for poaching, night hunting, license violations and other misconduct. His success in deterring crime is centered on his network of relationships with local citizens. He puts in the extra effort to engage the public and it has paid off.
Officer McCain also teaches boating to Department of Interior employees, and is a certified armorer. Following Hurricane Katrina, he was assigned to Louisiana for three weeks to help maintain public order and was involved in wildlife rescue. He is also an ardent firefighter, having served many times in the Western United States as a crew chief.
The lands of the Lower Suwannee, formerly owned by a timber company, have been systematically transformed back into their natural state, with site appropriate longleaf pines replacing slash pine plantations over time. McCain enjoys just walking in the woods, especially trekking in the old bottomlands near the river and is a master of cast-netting for mullet.
For his lifelong love of Old Florida, and his heartfelt desire to protect it and our citizens, the Federation is proud to name Officer Kenny McCain as the Francis S. Taylor Outdoorsman of the Year for 2012.