Conservationist Scott Fisher said he's been "overwhelmed" by the attention he's received since being named an environmental hero by Sunset magazine last month - but he's proud to share the spotlight with the lands he's fought hard to protect.
Fisher was named the 2012 hero under the age of 40 in the magazine's annual environmental awards. The Kula resident serves as director of conservation and Maui island director for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.
"Obviously, it's an incredible honor," he said. "For me personally, it's sort of the culmination of a recognition of the need for conservation on Maui. It elevates the need to protect Maui's important cultural and natural resources."
Scott Fisher, a conservationist, leads an educational community hike at the Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge in 2008. Fisher was recognized last month as Sunset magazine’s 2012 environmental hero under the age of 40. He currently serves as director of conservation and Maui island director for the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust.
Hawaiian Islands Land Trust photo
Since the awards were announced in the magazine's March issue, Fisher said he's been hearing from scores of friends, many of whom he hasn't seen since his time in college or his service in the Marine Corps in Operation Desert Storm.
"It's been a little overwhelming," he said.
Land Trust Executive Director Dale Bonar said Fisher is a "humble guy" who has been "blushing" under the attention he's received.
"We're all so proud that Scott's achievements are being recognized on the outside the way we recognize them from the inside here," Bonar said Thursday.
Sunset recognized Fisher for his work protecting 17,000 acres of "tropical paradise" throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Fisher previously served as project manager for the Maui Coastal Land Trust from 2003 to 2011, where he oversaw the organization's 277-acre Waihee Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge. Since last year, he has led the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust's conservation efforts on Maui and statewide.
Fisher said his work involves all aspects of conservation, including working to protect lands through acquisition or easement, as well as managing the eradication of invasive species and the restoration of native habitat on the properties managed by the trust.
"It's so close to my heart - being born and raised here, and having the opportunity to protect lands that I've grown up with, that are now threatened both by ecological degradation and by development and land-use transformation."
In addition to his work with the land trust, Fisher is fluent in Hawaiian and holds a doctorate in peace studies.
Also in March, the magazine presented its lifetime-achievement "environmental hero" award to Audrey Rust of Silicon Valley's Peninsula Open Space Trust. It also presented nine additional awards to places, programs and organizations for protecting special lands in the West.
Fisher said the recognition came as a "surprise" - a co-worker had secretly nominated him for the award and kept it quiet through numerous rounds of review, only telling him about it when the judging committee asked to interview him.
Although he was nominated when he was 39, the review process took so long that he turned 41 before he was told he'd received the award - a technicality the magazine said would not affect his eligibility for the recognition.
"I was picking up my kids from school when they called," he said.
While Fisher stressed that his work is really a team effort, Bonar said he brings something special to the organization.
"When Scott speaks, he's speaking from the heart," Bonar said. "He gets people engaged, excited about the work that we do. Because of his connection to Hawaii, because he is part Hawaiian, because he grew up here, he's got that deep, deep-rooted love of the land, and it just shines through."
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.