THE fight by volunteers to protect and enhance the region's environment and biodiversity has secured the Sunshine Coast two prestigious National Landcare Awards.
At a ceremony in Melbourne on Thursday night, Mary River Catchment Care Coordinating Committee officer Stephen Burgess won the coveted 2016 Bob Hawke Landcare Award which includes $50,000 to further develop his knowledge and skills in sustainable land management practices.
Mr Burgess was a prominent member of the team which fought to stop the controversial Traveston Crossing Dam on the Mary River.
Coolum and District Coast Care was another of the big winners on the night, with Leigh Warneminde and Edwin Hammet on hand to accept the 2016 National Landcare Coastcare Award.
Mr Burgess is recovering from heart surgery and unable to attend, with the award being accepted by fellow anti-Traveston Dam warrior and Mary River environmentalist Glenda Pickersgill.
"He's the most brilliant man, with knowledge and sharing and caring for his community," Ms Pickersgill said.
"I think it will be so special for him to be honoured for all the volunteer work that he's done.
"It's a wonderful thing at this stage in his life to be recognised for this. I think awards like this encourage, share, educate, and motivate others to follow in his footsteps."
The Bob Hawke award honours a person who has demonstrated a remarkable commitment to caring for the land; champions better land management practices and gives their time to share knowledge with others so they too can prosper.
Mr Burgess has run Wurraglen Nature Refuge at Dagun, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, for nearly 20 years.
He is a bushwalker, who until his recent poor health conducted regular forays sharing his vast knowledge and encouraging in others a commitment to caring for the land.
The former Gympie high school teacher ran a weekly Landcare awareness project with his students.
Prior to his shift to Queensland, Mr Burgess worked in Western Australia with the Department of Agriculture, where he developed a program for the wheat belt which improved the efficiency of fertiliser use, reduced leaching losses and introduced explicit consideration of soil organic nitrogen pools into fertilizer decisions.
Coolum District Coast Care has been a visible presence on the Maroochy River north shore since its formation in 2001.
Its work ranges from the mouth to Coolum, monitoring and protecting turtle nesting sites and engaging in the removal of noxious weeds and the rehabilitation of frontal sand dunes.
Spokesperson Leigh Warneminde is hopeful the national honour will fare better than the Queensland one that qualified them for consideration.
That clasped-hands trophy was knocked and broken before it could on display and now sits glued together in a cabinet.
Ms Warneminde said like all environmental groups, Coolum and District Coast Care's biggest challenge was its sustainability.
She acknowledged the financial support provided by Sunshine Coast Council, saying it was something for which the group was grateful.
But other revenue sources would be needed and a permanent home if the group was to grow its numbers and take on additional projects.
The judges said the group had galvanised energy and public interest in caring for the coastal environment on the Maroochy north shore and beyond.
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