(UNDATED) - Two long-time DNR employees who helped lead efforts to protect threatened wildlife and natural areas in Indiana have retired after a combined 57 years of service.
Lee Casebere, assistant director of the DNR Division of Nature Preserves, is leaving after 33 years as a full-time DNR employee. Katie G. Smith, supervisor of the Wildlife Diversity Unit, a part of the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife, is leaving after 24 years. Both retired Friday.
"We're losing two very dedicated public servants whose passions for conservation and wildlife preservation is unmatched," said DNR director Cameron Clark.
Casebere supervised eight regional ecologists who managed the more than 250 state-dedicated nature preserves, and he oversaw the division's prescribed-fire program. The division protects high-quality natural areas.
Early in his career, Casebere inventoried rare plant and animal species and is responsible for locating several high-quality natural areas, according to John Bacone, director of the Division of Nature Preserves.
"Thanks to his efforts, a number of special areas are protected today and for future generations as state nature preserves," Bacone said.
This year the Conservation Law Center in Bloomington recognized Casebere with its Distinguished Career Public Service Award.
The Wildlife Diversity Unit that Smith led is responsible for the welfare of the state's 750 non-game animal species, from mollusks to songbirds, including all of the roughly 150 state-endangered and special-concern species.
Smith's accomplishments include supervising the successful restoration of peregrine falcons, ospreys and river otters to Indiana, managing the state's first Wildlife Action Plan, and overseeing the acquisition of Tern Bar Slough in Gibson County, where the federally endangered least tern nests.
"She has tackled a variety of challenges facing wildlife in Indiana, from water quality to disease," said Mitch Marcus, DNR's chief of wildlife. "Her career has not only benefited numerous animal species, but also all the Hoosiers who appreciate our natural resources."
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