Hattiesburg forester to accept national award

By BETH BUNCH,

Tate Thriffiley of Hattiesburg will be honored on Feb. 11 in Washington, D.C., as a 2019 Champion of the Year by The Partnership for the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps. Thriffiley, along with other honorees will be recognized during the annual Partnership for the 21CSC. 

Thriffiley, an ecologist with the De Soto National Forest, U.S. Forest Service, was chosen based on his commitment and actions taken toward building a sustainable partnership between the Mississippi Gulf Corps and the USDA Forest Service-De Soto National Forest, including training of young adults, and for getting conservation work accomplished on the landscape. And overall, for championing the 21st Century Conservation Corps program.

The 21CSC is a private-public partnership that engages more than 25,000 returning veterans and young Americans each year to strengthen America’s infrastructure, boost local economies, and multiply returns on our country’s most valuable assets – it’s unmatched landscapes and people.

Nominations were made by 21st Century Conservation Corps groups and Partner Agencies across the entire country.

“I am thankful to be a part of this work with the MS Gulf Corps,” Thriffiley said. “It’s a great honor to receive the recognition for the work we’ve done and the relationships we’ve developed. The greatest gift has been getting to know the young adults in this program and seeing their passion for conservation of the natural world grow as they simultaneously learn and practice skillsets for managing the land in a holistic manner.”

 

While appreciative of the award, Thriffiley is clear that his work requires a group effort on the part of project sponsors. 

“I spent a majority of time with the Gulf Corps, but I am fortunate to have great co-workers in National Forests in Mississippi and support from district Rangers, program managers, and staff officers,” he said. “Thanks to that support, myself and several coworkers were able to dedicate time toward planning, and most importantly, training of Gulf Corps members. In particular, I would not have been able to plan and coordinate effectively to move toward sustainability of this program without support and help from Ranger Anne Casey, Fire Management Officers Jay Boykin and Cliff Willis, Chainsaw Coordinator Jeff Meyers, Firefighters Josh Brock, Bert Rager and Jody Rogers, Wildlife staff Ed Moody and Christina Vaughan, and Military Liaison Lisa Yager.   also appreciate the support of the Corps Network, Climb CDC, and the Nature Conservancy.  Obviously, without them none of this would be possible.”

He notes that Stephanie Mathes with the Gulf Corps and Jeff DeQuattro with the Nature Conservancy have kept the wheels turning to make sure the Gulf Corps program is a success here in Mississippi.

 

“The young people and veterans currently serving in 21CSC organizations will one day be the people managing America’s most cherished natural and cultural resources,” Mary Ellen Sprenkel, president and CEO of The Corps Network and co-chair of the Partnership for the 21CSC, said. “On behalf of the Corps community, I extend deep gratitude to Lisa, Greg, Tate, Jennifer and Craig for inspiring the next generation and helping create more opportunities for future resource managers to gain invaluable skills and experience. Your efforts to engage 21CSC organizations is integral to the long-term sustainability of our parks and forests.”

Thriffiley’s love for the outdoors came as a youngster growing up in Bay Saint Louis along the shores of the Bay and the Mississippi Sound and continued through his school years. Thriffiley received an Associate’s degree with emphasis in Science from Pearl River Community College and earned his B.S. in Environmental Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi.

While pursuing his degree, he began his professional career by conducting biological surveys for threatened and endangered plants and animals at De Soto National Forest and Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center. After graduating from USM, he worked as a Field Crew supervisor conducting vegetation monitoring on Camp Shelby and De Soto National Forest. He later served as a National Environmental Policy Act coordinator and environmental officer for the Mississippi Army National Guard.

“For more than 16 years, I’ve initiated and completed a diverse array of ecosystem restoration project work within the De Soto National Forest, working with all aspects of rare, sensitive, threatened, and endangered plants and their habitats,” he said. 

Currently, he serves as an environmental planner. He also serves as a primary contact for Gulf Corps, following through on an initiative to restore coastal habitats by expanding Conservation Corps capacity in the five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico.

“What makes [Tate] an incredible project partner is that he is equally passionate about the development of young people as he is about environmental and conservation stewardship,” said Stephanie Mathes, director of Gulf Operations for The Corps Network.

Thriffiley is also an original member and co-founder of an award-winning outreach program, The Blues Rangers Conservation Education program. 

The Blues Rangers is a musical group celebrating its 15th year of performing nationwide and playing the blues about cogongrass, gopher tortoises and prescribed burning. Thriffiley and Dave Allen are the two original members of the group who turned a collaboration into an educational outreach for the Forest Service.

What the pair developed – along with former Forest Service employee Wayne Stone – was what Thriffiley calls “Schoolhouse Rock for the Woods.”

Thriffiley serves as bassist for the musical group, which played its first gig for the Forest Service in 2003 after Thriffiley and Allen were part of the group that won Ranger District of the Year in Region 8.

 

Through the years, Thriffiley has earned more than 26 awards in recognition of his extensive impact.

His advice to young people would be to “Spend quiet time in nature when you can. Open up and hold space for your own conservation ethic to rise from within and be realized. Use that passion to fuel the journey toward reaching your goals.”