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DSC_0032Newspapers seem to be out of fashion for a lot of Americans these days, but they remain a powerful force to inform citizens about local, state, national, and international issues, including, of course, Chesapeake Bay issues.

And one of the most effective newspaper voices in the Bay region over the years has been that of Scott Harper, the veteran environmental reporter for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. For nearly two decades, Harper has literally covered the waterfront of environmental issues in the populous Hampton Roads region.

He’s stalked the hallways and meeting rooms of the State Capitol in Richmond DSC_0026 to cover environmental legislative battles, sat for hours through local and state regulatory hearings, explored landfills and brown fields, forests and wetlands, seafood packing houses and university laboratories.

And over the course of his reporting career at The Virginian-Pilot, Harper has produced countless articles focusing on Chesapeake Bay policies, Bay agreements, Bay disagreements, river cleanups, fish, crabs, oysters, watermen, restoration progress, and the lack of progress.

Harper does it all – from breaking news stories to human-interest features to in-depth, multi-part series on complex issues. His has been a timely, clear, and consistent voice for Bay and other natural resource issues, helping inform, educate, and engage the 1.6 million citizens of Hampton Roads and public policymakers making decisions.

DSC_0071For that reason, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) this week named Harper its 2013 Virginia Conservationist of the Year. The Conservationist of the Year award is CBF’s most prestigious honor, given to an individual or organization in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania for extraordinary contributions to save the Bay efforts. The award itself is a magnificent bronze bust of an osprey sculpted by noted Eastern Shore wildlife artist David Turner.

CBF Virginia Executive Director Ann Jennings presented the award Thursday to Harper at a riverfront reception attended by CBF trustees and staff, Hampton Roads conservation representatives, Virginian-Pilot editors, and Harper’s family. Culminating the event was an hour-long sunset cruise on the Lynnhaven River aboard CBF’s Hampton Roads education vessel, the Bea Hayman Clark.

“Scott’s willingness to tackle sometimes complicated but consequential issues DSC_0012 that otherwise may get lost in today’s 24-7 news cycles makes him an increasingly rare and valuable resource for Hampton Roads citizens and public policymakers,” Jennings said in presenting the award. “His outstanding journalism has made a difference for the Bay and for Virginia’s natural resources.”

Similar kudos for Harper’s brand of lucid, dogged, game-changing journalism came from local conservation representatives, Harper’s editors, and newspaper readers. Read more here and here about the appreciation for a really good journalist.

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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