Appalachian Laboratory honors wildlife biologist Tom Mathews

April 25, 2014
UMCES President Donald Boesch, Appalachian Laboratory Director Raymond Morgan, Johnson Award winner Tom Mathews, and nature writer Tom Horton.

In honor of outstanding contributions to environmental management in Western Maryland, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory has selected wildlife biologist and avid outdoorsman Tom Mathews as recipient of its 2014 Richard A. Johnson Environmental Education Award. Boasting 28-year career with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Mathews has been a longtime champion of the natural world and continues to be an environmental steward.

"It is a pleasure to honor Tom Mathews with the Richard Johnson Award,” said Raymond Morgan, interim director of the Appalachian Laboratory. “Over the years that he was employed with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, he displayed a strong commitment to the wise use of the wonderful resources of Maryland. After retirement, Tom continues to be an advocate for the environment."

A native of Allegany County, Tom Mathews was employed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a wildlife biologist from 1974 to 2001. He played a leadership role in the development of Maryland’s first white-tailed deer management plan, was instrumental in Maryland’s initial efforts to develop black bear management strategies, and was responsible for developing hunting and trapping regulations for game species. He held numerous positions, including District Wildlife Manager for Allegany County, Western Regional Wildlife Biologist, Western Regional Wildlife Manager, and the Statewide Game Program Manager. During his career, he gave hundreds of public presentations on a wide diversity of topics associated with wildlife habitat management and population management for game species, including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, black bear, furbearers, waterfowl, and upland game species.

He served as President of the Maryland/Delaware Chapter of The Wildlife Society and Chairman of the “2002 Maryland Black Bear Task Force.” He was recognized by the Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission as recipient of the “2008 Maryland Wildlife Conservationist of the Year Award.”

He is presently employed as a habitat biologist and contractor for the Wildlife Management Institute on the Appalachian Mountains Young Forest Initiative and serves as a member of the Green Ridge State Forest Advisory Board and the Allegany County Forestry Board.

Mathews served on the steering committee for the formation of Home Ground, a non-profit Allegany County conservation organization founded in 2011.  He served as the Chairman of Home Ground’s Board of Directors in 2011 and 2012 and continues to serve as a member of the Board. Home Ground was founded by citizens inspired by love of nature and its vital role on the “mountain side of Maryland.” The organization provides learning experiences for students, nature enthusiasts, business leaders, and families to promote the many ways natural resources support and enrich life in Allegany County.   

He continues to enjoy hunting and fishing, especially his lifelong passion for float fishing on the Potomac River for smallmouth bass with family and friends. He credits his passion for the outdoors and his inquisitive eye for the natural world to his father and uncles who recognized the values of taking a young boy hunting and fishing.

Mathews was one of the first students to graduate in 1971 from the forestry program at Allegany Community College and studied under the leadership of Dr. William L. Cones, the program’s first director. He earned his B.S. in Wildlife Biology at West Virginia University in 1973.

The award honors the memory of Richard A. Johnson, a well-known orthopedic surgeon in the Allegany County area. He passed away in 1990, leaving a legacy of a caring and dedicated physician, family man, and naturalist. The Appalachian Laboratory honors his memory through its promotion of environmental education in Western Maryland and the people who excel in its practice.

The Richard A. Johnson Environmental Education Award provides $2,000 to support further environmental education activities. The endowment supporting the award was made possible through the generous support of Allegheny Power, NewPage Corporation, Alliance Resource Partners (Mettiki Coal), and numerous other donors over the past decade. Generous sponsors of this year's program include AES Warrior Run, Mettiki Coal, NewPage Paper, Allegany College, and numerous friends.

Past recipients of the Richard A. Johnson Environmental Education Award include: former Times-News columnist Ken Hodgdon (1991); Frostburg State University Professor Emeritus Don Emerson (1991); retired teacher Nan Livingston (1992); retired teacher Charles Strauss Sr. (1993); former Appalachian Laboratory Director Kent Fuller (1996); Department of Natural Resources project manager Bernard Zlomek (2001); Hickory Environmental Education Center coordinator Joseph Winters (2002); former Frostburg State University Biology Department Head Melvin Brown (2003); Beall High School Environmental Educator Kenneth Baxter (2004); Allegany High School Ecology Club mentor Alan Hammond (2005); Route 40 Elementary School Principal Patrick Delaney (2006); Garrett College Professor Kevin Dodge (2007); Maryland Park Service’s Jeffrey Ruark (2007); George’s Creek Watershed Association founder Robert Miller (2009); Maryland Park Service’s Sarah Milbourne (2010), and Maryland Department of Natural Resource's Ranger Caroline Blizzard (2011); and Dr. Dana McCauley and Crellin Elementary School (2012), and the Forestry Department of Allegany College (2013).

Founded in 1961, the Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg, Maryland is one of five research centers that make up the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. The lab focuses its research on terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, how they function in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and how human activity may influence their health and sustainability on local, regional and global scales.