National organization honors former Congressman for dedication to coasts

Sea Grant Association President LaDon Swann, left, presents former Alabama Congressman Jo Bonner with a special recognition award for his dedication to the environment and coastal living.

(MOBILE, Ala.) - The Sea Grant Association, a nonprofit organization, honored former Alabama Congressman Jo Bonner on Oct. 22 for his exemplary public service to coastal communities and coastal issues in Alabama and the nation.

"We believe he exemplifies a leader who understands the importance a healthy natural environment has in a sustainable economy," said LaDon Swann, president of the Sea Grant Association and director of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. "He's been important to our whole network of Sea Grant programs for a long time."

The SGA advocates for greater understanding, use and conservation of marine, coastal and Great Lakes resources.

Bonner left office in August to become the vice chancellor for government relations and economic development for The University of Alabama System.

"He's one of the most well-respected people I've ever encountered in Alabama and also in Congress," Swann said.

Swann also acknowledged Bonner's leadership during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and his significant role in the passage of the RESTORE Act, which will transfer 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines levied against those responsible for the oil spill to restoration efforts in the Gulf of Mexico states.

Bonner accepted the award during a lunchtime ceremony as part of the SGA meeting at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile.

"I am deeply honored and grateful for this award," he said. "I can't tell you how much this means to me, and I do appreciate it because I know that it speaks to the history that our relationship has and also the future that we have in my new role at The University of Alabama System."

The award is part of SGA's effort to recognize people for their efforts to make living on United States coasts better.

Bonner urged the room of 60, many who were visiting Alabama for the first time, to get out and see the beauty of the coast.

"I hope that while you're here, you have a chance to see what we sometimes take for granted, and that's the beauty of our ecosystem, of our environment," he said. "The beauty of Mobile Bay, the Tensaw Delta and the Gulf of Mexico. I'm sure your trip will not allow you to see all of the natural resources that we have got, but we have many."

In the wake of the federal government shutdown, Bonner gave some advice on how to keep it from happening again.

"I think one of the real takeaways, at least for me, is it doesn't have to be this way," he said. "The way to avoid it is to have people get involved and to be actively involved in the future of our country. If we are involved and we are committed to working to find solutions and not pointing fingers, then there is nothing that we can't do.

"And the great work that Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant has done through the time I've been involved with y'all, is living proof that good things can happen if people work together and not worry about who deserves credit and who deserves blame."

The Sea Grant Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the Sea Grant program concept. The SGA's regular members are the academic institutions that participate in the National Sea Grant College Program. SGA provides the mechanism for these institutions to coordinate their activities, to set program priorities at both the regional and national level and to provide a unified voice for these institutions on issues of importance to the oceans and coasts. The SGA advocates for greater understanding, use and conservation of marine, coastal and Great Lakes resources.

The National Sea Grant College Program includes 33 university-based programs that address coastal issues throughout the United States. The program focuses on healthy coastal ecosystems, resilient coastal communities and economies, environmental literacy and workforce development, and sustainable fisheries and ecosystems.

Melissa Schneider
Communications Coordinator
Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium