2003 Science and Environment Recipient: Earl Stockdale

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Long ago, the Florida Everglades were a vast, free-flowing river of grass, extending throughout central and southern Florida. It supported many diverse species of plants, fish, and animals. Over the past half century, however, over half—4 million acres—of this precious natural resource has been lost to agriculture and development, threatening the area’s biodiversity and resulting in a severe shortage of clean and healthy water. As the Department of the Army’s principal legal advisor on environmental and natural resources matters, Earl Stockdale is the “man behind the plan” for restoring the Florida Everglades. Stockdale was integrally involved in developing a multibillion dollar plan through which the Army Corps of Engineers, working with the State of Florida and several other federal agencies, would preserve and protect this cherished ecosystem. Congress enacted this innovative plan—known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)—in 2000, and Stockdale has led the charge to achieve the legislation’s intended goal. But the effort has been challenging. Since the plan was passed, Stockdale has been responsible for ensuring its success. The goal: to hammer out cost-sharing agreements to help guide the financing of more than $1 billion in restoration-related design and construction activities, and to develop and finalize comprehensive regulations to guide the planning and implementation of the $8 billion Everglades restoration project for the next 30 years. To do so, Stockdale brought together a large cadre of diverse organizations—the White House Council on Environmental Quality, federal agencies, state and local organizations, and environmental groups—and sought out common ground. He also has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve legal disputes that threaten the implementation of the CERP. As his colleagues agree, it’s been a task that only a person with Stockdale’s level of determination, expertise, thoughtfulness and grace could muster. Stockdale also built one of the most effective legal teams in the Army, managing an office staff that responds to more than 2,500 requests for legal opinions each year, and oversees the legal services provided by over 500 federal attorneys practicing in the environmental, natural resources, and real estate arenas. In the words of Darin Johnson, the Army lawyer who has been mentored by Stockdale and nominated him for this award, “Earl Stockdale is an inspirational leader who brings out the best in people by empowering them through education and encouragement…He is recognized universally as a mentor and consensus builder, whose expertise is called upon when the most difficult problems require solution.” Johnson says that Stockdale also recognizes the importance of passing on a legacy of public service, teamwork and commitment to those wishing to follow in his footsteps: “He generously shares his professional expertise with all his associates and especially with young attorneys in the office.” Stockdale has received many federal awards for his significant accomplishments and last year was awarded the Distinguished Executive Service Award by the President of the United States, the highest honor given to federal employees. Thanks to Earl Stockdale, the citizens of Florida can count on a clean water supply and adequate flood protection, and the citizens of our nation can count on the successful restoration of one of America’s most prized national treasures.