ORONO — The Atlantic Salmon Federation presented its highest conservation award to Dr. Ray B. (Bucky) Owen Jr. of Orono last week in New York. The award recognizes Owen’s lifetime commitment to the environment and his efforts to protect wild Atlantic salmon and their habitat in particular.
“Bucky Owen is a highly respected spokesman for Maine’s environment,” said Richard Warren, chairman of ASF U.S. “His commitment is helping us achieve the goals of the restoration of the Penobscot River in Maine, a significant undertaking that will open 1,000 miles of habitat to sea-run fish.”
Owen was a leader in carrying out a $150,000 fundraising campaign for the Penobscot River Restoration Project, initiated by ASF’s Maine Council. An exceptional communicator, he worked with members of the salmon clubs along the river to gain their support for the project.
Owen and his wife, Sue, contributed significantly to the Penobscot River restoration fundraising campaign and continue to recruit additional gifts.
The Penobscot River drains one-third of the state of Maine and is home to the United States’ largest wild Atlantic salmon population. Approximately 2,000 salmon returned in 2008 and again in 2009. They were the best runs of the past 15 years.
The plan is to remove the Veazie and Great Works dams and circumvent the Howland dam to allow native fish, including wild Atlantic salmon, access to spawning habitat in the Penobscot’s upper reaches that has been inaccessible to them for many decades.
Owen also is working on building a fishway on Blackman Stream that will help restore alewife runs.
An ardent salmon angler, Owen still maintains one of the original Penobscot peapod rowing canoes, now more than 100 years old, from which he caught two Atlantic salmon during the 2008 catch-and-release season on the Penobscot River.
“When Bucky is not working on environmental projects,” Warren said, “he is fishing or hunting in the remote wilds of Maine, whitewater canoe racing, bike riding in the western U.S., cross-country skiing or ballroom dancing with Sue.”
Owen taught in and was chairman of the University of Maine Department of Wildlife Ecology until his retirement. He continues to teach as a professor emeritus.
He also was commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and chairman of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission. In 1994, President Clinton appointed him U.S. Commissioner to the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, where he served until 2001.
Owen served on the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Nature Conservancy, Land Use Regulation Commission, the Maine Critical Areas Program and the Veazie Salmon Club.
The Atlantic Salmon Federation presents the Lee Wulff Conservation Award annually for outstanding, long-term efforts to conserve threatened wild Atlantic salmon. Wulff, an angler, artist, author and filmmaker, dedicated 60 years of his life to conserving the species and advocating catch-and-release angling to help safeguard its future.