At a special luncheon in his honor Jan. 5, the Alabama Wildlife Federation was joined by a chorus of well wishers and presenters, who praised the Pell City native for the work he has done over the past eight years.
Gifts and special presentations were made from Gov. Bob Riley, AWF, Ducks Unlimited and other environmental and conservation groups across the state, all citing innovations and improvements made under Lawley's leadership.
His list of accomplishments is a long one. During Lawley's tenure, hunting and fishing licenses were made easier to obtain through more outlets and electronic and online purchasing. He created a volunteer license for those who don't hunt or fish but want to support the department's efforts on the state's behalf.
Throughout his administration, significant improvements were made to the state parks system.
He promoted Alabama as a tourist destination for anglers, hunters, campers, bird watchers, hikers, canoers, spelunkers and a whole host of outdoor enthusiasts, and the department's website, outdooralabama.com, was voted best in the nation.
Lawley dealt with the aftermath of two hurricanes, a long drought and the worst oil spill in the nation's history. The Aquatic Biodiversity Center, another of Lawley's projects, just opened and will help keep water clean in Alabama the natural way with mussels and snails.
Forever Wild, which acquired 221,000 acres on long term leases for public use for outdoor activities has flourished during his time on the cabinet, and he didn't miss a chance to give it a plug at the luncheon honoring him. “Don't forget Forever Wild,” he told the crowd.
His wife, Deanna, and son, Cannon, spoke about his passion for the outdoors and his determination to always “do the right thing.”
Representatives of various groups - all came to the same conclusion - that Lawley made his mark on the department, leaves a lasting legacy for the state's natural resources and his shoes will be hard to fill.