The Natural Areas Association recognizes the importance of celebrating the people and organizations that have made exceptional contributions to the ongoing protection of biodiversity in ecologically significant landscapes.

NAA presents three annual awards to shine light on those worthy of recognition, and highlight those who have made, and are making, extraordinary contributions to the stewardship of ecologically diverse land and and water scapes.

Conservation and the on-going protection of natural areas is tough and often overwhelming, particularly in light of changing weather patterns. However, this work is more critical than ever before. Do you know an individual or group who has significantly advocated for and advanced research, methods, or policy approaches that advanced the identification and protection of natural areas? Shine a light on this valuable contribution and submit a NOMINATION!

Deadline for 2024 Nominations is Friday, May 10, 2024!

The NAA awards the George B. Fell Lifetime Achievement Award to an individual who exhibits the highest qualities of the profession and who has significantly advanced natural area identification, protection, stewardship or research, and the mission of the NAA. This is the Association's highest award, and it is reserved for exceptional achievements in any of the areas in which the Natural Areas Association is concerned. It is a top-of-career award.

This award is given in honor of George B. Fell, a founder of The Nature Conservancy and the Natural Land Institute and a founding NAA member and officer who dedicated his life to the protection of Natural Areas. While the director of the Natural Land Institute, George provided leadership in initiating the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, creating the Illinois Nature Preserves System, and developing the first Illinois List of Endangered and Threatened Species (each, the first of its kind state effort and program in the nation). In addition to innovation, George understood and valued that the protection of these resources also required perseverance in perpetuity.

The NAA recognizes individuals or groups who have demonstrated excellence in natural area stewardship. The Carl N. Becker Stewardship Award is given in recognition of excellence and achievement in managing the natural resources of reserves, parks, wilderness, and other protected areas.

This award is given in honor of Carl N. Becker, former NAA president and conservation leader with the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Board, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the Illinois Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. Carl brought leadership skills to all phases of his conservation career – he was an excellent field biologist, bureaucrat, and political thinker. He knew how to inspire his staff to work together to do more than they could possibly do on their own and encouraged new ideas to approach unresolved issues.

NAA recognizes younger professionals, who, early in their careers, demonstrate excellence in research, protection and stewardship of natural areas. NAA‘s Rising Leader Award (RLA) is given in recognition of an individual who, in a relatively short amount of time, has developed and/or implemented a new idea that addresses an old issue in natural areas research, protection, or stewardship; or, who has made some other significant impact at an early career stage. While not yet at their professional peak, RLA nominees have already inspired others with their innovative thinking, collaborative efforts and inclusive approaches in natural areas research, protection and stewardship.


Join the people who protect and manage our natural areas.