House Majority Leader John Bell’s “pragmatic and nature-based solutions” to statewide flood and storm preparedness earned him “Legislator of the Year” recognition on Sept. 11 at North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s 57th Annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards.
Rep. Bell (R), who represents District 10, was among the 18 agency professionals, volunteers and organizations honored at a banquet in Cary, NC, for their dedication to North Carolina’s wildlife, habitat and natural resources.
NCWF Board Chair John Hairr and NC Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director Cameron Ingram presented Bell with a specially made bear statuette following a video message from Gov. Roy Cooper. The governor said “investing in clean water, expanding clean energy and protecting waterways and greenways” will allow North Carolina to continue to thrive, and thanked honorees for their commitment to the state’s environment.
T. Edward Nickens, banquet emcee and NCWF awards committee chairman, said Bell represents a swath of North Carolina latticed with rivers and streams. It’s a largely rural landscape where rising waters can wipe out farmers’ fields and flood small towns and big cities alike.
During the 2021-22 legislative session, Bell introduced the Disaster Relief and Mitigation Act of 2021 (HB 500), a first-of-its-kind bill to fund wetland and floodplain protection and restoration. The bill would help reduce the devastating effects of flooding in communities while protecting and preserving the natural resources, wetlands and waterways that provide critical habitat and opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.
“As a lifelong sportsman, I have proudly worked to promote hunting and fishing traditions while protecting and conserving our state’s natural resources and wildlife. This includes working on a proactive approach to prevent flooding and make our state more resilient,” Bell said.
He added, “I’m pleased to announce this resulted in a $300 million flood mitigation package in the budget that will be the largest and most comprehensive statewide investment that North Carolina has ever made to address flooding and prepare for future disasters.”
First presented in 1958, the Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards are the highest natural resource honors given in the state. The annual program brings together diverse groups of conservationists to highlight wildlife conservation achievements to inspire others to take a more active role in protecting North Carolina’s natural resources for future generations.