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Johnny Morris, center, accepts the Audubon Medal with his son John Paul, left, and National Audubon Society CEO David Yarnold, right.
Photo provided by Bass Pro Shops
Johnny Morris, center, accepts the Audubon Medal with his son John Paul, left, and National Audubon Society CEO David Yarnold, right.

Johnny Morris awarded top conservation honor

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Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris took home the Audubon Medal, said to be one of the top conservation awards, during a gala last week in New York City.

Morris became the 58th recipient of the medal from the National Audubon Society. Previous winners include former President Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias, actor/director Robert Redford, British natural historian Sir David Attenborough and CNN founder Ted Turner, according to a news release.

“To be awarded the Audubon Medal is one of the proudest and most humbling experiences of my life,” Morris said in the release. “To be included among the other 58 conservationists to receive this high honor, alongside such visionary leaders as Walt Disney, J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling, President Jimmy Carter and others, is a great honor.”

The National Audubon Society, which works to protect birds and their habitats, pointed to Morris’ work since 1978 with presidential administration to improve conservation efforts, inspiring his children to do the same, and the 2017 relaunch of the 350,000-square-foot Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium in Springfield.

Morris’ local conservation efforts also include ongoing work to restore the historic Ozark Mill and surrounding area into what’s being dubbed Finley Farms.

“Johnny has instilled a love of wildlife in millions upon millions of children across America,” said National Wildlife Federation CEO Colin O’Mara, who introduced Morris at the Feb. 7 gala, in the release. “He’s advancing conservation in every part of the country. And he’s leaving a legacy that will inspire young conservationists for centuries.”

Morris was joined on stage by his wife Jeanie and children John Paul, Megan, Julie and Jennifer.

At the gala hosted by actress and National Audubon Society board member Lili Taylor, the other top award, the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership, went to J. Drew Lanham, a professor of wildlife ecology at Clemson University, according to the release.

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