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RI Photographer wins EPA Recognition for Wildlife Pictures

Release Date: 09/23/2003
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON -- A Rhode Island photographer was named a winner of the 2003 wetlands photography contest of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, an annual event that promotes awareness of the value of wetlands. Jay Osenkowski of Providence, RI, was a finalist for two of his pictures, "American Toad," in Richmond, RI, and Grey Tree Frog at the Kingston Wildlife Research Station in South Kingstown, RI.

Osenkowski was among 13 winners who highlighted this year's theme, Wetland Wildlife, in their photographs of reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds, and mammals. The winning entries were recently displayed at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., during the National Wetlands Awards Ceremony, and are posted on EPA's website at:

"Mr. Osenkowski's photograph shows that wetlands are an integral part of our environment and reminds all New Englanders of the many economic benefits that wetlands provide," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office.

Osenkowski works as a wetland/wildlife biologist with the RI Department of Environmental Management. All of his positions, including past posts with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the NH Audubon Society, and the University of Rhode Island, have provided him opportunities to photograph wildlife species in their natural environments. Osenkowski has worked professionally with a variety of wildlife species from neotropical migrants in New Hampshire to endangered hawks in Hawaii, and has studied the ecology and biology of these species.

Dr. Robert Sofferman of Vermont was a finalist for his picture, "Mallard on a Nest," taken on a golf course in Burlington, Vt.

Wetlands, which have both economic and environmental benefits, are among the most productive ecosystems on earth, comparable to coral reefs and tropical rainforests. They provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for a great diversity of fish, wildlife, and plants. Up to half of North American bird species nest or feed in wetlands, and one-third of the plant species in the continental United States are found in wetlands. In addition, 95 percent of commercially harvested fish and shellfish depend on wetlands for their survival.

Wetlands help to protect the health and safety of people and their communities. Often called the "kidneys of the watershed," wetlands filter and clean water by trapping sediments and removing pollutants. Wetlands also provide buffers against floods as they store enormous amounts of flood water. In addition, wetlands store and slowly release water over time, helping to maintain water flow in streams, especially during dry periods.

Despite the many environmental, economic, and health benefits wetlands provide, this country has lost more than half its original wetlands. The photographs in the EPA contest are reminders of what is at stake when wetlands are lost or degraded.

For more information about wetlands go to: