Fish and Wildlife chief dies after skiing at Keystone
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The director of the Fish and Wildlife Service died Saturday after suffering chest pains while skiing in Colorado. Sam Hamilton was 54.
The 30-year veteran of the agency, who assumed its top post in September, died in the afternoon after being transported off the Keystone Ski Area, said Joanne Richardson, Summit County coroner. She said his death was consistent with an underlying heart problem.
Hamilton helped lead restoration work in the Everglades, the largest ecosystem restoration project in the country. He oversaw the extensive recovery and restoration efforts required following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which devastated coastal wetlands, wildlife refuges and other wildlife habitat along the Gulf of Mexico.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called Hamilton a friend, visionary and leader who left an indelible mark. “His forward-thinking approach to conservation … will continue to shape our nation’s stewardship for years to come,” Salazar said. “My heart goes out to Sam’s family, friends, and colleagues as we remember a remarkable leader and a compassionate, wise, and eternally optimistic man.”
Prior to his appointment as director, Hamilton served as regional director of the agency’s southeast region in Atlanta. He was in charge of an agency with 8,700 workers responsible for protecting more than 150 million acres and hundreds of threatened and endangered species. The service operates about 550 national wildlife refuges.
Hamilton, from Lawrenceville, Ga., was a 1977 graduate of Mississippi State University. He is survived by his wife Becky, sons Sam Jr. and Clay and a grandson, all of Atlanta.
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