TDEC Designates Roger McCoy With Honorary State Naturalist Title

Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | 01:04pm

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has designated State Director of Conservation Programs Roger McCoy with the honorary State Naturalist title, the third person ever to hold the title in the state.

The honorary title is given to a TDEC staff member who displays a wealth of knowledge and a special ability to share an appreciation of Tennessee’s natural resources with the public. It recognizes the experience, expertise, and commitment of an employee who advances conservation stewardship within the department and beyond our boundaries.

“The state naturalist honorary title is given to an individual who possesses an unparalleled understanding of conservation in Tennessee and shares their love of the outdoors in a way that deeply motivates others to be stewards,” said TDEC Deputy Commissioner Greer Tidwell. “Roger has dedicated his career to sharing his understanding of our rich natural resources with Tennesseans, and his work merits this unique designation.”

“I am honored to share this title with those who have come before me and those who will follow,” McCoy said. “Tennessee’s natural features are a part of what makes the state so special, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to share this with the public every day. I have always tried to be a voice for conservation in our state, and I look forward to continuing those efforts with this new designation.” 

McCoy has served in a variety of roles advancing native plants, natural areas, and advanced conservation strategies. He has conducted searches for rare species and monitored rare species management. He has presented a number of sites to the State Lands Acquisition Committee that today are additions to the system of state natural areas.

McCoy is passionate about botany and being in the field working alongside TDEC staff. He enjoys leading public outreach hikes, canoe floats, and “botany by bicycle” trips throughout state natural areas. He has visited every county in Tennessee and has done field work in all ecoregions of the state. McCoy has been director of Conservation Programs at TDEC since 2019. He was director of the Tennessee Division of Natural Areas from 2012-2019, Natural Heritage Program coordinator from 2001-2012, and database manager for the Division of Natural Areas from 1998-2001. McCoy earned a B.A. in biology and a M.S. in plant biology from Southern Illinois University.

Two people previously held this role as State Naturalist before McCoy. Mack Prichard, who was instrumental in the acquisition of more than 40 sites for state parks, natural areas, and archaeological areas, was the first. Prichard, who died in 2020, was a mentor to Randy Hedgepath, who became State Naturalist in 2007. Hedgepath presented interpretive programs and led interpretive walks, hikes, and waterfall tours. He retired in 2023.

Prichard and Hedgepath are each now listed as State Naturalist Emeritus.