Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam D. Hamilton, who died in Feb. 2010. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The House passed a bill Monday renaming the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, in honor of Hamilton, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack in February 2010 during a Colorado ski trip.

Hamilton, 54, served as a career FWS employee for more than 30 years before being confirmed as agency director in July 2009.

The Senate passed the renaming bill in February, meaning the measure now heads to President Obama for his signature.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar applauded the move, noting in a statement that “Hamilton fell in love with conservation and fish and wildlife management when as a boy he learned how to band ducks and build waterfowl pens at Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge. I commend the House for recognizing Sam’s distinguished career and extraordinary contributions to wildlife conservation – and especially the National Wildlife Refuge System – by voting to rename this refuge, which was so close to his heart, in his honor.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service oversees conservation and development projects at the nation’s wildlife refuges and operates related education efforts.

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Fish and Wildlife Director Sam Hamilton dies unexpectedly

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