2010 National Wildlife Refuge System Awards Announced!

The awards will be presented at the 2010 Refuge System Awards Reception sponsored by NWRA, NFWF, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) in the Cannon Building Caucus Room in Washington, DC on the evening of Tuesday, March 9th.

Refuge Manager of the Year: Kevin Foerster

Employee of the Year: Vernon Byrd

Volunteer of the Year: Zeeger de Wilde

Friends Group of the Year: Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges

Read the 2010 National Wildlife Refuge System Awards Press Release

Return the National Wildlife Refuge System Awards Page

Paul Kroegel - 2010 Refuge Manager of the Year Award

This award is given in honor and memory of Paul Kroegel, the first manager of the first refuge established in 1903 on Pelican Island, Florida. His dedication and effectiveness set a high standard for those who followed.

Kevin Foerster

Refuge Manager of the Year, Kevin Foerster

Kevin Foerster, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, CA

Kevin Foerster has been selected to receive the Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award for his outstanding management of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California. He began with the Refuge System as a biologist at the San Francisco Bay NWR, and later was the refuge manager for Humboldt Bay NWR. Throughout his career Kevin oversaw the growth and restoration of some of the most important wintering waterfowl habitat on the West Coast.

Under Kevin’s guidance there have been great strides in conserving the landscape of California’s highly agricultural Central Valley. He has successfully implemented technologically sophisticated inventory and monitoring systems that have been used as models throughout the Refuge System. Under Kevin’s direction, the refuge complex has partnered in the restoration of thousands of acres of important riparian and wetland habitat. One such restoration effort included planting over 100,000 elderberry plants along the Sacramento River for the federally threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle. The recovery of the beetle has been so successful that it is now being recommended for delisting from the endangered species list!

He has also worked hard to engage the local community with the Sacramento Refuge Complex. Kevin spearheaded the Sacramento NWR Celebration - a “grand opening” for the public use of the newest refuge in the complex. Today nearly 30,000 wildlife enthusiasts visit the refuge each year. Additionally he has been actively involved in youth programs on the refuge, promoting the activities of Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crews on the refuge and a “Junior Firefighter” program, among others.

Kevin has exhibited his skill, passion and commitment as a leader in the Refuge System, and has been a superior leader and mentor for the refuge complex’s 55 permanent, seasonal and temporary employees. Kevin was recently named as the project leader at Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

NWRS 2010 Employee of the Year Award

The Employee of the Year Award is presented each year to an individual whose career has shown a commitment to the conservation of our natural resources and superior effectiveness in advancing the cause of wildlife conservation.

Vernon Byrd

Refuge Employee of the Year, Vernon Byrd

Vernon Byrd, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, AK

Vernon Byrd, a biologist at Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, has been selected to receive the Refuge System Employee of the Year Award for demonstrating dedication and vision protecting marine species of coastal Alaska such as auklets, puffins, storm-petrels and other seabirds.

A career biologist and recognized world authority on seabird and subarctic bird populations, he recently helped coordinate an intriguing project to monitor the ecological recovery of Kasatochi, a volcanic island in the central Aluetians which erupted violently in 2008. Since the island was previously part of a long-term monitoring project on the refuge, the eruption gave scientists the truly rare experience of being able to compare data from before and after the volcano erupted - and a once in a lifetime opportunity to explore a uniquely natural laboratory. Vernon’s innovative inventory, monitoring and research programs have resulted in data that is now used to influence everything from commercial fishing to climate change models.

Vernon has been a leader in efforts to recover native species threatened by invasive species on the fragile Aleutian Islands. For instance, his focus on eradicating mammalian predators such as arctic fox, rats and European rabbits, rather than simply reducing or stabilizing their populations, has given birds such as the Aleutian cackling goose a fighting chance. The goose was removed from the endangered species list in 2005 as a direct consequence of efforts to remove the invasive arctic fox.

As a scientist and advocate for marine conservation, Vernon has strived to collaborate and partner with all stakeholders, from other federal and state agencies to universities, NGOs and academic institutions. Thanks to his dedication and hard work at Alaska Maritime NWR, Vernon is a model refuge employee, an invaluable advocate for Arctic coastal conservation, and a mentor for the many biologists and fieldworkers that have worked beside him.

NWRS 2010 Volunteer of the Year Award

This award was established to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of volunteers. Each year volunteers make up a critical work force that contributes over 1.5 million hours to the operation and management of the Refuge System.

Zeeger de Wilde

Refuge Volunteer of the Year, Zeeger de Wilde

Zeeger de Wilde, Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, MD, VA

Zeeger de Wilde will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award for his unwavering support and commitment to the volunteering on wildlife refuges and at the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. While Zeeger has visited over 200 national wildlife refuges across the country, and volunteered at many, he has made the biggest commitment to Chesapeake Marshlands NWRC. The extent and frequency of his travels shows his devotion to helping out on refuges - his home in Delaware is a drive of two hours or more each way from the Chesapeake Refuges.

Zeeger has dedicated over 12,000 hours to volunteer at refuges over the course of the past 20 years, doing things as varied as helping trap and monitor endangered Delmarva fox squirrels, to assisting with planting trees and restoring habitat. Drawing extensively on his background in horticulture and arboriculture, Zeeger is leaving a lasting mark by helping to create butterfly gardens that showcase native plants. He has exercised his craft with projects large and small, from simple landscaping to habitat restoration at Blackwater NWR, Barren Island and Eastern Neck NWR.

In addition to demonstrating an abiding dedication to conservation and habitat restoration, Zeeger also exhibits a true passion for teaching others about nature. An accomplished birder, he leads popular bird walks, or “eagle prowls,” giving many visitors to the refuges a truly wild wildlife experience. He is fluent in four languages, (Dutch, German, French and English for anyone counting) and has the rare talent to engage with visitors hailing from halfway across the world. He is an impressive advocate as well as a true ambassador for our national wildlife refuges everywhere.

NWRS 2010 Friends Group of the Year Award

This award recognizes a Friends group that has shown outstanding leadership as a voice of the community and as an advocate for the protection, conservation, and enhancement of local refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge System overall.

Climate Change

Friends of Alaska Refuges helping pull invasive weeds along the Dalton Highway
©Friends of Alaska NWRs

Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges, AK

The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges will receive the Friends Group of the Year Award. Alaska is home to some of the largest and wildest refuges in the country. Some refuges, such as the magnificent Arctic National Wildlife, are larger than several states in the lower forty-eight combined. Tasked with the colossal task of advocating and promoting the conservation of Alaska’s wildlife refuges, it is no surprise that the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges are a truly remarkable organization.

The Friends have undertaken an impressive variety of projects throughout Alaska. They have volunteered at remote science camps hosted by the Fish and Wildlife Service and hosted booths at festivals such as the Ocean Festival held this past June in Anchorage. The Friends are effective in everything from educating both local communities and national decision-makers on the importance of Alaska’s wildlife refuges and to joining the fight against invasive species.

The Friends have removed invasive plants along remote stretches of the Dalton highway, promoted the eradication and prevention of infestations by rats and other invasive species, and taken action to reduce invasive species populations such as the feral horses living on the island of Unalaska in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. In the decade since their introduction, the small herd of horses on the island had doubled and was seriously damaging and degrading the sensitive riparian habitat on the island. With an invasive species grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service, several volunteers flew to Unalaska- about 800 miles west of Anchorage- to traverse the rugged Aleutian terrain and neuter or “geld” five of the wild stallions to help slow down the growing horse population.

In addition to many programs in and around Alaska refuges, the Refuge Friends have also traveled to Washington, DC to testify on behalf of the National Wildlife Refuge System before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies during the 2007 and 2009 public witness days. The Alaska Friends have played a critical role in continuing to fight against the proposed land exchange and road through the designated wilderness at Izembek NWR by providing testimony against the project before the House Natural Resources Committee in 2007. and by partnering with the NWRA in creating and publishing the “Road to Nowhere” report that outlines the Izembek issue.

The Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges is a stellar organization that continues to grow and reach out to new communities.

To learn more visit: http://www.alaskarefugefriends.org/



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