OLYMPIA - One volunteer helped capture more than a hundred ground squirrels for translocation, while another played a key role in monitoring the health of bighorn sheep during a pneumonia epidemic last year. A third secured a barge to ensure that a wintering area for waterfowl would remain productive.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recognized the contributions of these and other top volunteers during its 2014 citizen awards ceremony May 20 in Olympia.
Ground squirrels are just one of many species to benefit from the dedication of volunteer of the year Rosann Green in recent years. WDFW also recognized the Ephrata resident for her work in helping to recolonize pygmy rabbits, build duck blinds, band geese, collect crappie for research and process deer meat for food banks.
"Rosann has offered her assistance for every volunteer effort I have ever initiated," said Rich Finger, a WDFW biologist. "She is truly committed to assisting in WDFW's mission and deserves recognition for her efforts."
Joe Greenhaw of Snoqualmie, another 2014 volunteer of the year, is WDFW's "go-to" person for help in surveying and monitoring the health of bighorn sheep herds. Since participating in the department's response to a pneumonia epidemic in the Tieton herd, he is now working to monitor the Umtanum/Selah Butte herd, which is recovering from a previous infection.
He has led fund-raising efforts to help preserve bighorns and other big-game species such as mountain goats, antelope, and black tailed deer.
"Joe's knowledge of animal behavior has enhanced our biological observations well beyond what we could do with our own staff, alone," said Rich Harris, a WDFW wildlife manager. "He loves the outdoors, loves wildlife and loves helping out whenever he can lend a hand."
Volunteer of the year Jay Koetje of Mount Vernon led an effort to improve management of the Farmed Island Unit of the Skagit Wildlife Area.
After the only available access to the island - a WDFW owned barge - was condemned for safety reasons in 2012, Koetje stepped in with both financial and volunteer assistance. Koetje purchased a barge and made it available for use in maintaining the island unit for waterfowl. Additionally, he provided use of a boat to push the barge, seed for planting barley and corn for waterfowl, all-terrain vehicles, tractors and fuel to maintain farming and dikes.
"With escalating costs of equipment and supplies, we were having difficulty maintaining this area for the benefit of wintering waterfowl," said Russell Link, a wildlife biologist with WDFW. "Volunteers recruited by Jay planted corn, maintained dikes, removed downed trees, fabricated ramps, and operated the barge to ferry equipment back and forth."
Other citizen awards announced by WDFW for 2014 included:
- Landowner of the Year: Peter Lancaster of Seattle was recognized for more than 10 years of assistance with pygmy rabbit surveys and reintroduction, including discovery of a previously unknown colony of pygmy rabbits. He also purchased land in the Columbia Basin to support preservation of the species.
- Organization of the Year: The Curlew Lake Association (CLA) was recognized for releasing over 500,000 rainbow trout into Curlew Lake since 2004 via a cooperative net-pen project with the department. CLA members overcame challenges of high summer water temperatures by employing innovative methods to increase growth and survival of the fish they rear, contributing greatly to this popular trout fishery.
- Educator of the Year: The Puyallup Historical Hatchery Foundation was recognized for a community-engagement and volunteer effort to preserve and restore the historic Puyallup Hatchery. The Foundation has committed itself to public education on the importance of the watershed, techniques for salmon recovery, and the history of the hatchery.
- Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award: This award honors Wildlife Agent Terry Hoffer, who in 1984 was fatally wounded by a hunter accidentally discharging his firearm. Steve Mills of Toledo was recognized for his outstanding commitment and teaching excellence as a volunteer hunter education instructor. In addition to certifying over 500 hunter education students in 2013, Steve made significant personal contributions to the department’s hunter education program statewide.
- Special Appreciation Award: Jess Hagerman with Northwest Helicopters of Olympia received the department's special appreciation award for career-long dedication and outstanding piloting skill supporting WDFW's wildlife capture and aerial survey operations.
WDFW Director Phil Anderson said citizen volunteers around the state contributed an estimated 65,750 hours of time to WDFW projects in 2013.
WDFW welcomes volunteer help in activities that benefit fish, wildlife and habitat. For more information, visit the agency volunteer page at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/.