OLYMPIA – A dedicated bird watcher and naturalist who has spent more than 20 years contributing his time and expertise to benefit wildlife in north central Washington has been named Volunteer of the Year by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Rick Hendrick, who lives in Brewster, received the award during the department’s annual recognition ceremony held here today.
“Rick Hendrick’s dedication to wildlife has gone far beyond the normal level of activities of a volunteer,” said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings. “Rick works full-time on wildlife-related activities, driving thousands of miles a year with no expectation of re-imbursement.”
Among his many activities, Hendrick has built, placed and monitored hundreds of bird boxes for wood ducks in the Wells Wildlife Area and for American kestrels and blue birds throughout Douglas and Okanogan counties and the Chelan Wildlife Area. He has banded thousands of birds, monitored American white pelicans and peregrine falcons and surveyed bald eagle roosts. Hendrick, considered one of the foremost experts on birds in the central region, works closely with the department, sharing valuable observations and discoveries about nesting birds such as raptors and owls.
Koenings also presented this year’s Educator of the Year award to staff of the Tahoma School District Outdoor Academy in Maple Valley. The year-round academy encourages eighty 10th-grade students each year to “go play outside” by learning about aquatic ecosystems and fish ecology. In the process, they develop a deeper appreciation for the need to protect these natural areas and fish species. The curriculum includes study of Puget Sound, local lakes, rivers, wetlands and other ecosystems, research of environmental issues, fishing on the Cedar and Green rivers, hiking on Mount Rainier and other natural areas, and working with professional scientists.
Gardena Farms Irrigation District No. 13, represented by manager Stuart Durfee, was honored as Landowner of the Year. Durfee has played a key role for many years in collaborative efforts to promote salmon recovery in the Walla Walla Basin. He has been a leader among the other irrigation districts in the area and forged working relationships with the tribes, local, state and federal government agencies, conservation groups and farmers. “Stuart is the type of person who is critical to helping us achieve our mission, while at the same time he is achieving his own,” Koenings said.
Also, WDFW recognized the Camp Murray Army National Guard Environmental Office as the Organization of the Year for its work in restoring Murray Creek from a dried-up bed to a year-round stream that is now home to 400,000 kokanee fingerlings.
Ted Arnold, the guard’s assistant director of environmental programs, took up the challenge of restoring Murray Creek in 2002 at WDFW’s request. The guard supplied the power, supplies and staff to oversee the operation.
When Arnold was called to duty in Iraq in 2003, his replacement – Karen Zirkle – picked up the reins with equal enthusiasm, Koenings said. Under Zirkle’s leadership, the guard removed reed canary grass from the stream, repaired culverts, dredged silt and restored native plants. Zirkle marshaled significant volunteer forces. When Arnold returned from Iraq, he rejoined the project to assist with ongoing work.
To date, the Camp Murray National Guard has contributed $100,000 worth of supplies and contract work, more than 1,500 volunteer hours and several hundred plants and bushes towards restoring Murray Creek. WDFW staff expects the first returns of the spring-released kokanee in November 2006.
In addition to the volunteer awards, a number of WDFW employees received recognition today for outstanding work performed over the past year.
Koenings presented Sandy Dotts, a watershed steward in the agency’s Colville office, with WDFW’s Employee of the Year award. Dotts, who has worked for the agency for six years, was specifically recognized for her lead role in bringing together the Town of Ione and 13 local, state, tribal and federal partners to remove the 55-year-old Cedar Creek Dam, allowing the Pend Oreille River to once again flow freely.