OLYMPIA - Two citizens from Spokane and a volunteer organization based in Forks received awards today from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for their stewardship of state fish and wildlife resources in 2003.
Jeff Koenings, WDFW director, presented the awards during the department's annual recognition ceremony held here today.
Jim Kujala was named Volunteer of the Year by WDFW for a decade of volunteer work in the Spokane area, ranging from teaching young people to fish to cleaning up "road kill" from area highways.
Once retired as a power dispatcher for the Bonneville Power Administration, Kujala returned to work four years ago but still spends an average of 400 hours per year on volunteer fish and wildlife projects.
"Jim's like the Energizer Bunny - he just keeps going and going," said Koenings in presenting Kujala with the Volunteer of the Year Award. "This guy has spent as much time helping to fit radio-collars on deer and elk as some of our own biologists."
The Educator of the Year award went to Tom Moore, a veteran science teacher and school administrator who now serves as director of the Outdoor Learning Center in the West Valley School District of Spokane County.
Since Moore opened the Outdoor Learning Center in 2002, thousands of students and more than a hundred teachers have spent time on the 3.5-acre campus learning about area fish, wildlife and habitat as part of the district's science curriculum. Moore also leads the Regional Consortium of Environmental and Natural Resource Educators in eastern Washington, and has served as an instructor for several WDFW resource-education programs since 1999.
"Tom Moore has far exceeded the 'essential learning requirements' for this award," Koenings said. "His sustained efforts to educate young people about the natural world will benefit our state for years - perhaps generations - to come."
The Pacific Coast Salmon Coalition won the title of Organization of the Year for its efforts to preserve and restore salmon and steelhead stocks on the Olympic Peninsula.
Based in Forks, the coalition is involved in a wide range of stewardship activities, ranging from clearing stream blockages to supporting environmental education classes for area students. Koenings also thanked coalition members for the work they have done to support operations at WDFW's Sol Duc and Bogachiel hatcheries.
"This group has become absolutely indispensable to the operation of these facilities," Koenings said. "When there's a flood, these folks are there to help any time of the day or night. They've also been known to distribute 5,000 salmon carcasses in a single day to provide nutrients for area streams."
In addition to the volunteer awards, a number of WDFW staff members also received recognition for outstanding efforts over the past year.
The top award went to fish biologist Thom Johnson, who was named WDFW Employee of the Year. Stationed in Jefferson County, Johnson has spent more than 25 years monitoring salmon and steelhead populations in Hood Canal watersheds. In recent years, Johnson played an integral role in developing the Summer Chum Conservation Initiative and now helps coordinate summer chum restoration efforts in Hood Canal.