OLYMPIA - A longtime volunteer who has been active in salmon and steelhead restoration efforts in the Walla Walla River basin has been named Volunteer of the Year by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Wilbur Wagoner has been spearheading salmon and steelhead recovery in the Walla Walla River basin for more than four decades, said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings, who presented Wagoner with the award during the department's annual recognition ceremony held here today.
"Mr. Wagoner has taken the lead role in collecting a tremendous amount of data regarding run timing, fish size and even genetic samples for us," Koenings said. "This kind of information is crucial to our work in understanding how best to strengthen salmon and steelhead populations in southeast Washington."
The Educator of the Year award was presented to Don Samuelson, who recently retired from 26 years as director and instructor of the Fisheries and Natural Resource Program at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen. The program, largely designed by Samuelson, provides students with the hands-on experience necessary to be successful in a number of careers.
Two citizens groups, the Wenatchee Sportsmen's Association and the Snow Creek-Salmon Creek Technical Advisory Group, shared Organization of the Year honors.
Founded in 1928, the Wenatchee Sportsmen's Association donates thousands of hours every year on fish and wildlife habitat projects, including habitat restoration projects, clean-up efforts and wildlife-feeding tasks.
The Snow Creek and Salmon Creek Technical Advisory Group was honored this year for its work in developing a fish and wildlife management plan to provide guidance in the restoration and stewardship of property acquired in that watershed. This diverse group includes representatives from WDFW and other state and county agencies, tribal organizations and many other entities.
Dan Sangster, Jay Holzmiller and Ron Scheibe, three property owners from Asotin County, shared honors for Landowner of the Year for their work in negotiating a pilot program to reduce agricultural impacts from a growing elk herd.
Three men from the Hanford area also received recognition from WDFW for their work in elk management. Rich Nall, John Robert and Bud Hamilton helped coordinate with area landowners and WDFW in developing 2005 elk-hunting seasons.
Finally, Chuck Smith, an Okanogan County businessman, received an award from WDFW for his work on cougar management issues in northcentral Washington. Koenings said Smith helped improve communications between the department and the community during development of the pilot cougar hound-hunting project in that region.
In addition to the volunteer awards, a number of WDFW staff received recognition for outstanding work over the past year.
Ted Clausing, a regional habitat program manager from Yakima, was named WDFW's Employee of the Year award. Koenings said Clausing, who has worked for WDFW for more than 20 years, has been instrumental in accomplishing important habitat and land acquisition projects.