William Rustem Announced as First Recipient of Thomas L. Washington Lifetime Award

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission last week presented the inaugural Thomas L. Washington Lifetime Conservation Award to William Rustem, a longtime champion of the state’s natural resources.

Tom Washington Award
Rustem received the award at the commission’s Dec. 11 meeting. Shown here (L to R) are commissioner Rex Schlaybaugh; commissioner John Matonich; Rustem; Heidi Washington, daughter of the award’s namesake; NRC Chair J.R. Richardson; and commissioners Tim Nichols, Vicki Pontz and Louise Klarr.
Michigan DNR MDNR
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Lansing, MI -(Ammoland.com)- The Michigan Natural Resources Commission last week presented a newly created award to William Rustem for his strong commitment to Michigan’s natural resources throughout a lifetime of thoughtful and effective advocacy.

The commission presented the Thomas L. Washington Lifetime Conservation Award to Rustem, who retired in July as director of strategy for Gov. Rick Snyder. The award is named for Tom Washington, a giant in Michigan conservation and past director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

Washington died in 1995. During his life Washington helped build coalitions of conservationists and environmentalists to achieve landmark initiatives that benefit Michigan residents to this day. The new NRC award recognizes people who similarly have been champions of natural resources in Michigan.

“I can’t think of a more deserving inaugural recipient of this award than Bill Rustem,” said J.R. Richardson, chair of the Natural Resources Commission. “Bill has been a friend to the state’s woods and waters all of his life. As an avid hunter and angler, he knows the important relationship between our hunting and fishing traditions and the care and management of Michigan’s world-class natural resources. This award recognizes a lifetime devoted to this important work and is an expression of gratitude for all Bill has done.”

Rustem began his public service as a fresh-out-of-college intern in the administration of Gov. William Milliken. He quickly became a key member of Milliken’s team, serving as assistant press secretary, head of Consumer Protection, and natural resources and environmental policy adviser. In 1976, Rustem took a leave of absence from the Milliken administration to run the successful bottle bill initiative, a landmark environmental measure that was approved by 64 percent of Michigan voters. He returned as a policy adviser for the governor until Milliken left office in 1982.

In 1984, Rustem coordinated the statewide campaign for the constitutional amendment that created the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, which has provided more than $1 billion to enhance local communities through public outdoor recreation projects. He served also as manager of the Great Lakes Fishery Fund and as director of the Center for Great Lakes in Chicago.

For many years Rustem was an owner of Public Sector Consultants and was the firm’s president and CEO. There he directed studies on the status of Michigan cities, wastewater treatment needs, recycling and land use. During his time in the Snyder administration, Rustem advocated for pragmatic public policies that seek to protect natural resources for current and future generations.

“I’m humbled and honored to receive this award, most importantly because it is named for Tom Washington, a great friend and mentor to me,” said Rustem. “I’ve had the privilege to work for two great governors – Gov. Milliken and Gov. Snyder. Both these leaders care deeply about Michigan’s environment and its special natural resources.”

“I’m grateful to have been part of the effort to advance protection and management of our state’s land, water and wildlife, not just for this generation, but for generations of Michiganders yet unborn.”

About The Michigan Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.