Washington -(Ammoland.com)- Dedicated volunteers carried 35 pound backpacks with gallons of water and thousands of delicate trout fry miles up steep trails to stock mountain lakes year after year.
Another group traversed Washington’s marine areas and coastlines to provide scientific data and analysis on species ranging from porpoises to puffins.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recognized the contributions of these organizations and other top volunteers and landowners during its 2015 citizen awards ceremony today in Olympia.
The Washington Trail Blazers , a club devoted to alpine fishing for public enjoyment, earned an “organization of the year” award at the ceremony. With some 50 volunteers, the Trail Blazers stock fish in about 120 lakes per year. Founded more than 80 years ago, work crews from the group regularly make long treks up mountain paths to create distinctive fishing opportunities, maintain trails to high lakes, and monitor fish health.
“The Trail Blazers’ volunteer efforts help make iconic high lakes fishing experiences possible in Washington,” said Annette Hoffmann, a regional fish program manager with the department.
Another organization honored during this year’s ceremony was the SeaDoc Society , a program of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
Headquartered on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands , SeaDoc was recognized for efforts to protect Washington’s salt-water habitats and wildlife. Its work in Washington includes data gathering, mapping and analysis on issues such as derelict fishing gear, marine bird population declines, orca whale disease, forage fish spawning areas and the status of tufted puffins.
“It’s difficult to pare down a short list of the important contributions SeaDoc has made in working with the department,” said Eric Gardner, WDFW wildlife program deputy assistant director. “They have been active, productive contributors on a surprising range of topics in support of Washington’s marine wildlife and coastal ecosystems.”
Bill Young of Shelton was recognized as a “volunteer of the year.” A retired fish biologist and ecologist now in his 70s, Young has conducted a census of wild sea run cutthroat spawning in Skookum Creek and other Mason County streams for more than 10 years.
“Young’s collaboration with the department on the study of in-stream water flow needs of sea run cutthroat provides a clearer picture of the habitat requirements of this species,” said Steve Boessow, a natural resource scientist with the department.
Dr. Eric Johnson , an anesthesiologist from Spokane , was recognized as a “volunteer of the year” for work to establish emergency response protocols for accidental human exposure to veterinary drugs department staff use to capture wildlife.
“Thanks to Dr. Johnson, the safety of WDFW field staff with responsibility for capturing wild animals has been greatly enhanced,” said Kristin Mansfield, WDFW veterinarian.
Other citizen awards announced by WDFW for 2015 include:
- Landowner of the year: Mark Schmid of Trout Lake was recognized for building relationships between hunters and private landowners, facilitating access to hunting on his land and other properties, and for his work with the department on new elk damage mitigation techniques to protect crops.
- Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award: This award honors state Fish and Wildlife Officer Terry Hoffer, who was fatally wounded in 1984 by a hunter accidentally discharging his firearm. Nominated by peers in the hunter education community, Rick Webber ofSnohomish was recognized for his commitment and teaching skills as a chief hunter education instructor. In addition to his leadership in certifying more than 400 students in hunter education, Webber “trained the trainers,” certifying an additional 32 new hunter education instructors in 2014.
Jim Unsworth, WDFW director said citizen volunteers around the state contributed more than 63,800 hours of time to WDFW projects in 2014.
WDFW welcomes volunteer help in activities that benefit fish, wildlife and habitat. For more information, visit the agency volunteer page athttp://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/ .