A savvy supervisor in Minnesota, a persistent wetland management district staff in North Dakota, and a highly cooperative Friends organization in New England are recipients of the 2013 National Realty Awards.


Midwest Region supervisory realty specialist John Saxhaug received the Rudolph Dieffenbach Award. The award is given annually to a realty employee for significant contributions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s land acquisition systems, operation or mission.


During Saxhaug’s decade–long tenure in the Midwest, the region has acquired and conserved more than 100,000 acres. In particular, his work with The Nature Conservancy and the state of Minnesota has helped the Service acquire more than 18,000 acres at Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge for a bargain price.


He was cited for developing partnerships that “have helped to maximize land acquisitions while minimizing the amount of time required to complete purchases.”


The staff at North Dakota’s Kulm Wetland Management District—including project leader Mick Erickson, biological technician Ryan Shively and private lands biologist Wes Weisenberger—received the Land Legacy Award for significant contributions to the Service’s mission. The award is given annually to Service employees or volunteers who do not work in the realty function.


The staff members were recognized for their targeted, persistent and systematic approach to identifying willing landowners interested in receiving wetland easement offers on their properties. The approach involved sending letters that included estimated easement payments to landowners whose properties were of particularly high conservation value and following up with phone calls if needed. The approach also included field–checking hundreds of properties to identify wetland basins to protect and making GIS (geographic information system) shape files for each property.


As a result, 7,331 wetland acres were conserved on or near Kulm WMD in fiscal year 2012.


“Hundreds of phone calls were made, and most of the calls had to occur after hours when landowners weren’t working in the field,” the Bismarck Wetlands Acquisition Office said. “Kulm WMD showed great teamwork when they developed this system of initiating landowner contacts, field–checking properties and making spatial information. By calling the landowners who did not respond to the mailings, more interest was generated. This approach identified which landowners have no interest in an easement offer, and the WMD will not waste time re–contacting that same landowner.”


The Friends of the Silvio O. Conte Refuge received the National Land Protection Award. It is given annually to private citizens, groups, organizations, corporations, public agencies and their employees or volunteers outside the Service—for contributions to land protection for fish and wildlife resources in partnership with the Service.


The Friends group—an association of about 50 organizations from the conservation, education, recreation and economic sectors—was honored for creating a framework that accents “the true relevancy and value land conservation actions have on recreation, education and economic opportunities” and for “integrating the grassroots agenda into the national agenda.”


The acquisition boundary of Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut encompasses the Connecticut River watershed.


Photo of wetlands
PATRICK CARROLL/USFWS