The National Wildlife Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation have honored three individuals and a Friends group with 2012 National Wildlife Refuge System Awards.
The annual awards recognize refuge conservation professionals, a volunteer and a Friends group who exemplify outstanding dedication and passion for wildlife conservation in advancement of the mission of the Refuge System.
Charles A. Pelizza received the Paul Kroegel Award for Refuge Manager of the Year.
Pelizza, a 32year Refuge System veteran, was recognized for his leadership that culminated in Januarys establishment of Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. In particular, Pelizza was lauded for his ability to work with nonprofit organizations, ranchers, sportsmen, the state of Florida and other important stakeholders to make the 150,000acre project happen.
His experience and commitment to building partnerships and recognizing others contributions are hallmarks of his career, Refuge Association president Evan Hirsche said of Pelizza, who is manager at Pelican Island, Archie Carr and Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuges and, now, the new conservation area.
Kate OBrien received the Employee of the Year Award. A wildlife biologist at Rachel Carson Refuge in Maine, OBrien was praised for her work with the endangered New England cottontail rabbit and the rare saltmarsh sharptailed sparrow.
OBrien is considered an expert in migratory bird research and management by her peers, the groups said in announcing the award.
David Govatski received the Volunteer of the Year Award. Govatski, who is president of the Friends of Pondicherry in New Hampshire, was honored for serving more than 11,000 volunteer hours at Silvio O. Conte Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
Kate OBrien, a wildlife biologist at Rachel Carson Refuge in Maine, received the Employee of the Year Award.
Dave is well known for the energy and enthusiasm he brings to volunteering, Hirsche said. He invented a new technique of trail maintenance for wetland trails that is now used by other trail organizations.
The Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society in North Carolina was named Friends Group of the Year. The society works closely with Alligator River and Pea Island Refuges. The group was cited for engaging wildlife enthusiasts of all ages and for being a founding partner in the Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival, which celebrates wildlife and wild lands in eastern North Carolina. The 16th annual festival is scheduled for Nov. 611, 2012.
Refuge System national climate coordinator John Schmerfeld received the 2011 Eugene W. Surber Professional Fisheries Biologist Award from the American Fisheries Societys Virginia chapter. He was cited for his work as the Services Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration (NRDAR) coordinator for the state from 2000 to 2010. Schmerfeld was instrumental in settling cases that brought more than $8 million to restoration of Virginias aquatic resources. As a result, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and Virginia Tech each established freshwater cultivation facilities that have produced more than 2 million mussels as part of the Tennessee River drainage restoration program.
The Nisqually Estuary Restoration Team in Washington state, received a Coastal America Partnership Award. The restoration team, which is closely affiliated with Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, was honored for the restoration of more than 900 acres of tidal habitat near Puget Sound.