Newsroom Midwest Region

Midwest region honored with national awards

April 17, 2017

Friends of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge help meet the mission in a variety of ways. Photo by USFWS.
Friends of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge help meet the mission in a variety of ways. Photo by USFWS.

On April 5, 2017, the National Wildlife Refuge Association announced their 2017 National Wildlife Refuge System Awards for outstanding conservation management skills and volunteer leadership.

National Wildlife Refuge Association Acting-President Geoffrey L. Haskett announced this year's winners in Washington, D.C. saying, “We are extremely proud to honor these individuals who have demonstrated exceptional dedication to enhancing and protecting America’s national wildlife refuges.”

“They are an inspiration to all of us to remain positive and continue promoting the Refuge System,” continued Haskett.

These national honors are bestowed every year for exemplary service in the following categories: Refuge Manager, Refuge Employee, Refuge Volunteer and Friends Group of the Year. The Midwest Region was pleased to see that two of these special honors, one for Friends Group of the Year and another for Employee of the Year, went to dedicated people here in the Midwest Region.

Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year

We are proud to share the news that Friends of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge has been named the 2017 Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year. This national award is named to honor the late Molly Krival, a pioneer in the Refuge Friends Group movement and is sought after by Friends groups across the country.

The Friends of Trempealeau was established more than 20 years ago by local refuge supporters and aimed to help meet the needs of the refuge. Since that time, the group has developed into an organization with a broader awareness and greater appreciation of the National Wildlife Refuge System mission.  

Friends of Trempealeau members have proven to be an essential asset to the small staff refuge. With only four full-time personnel, the refuge could not possibly meet the needs of visitors and wildlife without the determination and perseverance of the Friends. Friends members work side-by-side with visitor services staff to provide for the needs of school children, disabled duck hunters, birders, bicyclists, and weekend tourists.

They work with the refuge manager to address neighboring landowner concerns and encourage environment-friendly best practices. This Friends group has consistently gone above and beyond to help their refuge.

In 2016, Friends of Trempealeau worked endlessly to construct an environmental education classroom for the thousands of school children that visit the refuge every year. The Friends Group secured three different grants for the project: a grant from Trempealeau County to completely fund construction, another grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build an adjacent outdoor classroom, and a third grant from the Town of Trempealeau to deliver teacher orientation and training.

Working with local contractors and suppliers, the Friends group built the facility to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service specifications under budget and on schedule. Thanks to the Friends of Trempealeau, the Outdoor Wonders Learning Center has now become an asset not only to the refuge, but to the entire community.

The Friends of Trempealeau strive to make the most of the resources the refuge has to offer by providing more accessibility for everyone. They made a generous contribution to the refuge to purchase an eBird station, the first electronic birding station on the Mississippi River. They have also constructed an accessible photography blind with a grant from North American Nature Photographers Association, who they partner with every year to provide meals for a waterfowl hunt for people with disabilities.

The Friends were also quick to respond to threats posed by invasive plants and continue to work with adjacent landowners and high school students to address the issue.

This Friends group embodies a strong positive influence within the refuge and the surrounding community. They support the refuge in every way that they can and have clearly worked tirelessly to help Trempealeau Refuge grow and prosper.

Dale Pittman Honored as Employee of the Year

After more than 26 years of federal service, Midwest Region Heavy Equipment Coordinator Dale Pittman retired at the end of March, but received one more accolade after the fact.

Getting his start in the Service as a maintenance worker at Illinois River National Wildlife Refuge in 1991, Pittman later became regional Heavy Equipment Coordinator in 2005. In 2015, Pittman was honored with the Meritorious Service Award for his work to develop and implement the Maintenance Action Team Program which saved more than 15 million dollars in cost savings. Under his direction, the program eliminated more than 10 million dollars in deferred maintenance and habitat restoration backlogs.

We would like to echo the words of the Association and thank Dale one more time for helping to keep us safe as we meet our conservation mission. You will be missed!

Learn more about this year’s winners from across the country:

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

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