Bill Radke was an individual recipient and five National Wildlife Refuge System staff members were honored in a group when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its 2010 Recovery Champions Awards this spring.

Radke, refuge manager at San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Arizona, was recognized for his work conserving the Yaqui chub on that refuge and nearby Leslie Canyon National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, Radke was cited for creating a climate that encourages partnerships such as the Leslie Canyon Watershed Safe Harbor Agreement, the Malpai Borderlands Group Safe Harbor Agreement and the El Coronado Ranch Habitat Conservation Plan.

“Stewardship of the 200 Yaqui chub saved from the drought of 1969 established a population that became the recovery stock and met the downlisting criteria,” the Service said in announcing the award. “Bill Radke has engaged private landowners in linking the health of their ranches to the overall health of the ecosystem, increasing the security of aquatic habitats on the refuges for native fish species and expanding their range.”

Piping Plover Team Recognized

As a group, Connie Mueller and Kirsten Brennan of Lostwood Refuge, Michael Rabenberg of Long Lake Refuge, Craig Hultberg of Audubon Refuge—all in North Dakota—Brent Jamison of Medicine Lake Refuge in Montana and Eric Rosenquist of The Nature Conservancy Center in North Dakota were cited as Recovery Champions for their work on behalf of the federally threatened piping plover.

photo of yaqui chub

“In Montana and North Dakota, the Alkali Lakes Piping Plover Team has nearly doubled the population of the endangered species,” the Service said. “Thanks to partnerships with 150 landowners, piping plover team members build cages to protect nests from predators … In the off–season, the team fences beaches, provides water sources for cattle so that plover nests and chicks will not be crushed, removes rock piles that house predators, uproots trees to remove raptor perches and replants prairies to reduce runoff and sedimentation in the lakes.”

While some piping plovers nest on refuge lands near or on the Missouri River, most breed on the shorelines of alkali lakes on private and non–profit lands such as The Nature Conservancy’s Williams Preserve—a 2,100–acre property purchased primarily to protect piping plovers.

“I am proud to be a small part of this continual 28–year effort to nearly double this population. For this team, and the people who have been a part of the team over the years, this isn’t just a job; it’s a labor of love for the piping plover,” said Mueller, a wildlife biologist at Lostwood Refuge. “I hope this recognition will help a few more people understand the diversity of America’s wildlife wonders.”

In all, the 2010 Recovery Champions Awards recognized 29 Service staff members or partners–in–mission for conserving endangered and threatened species. For more information on the 2010 honorees, go to–we–do/recovery–champions/index.html.