Friends of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex, FL, has been named the 2011 Friends Group of the Year for its extraordinary dedication to developing a strong cooperative relationship among the refuge complex, community, local government agencies and other non–profit organizations.

The most striking example was the Friends’ three–year effort to secure funding and public support to purchase Three Sisters Springs, critical winter habitat for the endangered West Indian manatee. The Friends also raised funds to conduct aerial surveys of manatee habitat and purchase a specialized net and truck for manatee rescues.

2011 Volunteer of the Year is Denis Mudderman, who has contributed more than 7,000 hours since 2005 at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge, MN, during spring, summer and fall, and at Brazoria Refuge, TX, during the winter. Mudderman designed and maintains the Web site for the Tamarac Interpretive Association (, the refuge Friends organization.

Mudderman installed a camera in an active beaver lodge at Tamarac Refuge, providing streaming video to the refuge visitor center and the Friends Web site. He has developed photography workshops, collects oral histories and leads history tours. At Brazoria Refuge, Mudderman creates Discovery Center displays and helps plan the Texas Mid-Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex Migration Celebration. In 2009, Mudderman received the President’s Call to Service Award for the extent and versatility of his service.

Kenneth Litzenberger is Refuge Manager of the Year. As manager of the Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuge Complex during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Litzenberger demonstrated extraordinary vision and leadership in determining how best to deploy limited staff and critical resources. Litzenberger has worked on 19 national wildlife refuges in five states since he began his career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1979.

Dave Mauser, Employee of the Year and wildlife biologist at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, CA, developed an innovative program to integrate wetlands and commercial agricultural land at Tule Lake Refuge. Under Mauser’s direction, more than 10,000 acres of wetlands have been created and 15,000 acres of farmland converted to organic farmland. Mauser has also been active in the water rights adjudication process, advocating for wetland ecology and waterfowl biology.

The awards, sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, were presented at the 76th annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference on March 17.