National Wildlife Refuge System

2011 Realty Awards

Skaggs Island, San Pablo Bay Refuge, CA
Skaggs Island, San Pablo Bay Refuge, CA
Credit: USFWS

Two Californians instrumental in the transfer of Skaggs Island to San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA, have won national Refuge System realty awards - Stephen Dyer of the Service’s Pacific Southwest Region and Alexandra Elias of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in San Diego.

Dieffenbach Award

Rudolph Diffenbach Award winner Stephen Dyer
Rudolph Diffenbach Award winner Stephen Dyer
Credit: USFWS

Pacific Southwest Region senior realty officer Stephen Dyer received the Rudolph Dieffenbach Award, presented annually for significant contributions to the Service’s land acquisition systems, operation or mission.

“Steve has successfully concluded most of the difficult land acquisition negotiations within the FWS Pacific Southwest Region over the last 8-10 years,” said regional refuge chief Marge Kolar in nominating Dyer.

Kolar credited Dyer with playing an important role in the transfer of Skaggs Island from the Navy to San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, CA, major land acquisitions at Upper Klamath Refuge, CA, initial land acquisitions at Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area and the acquisition of the future headquarters site at San Pablo Bay Refuge.


 Realty chief Eric Alvarez presents Land Protection Award to Alexandria Elias
Realty chief Eric Alvarez presents Land Protection Award to Alexandra Elias
Credit: Land Trust Alliance

National Land Protection Award

Alexandra Elias, a civilian employee of the Navy, received the National Land Protection Award. This award is given to private citizens, groups, organizations, corporations, public agencies and their employees or volunteers outside the Service, for contributions to protecting land for fish and wildlife.

Elias helped pave the way for legislation facilitating the transfer of Skaggs Island to the Service. The legislation also allowed the Navy to utilize available state funding to remove structures on the island.

“Ms. Elias worked diligently with the Service, California Department of Toxic Substances Control, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, California Department of Transportation, nonprofit organizations and private landowners to ensure the cleanup was complete and that repairs to pumps and other infrastructure were accomplished prior to transfer,”  said San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge Complex project leader Mendel Stewart. “Without her efforts, we do not believe this transfer would have been successful.”

Video of award presentation

Skaggs Island was officially transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on March 31, 2011. The 3300-acre island adds a much-needed haven in the North Bay for birds and other wildlife.

“Skaggs Island is a missing piece of the puzzle for restoration in the North Bay, and we’re excited to see it become part the refuge,” said Don Brubaker, manager of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  

California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, a key advocate for the restoration of Skaggs Island, introduced legislation in 2008 that enabled the property to be transferred from the Navy to the Service. In 2010, the Navy demolished more than 100 structures and completed an extensive environmental cleanup of the site, which had served as a naval communications base from1942 to 1993. The island is one of the largest diked wetlands in the North Bay, and is located 40 miles northeast of San Francisco, near the shore of San Pablo Bay in Sonoma County.

The San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1974 to protect migratory birds, wetland habitat and endangered species like the salt marsh harvest mouse and California clapper rail. The refuge and San Pablo Bay support the largest wintering population of canvasbacks on the West Coast.

California clapper rail Salt marsh harvest mouse Canvasback
California clapper rail Salt marsh harvest mouse Canvasback


Land Legacy Award

The Service/Refuge System Cadastral Data Working Group received the Land Legacy Award for its work in developing the web-based Lands Mapper. This tool provides detailed topographical, street and aerial views of refuge boundaries, trails and roads nationwide. The group, led by former Service chief cartographer Doug Vandegraft and current chief cartographer Sean Killen, includes geographers, biologists, cartographers, surveyors and IT professionals

Although the group’s membership has changed over the years, the following were active members during the 2010 award period:  Ashley Potter, Chris Lett, David Hoy, Doug Vandegraft, Erin Boyle, Gabe DeAlessio, Kendra Maty, Kimberly Eldridge, Linda Moeder, Mark Ely, Ric Riester, Rick Schauffler, Scott McGee, Sean Killen, Sue Fuller, Sue Kvas, Valerie Howard.

For additional information, contact

Last updated: November 28, 2011