On July 25, 2015, Tom Kerr received the prestigious 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award from the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Mr. Kerr, a 25-year employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the Refuge Manager of central Wisconsin’s St. Croix Wetland Management District. Jared Brandwein, Director of Conservation Programs for the Refuge Association, had the honor of presenting the award to Mr. Kerr.
Kerr earned this distinction through his artful and inspiring efforts to purchase, restore and manage important waterfowl and wildlife habitats in the eight-county wetland management district. Since he began his tenure at St. Croix Wetland Management District in 2007, Kerr has demonstrated an eagerness to work on behalf of his neighbors, seeking and receiving valuable input towards the betterment of his projects from citizens, community leaders, as well as local and higher levels of government. Under his leadership, the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District was established for the purpose of creating interpretive, scientific, educational, and recreational activities within the wetland management district.
In cooperation with seven private landowners, Kerr played a key role in acquiring 644 acres to be managed as waterfowl production areas by the Service. With the support of The Conservation Fund, Kerr facilitated the donation of an additional 40 acres to the Service and 70 acres to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Under Kerr’s tenure, grants totaling nearly $3 million have been generated for habitat protection, restoration, and management in west central Wisconsin.
With the support of staff, Kerr and St. Croix Wetland Management District have become leaders within the conservation community in the restoration of rare oak savanna habitat. Through the use of a local biofuels market, 700 acres of oak savanna have been restored on both public and private lands in the last seven years with minimal or no cost to the government.
With the assistance of the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District, Kerr initiated “Conservation Day on the WPA” (Waterfowl Production Area), an annual volunteer effort meant to improve local habitats, which has introduced nearly 2,000 youth and families to public lands and has resulted in the donation of 15,000 volunteer hours. Collectively, Kerr and the Friends routinely conduct congressional canoe tours that serve to inform congressional offices of St. Croix Wetland Management District activities and accomplishments.
Several notable guests attended the celebration, including Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Tom Melius, FWS Regional Director, Briggs LeSavage, Director of Communications for U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, several members of the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District, Kerr’s wife, Mary and their three daughters. Bob and Sharon Waldrop, recipients of the Refuge Association’s 2014 Refuge Volunteer of the Year Award, were also in attendance.
Through hard work and dedication, Kerr has effectively woven St. Croix Wetland Management District into the fabric of the New Richmond and west central Wisconsin communities. It is for this reason and more that we proudly present the 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award to Tom Kerr.