The 2017 recipients of the National Wildlife Refuge System Awards, sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge Association, exemplify the outstanding conservation management skills and volunteer leadership found in the Refuge System.
The 2017 Awardees are:
- Kevin Godsea: The Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award
- Dale Pittman: Refuge Employee of the Year Award
- Richard Esker: Volunteer of the Year Award
- Friends of Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge: The Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year Award
The National Wildlife Refuge Association is proud to award Kevin Godsea of Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge with the 2017 Refuge Manager of the Year Award. He is a visionary, an innovator, and an advisor for fellow conservation partners, community leaders, landowners, and his staff when it comes to conserving Southwest Florida’s critically important landscape. Kevin has been instrumental in developing strong relationships to build and uphold the integrity of critical Florida panther habitat. He empowers his staff to innovate, to be creative, and to think outside of the box to address important challenges. Refuge staff admire Kevin’s leadership and dedication to the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. He is approachable, patient, trustworthy, and has grown into an inspirational leader among his peers. We are proud to present Kevin Godsea with this prestigious award.
The National Wildlife Refuge Association has selected Dale Pittman as the recipient of the 2017 Refuge System Employee of the Year Award. As a Regional Heavy Equipment Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stationed at Illinois River National Wildlife Refuge Complex in Illinois, Dale has developed and implemented critical programs not only to ensure the safety of Service employees but to also reduce costs. Dale led the Service in the development and implementation of the Maintenance Action Team (MAT) Program, which saved over $15 million in direct costs, eliminated over $10 million of deferred maintenance and habitat restoration backlog, and expanded equipment operation training and professional networks. Throughout Dale’s 25-year career with the Service, he has served as a mentor and a leader of his community. In 2015 Dale was selected for the Service’s Meritorious Service award. His vision and dedication have empowered staff to make the Refuge System a better and safer place to work.
Richard Esker, a volunteer at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia, is the recipient of the 2017 Refuge System Volunteer of the Year Award, which recognizes outstanding accomplishments of volunteers in support of the operation and management of the National Wildlife Refuge System. A retired engineer, Dick has been a dedicated volunteer, logging more than 11,645 hours since 2003 and using his expertise to design elegant solutions when given a task or objective to accomplish. The variety of his projects includes design and construction of kiosks, aquaculture systems, a tree nursery bed, bird and bat boxes, visitor center aquarium, refuge information signs and maps – and more! Innovation and critical thinking comes naturally to Dick, making him an essential asset to the team at the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. His creativity, positive attitude, patience, and diligence are an inspiration to all who are privileged to work beside him.
The Friends of Trempealeau NWR in Wisconsin, is our 2017 Molly Krival Refuge System Friends Group of the Year, named to honor the late Molly Krival, a pioneer in the Refuge Friends Group movement. The award recognizes outstanding contributions by a group of dedicated volunteers in Friends organizations who provide essential services to their refuge and the Refuge System. In 2016, the Friends of the Trempealeau NWR worked tirelessly to construct the Outdoor Wonders Learning Center, an environmental education classroom for the more than 4,000 school children that visit the refuge every year. Friends work side-by-side with the visitor services staff to provide for the needs of visitors including school children, disabled hunters, birders, bicyclists, and tourists. They work with maintenance staff to pull, spray, cut and mow invasive plants and they work with the refuge manager to strengthen the relationship between the refuge and the surrounding communities. They have worked tirelessly to help their refuge grow and prosper, and we are proud to present them with this award.