South Carolina USDA Forest Service Employees receive Regional Forester Awards

Overcoming Challenges- Our Commitment Through Resilience and Innovation

Columbia, S.C. – During a virtual ceremony held on December 17, 2020, several USDA Forest Service employees across the Palmetto state were awarded the Southern Regional Forester Honor Award for their outstanding achievements in overcoming challenges and demonstrating a commitment to resilience and innovation over the past year.

Francis Marion & Sumter (FMS) National Forests’ Safety Officer James Fowlkes, Jr. was awarded the “Creating a Safety learning Culture” individual award for creating a safer working environment for the employees on the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests.

Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests received “Delivering Benefits to the Public,” along with partners from SC Department of Natural Resources,

employees Billy Downer, Ted Mikkelsen, and Team Lead, Francis Marion District Ranger Rhea Whalen for entering into a non-funded Challenge Cost-Share Agreement to operate and maintain the Twin Ponds Rifle Range.

Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests’ employee Jules DeFriese was among the Regional Volunteers and Service Center of Excellence Team group award for “Fostering Volunteerism and Service.”  Due to the pandemic, their team successfully engaged with new partnership agreements with the AmeriCorps College Advising Corps program and the Department of State Intern Program to fill an additional 32 virtual internships.

Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests’ employees Paul Varnedoe and Geoff Holden were part of the COVID-19 Incident Management Team Planning Decision Support Service Team - Developing the R8 COVID-19 Dashboard.  The Regional Office Planning Decision Support Service Team developed a way to distribute COVID-19 information and help decisions on staffing facilities.  They received the “Regional Forester’s Special Award for Overcoming Challenges - Our Commitment through Resilience and Innovation.”

Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests’ employees Amanda Gee Walrod and Rhea Whalen were a part of the Regional COVID-19 Incident Management Team Employee Care and Support Team, receiving

the “Regional Forester’s Special Award for Overcoming Challenges - Our Commitment through Resilience and Innovation.”  The Employee Care and Support team was assembled as part of the Region 8 COVID-19 Incident Management Team in response to an overwhelming need to support regional employees during the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.                                                                                                      

U.S. Forest Service Savannah River Fire Management Staff led by Jarvis Brown were awarded the “Sustaining Our Nation’s Forests and Grasslands” group award for their efforts in incorporating numerous partners and organizations in their efforts to increase their ability to restore and maintain quality ecosystems on Savannah River Site.

U.S. Forest Service Savannah River Natural Resource Staff Tal Mims, Ray Geroso, and Charles Davis, along with Ed Messerlie of the U.S. Forest Service National Technology and Development Program and Kurt Buhlmann of the University of Georgia, were awarded a Regional Forester Special Award – “Improving Wildlife Monitoring through Innovation during COVID-19” group award for developing an innovative and cost-effective remote wildlife monitoring system.

The U.S. Forest Service Savannah River and FMS had four employees receiving the “Regional Forester’s Special Award for Overcoming Challenges - Our Commitment through Resilience and Innovation.”  This year, the Region’s communication professionals exemplified resilience and innovation in delivering information to internal and external audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Southern Region’s Regional and Region-wide Forest Public Affairs Staffs were recognized.  The South Carolina Public Affairs Staffs honored: Joe Orosz, Savannah River, and FMS employees Pam Baltimore, Rodney Foushee and Michael Utt.

“This year, USDA Forest Service employees in the Southern Region have faced numerous challenges, such as natural disasters and working virtually which caused them to find innovative means to accomplish their mission of serving the people and caring for the land,” said Regional Forester Ken Arney.  “It is a great honor to recognize these individuals and groups who worked closely with our partners, volunteers, and other federal and state agencies to accomplish many special projects during a global pandemic.”

To view the entire list of 2020 Southern Regional Forester Honor Award winners click here.  To learn more about the Francis Marion & Sumter National Forests click here.  To learn more about U.S. Forest Service Savannah River click here.

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/scnfs/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD875817