Forest Service employee recognized for long-term contributions to environmental education

WISCONSIN – Eastern Region Urban Connections Program Specialist Jean Claassen was recognized by Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful with a Star Award for her many years of service and dedication to environmental education and conservation stewardship in the city.

Joe Wilson, KGMB’s executive director, spoke at the event and highlighted Claassen’s commitment to developing the relationship between his organization and the USDA Forest Service, in her current role as Urban Connections city coordinator and earlier as part of the America Outdoors program.

Established in 1983, KGMB is a private non-profit that has been affiliated with Keep America Beautiful since 1985. The organization leverages strategic partnerships, such as the one with the Forest Service’s regional office, to accomplish its mission of promoting sustainability through clean, healthy, and beautiful communities for generations to come.

One of Claassen’s greatest accomplishments in Milwaukee is her work on an Urban Tree House project (Lynden Hill) on a 3-acre abandoned plot of land in the city. The Lynden Hill site is now a greenspace where school groups and the local community connect with nature, enjoy trails, trees and flowers, and learn about Leave No Trace principles.

Woman posing with award
Jean Claassen, accepting the Star Award from Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful, on November 7 at the Pfister Hotel. USDA Forest Service photo by Lisa Myers.

In her acceptance speech, Claassen mentioned how great it was to have shared employees and interns with KGMB. A high school intern at KGMB became a college intern with the Forest Service one summer and several college interns later joined KGMB’s education team as paid employees. Community and public engagement have been major successes of the partnership.

In 2016, the same organization awarded the Forest Service with its Diversity Award for an individual or organization that fosters inclusion, collaboration and equal opportunity.

Claassen started with the Forest Service as an administrative assistant while still in college and after graduation, worked as a cartographer for 15 years. While volunteering for various regional office events and projects, she developed a passion for public outreach and moved to the public relations staff and then America Outdoors, a multi-agency program (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Forest Service) focused on the agencies cross-mission areas of conservation, recreation and education. She has served as the Milwaukee coordinator for the Eastern Region’s Urban Connections Program since 2009 and recently celebrated 40 years of government service.