2016 National Volunteers & Service Award Recipients
The Forest Service recognizes partners, volunteers, and staff for their contributions in five categories: Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships, Cultural Diversity, Enduring Service, Leadership, and Restoration.
Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships
Tonto South Zone Recreation Volunteer and Partnerships Program, Cave Creek, Globe, and Mesa Ranger Districts, Tonto National Forest, Arizona
In response to declining budgets and staff on the Tonto National Forest—one of the largest and most complex recreation programs in the country—the Tonto South Zone Recreation program staff looked to communities in the Phoenix Metro Area for help, and it worked! They increased the number of volunteer hours by 150 percent over a five-year period: from 15,000 in fiscal year 2011 to over 37,000 in fiscal year 2016. By expanding their partner base and strengthening existing partnerships, the Tonto South Zone actively engaged over 30 partners in habitat restoration, recreation facilities maintenance, administrative support, trails maintenance and improvements, interpretation, and wilderness management projects. Staff leveraged resources from grants, state parks, and other stakeholders which resulted in new initiatives such as the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) patrol program. Soon to be expanded to a second district, the OHV patrol program enhances public education and promotes safety for Forest visitors. The Tonto South Zone Recreation team accomplished critical work through its stewardship programs while promoting a stronger sense of community among the Zone’s volunteers. Despite budget challenges and staff shortages, Tonto South Zone Recreation Volunteer and Partnerships staff team demonstrates that expanding volunteerism and service capacity on their Forest is all about community engagement and resourcefulness.
Wally Taylor, Umpqua National Forest, Oregon
Wally “Map Man” Taylor has volunteered more than 16,000 hours over 13 years supporting staff on the Umpqua National Forest. Wally manages the maps and brochures inventory, orders publications and ensures proper storage and preservation of these resources. Wally compiles map data from all ranger districts and works closely with the Forest’s heritage staff to preserve old letters, rare photographs, and historical documents. Wally is a problem solver and has utilized this skill to improve access and systems. To provide Forest Service staff with easier access to information about campgrounds on the forest, Wally took initiative to create a directory that listed all available data about each campground. Wally is now developing a brochure to identify which sites are accessible to visitors with disabilities to increase citizen access on the Forest. Wally’s long-term commitment and dedicated service to Umpqua National Forest exemplifies Enduring Service values.
Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition, George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, Virginia and West Virginia
Since 2008, members of Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) have been an active Forest Service trails partner. The result of a merger of two bike clubs, SVBC is a highly involved and outspoken stakeholder. Whether building the 2.8-mile Narrowback Trail, maintaining 100 miles of trails and roads used in the international “Shenandoah 100” bike race, or attending forest-planning meetings, SVBC volunteers are a dynamic and dependable Forest Service partner. Their activism has positioned them as a leader among other trail user groups and mobilized greater support for rehabilitation projects, resulting in more sustainable trails. SVBC volunteers contribute over a thousand hours annually on a variety of roads, trails, recreation, health, and community building projects, as well as providing in-kind and other resources. In 2016, they provided more than $284,000 for custom-made biker signs, which they also installed. By working together, George Washington & Jefferson National Forests and SVBC have forged a relationship that benefits the American people and enhances outdoor recreation opportunities.
Lake Monroe Cleanup, Hoosier National Forest, Indiana
Lake Monroe, at 10,750 acres, is the largest lake in Indiana and has several miles of shoreline. Every summer thousands of visitors from across the state converge on Hoosier National Forest and Lake Monroe for fishing, camping, hiking and other recreational activities. For several years the Hoosier, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and other partners have jointly hosted an annual cleanup of the lake’s shoreline at the end of recreation season. Partners provide safety equipment and supplies, coordinate boating logistics to transport volunteers removing trash in the lake, donate food for volunteers, and prepare a report about project outcomes, participants, and contributors. In 2016, the cleanup took place on National Public Lands Day. With t help from a new outdoor supply store partner, a more diverse group of people volunteered and the number of volunteers increased overall by 30 percent. A popular destination for students and outdoor enthusiasts, J.L. Waters & Company successfully leveraged their customer base for the annual event. This project is an excellent illustration of strategies that connect people to the outdoors.
Meta Dittmer, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming
Meta Dittmer is recognized for her outstanding performance leading volunteers and partners to revitalize trails on Bridger-Teton National Forest. Working with about 40 volunteers and groups, including AmeriCorps members, associations, government agencies, and academia, her leadership has increased the capacity of Greys River Ranger District’s recreation program. Meta serves as a visitor and interpretive guide, coordinates training and orientation for new volunteers, and teaches volunteers how to crowdsource data to map trails and upload the data to ArcGIS using their cell phones. Meta brings diverse skills to her volunteer work. She contributed to development of a $24,120 proposal to Wyoming State Trails to support maintenance, noxious weed identification and mitigation, and creation of a color map for 56 miles of trails in the Alpine area. An emphasis on collaboration resulted in a partnership with Teton County and Lincoln County Weed and Pest agencies to help eradicate noxious weeds. By taking initiative to fill gaps and help where she is most needed, Meta has demonstrated that good leadership motivates others to contribute and opens doors for new opportunities.
Oregon Hunters Association Bend Chapter, Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Oregon
The Oregon Hunters Association (OHA) Bend Chapter is a stellar habitat restoration partner with Ochoco National Forest Paulina Ranger District and Deschutes National Forest Sisters, Crescent, and Bend-Fort Rock Ranger Districts. OHA Bend Chapter engages in strategic conservation, restoration and enhancement of habitats while improving overall ecosystem health. Their work on Terrestrial Restoration and Conservation Strategy priorities focused on watersheds, vertebrate and social/economic species, and habitats. Since 2000, OHA Bend Chapter contributed over 20,000 hours to projects such as meadow and aspen restoration, off-stream water development construction to aid livestock distribution, and improvements to sage grouse rearing and nesting habitats. OHA’s collaborative and strategic approach to their work with the Forest Service has expanded opportunities for 21st Century Conservation Service Corps crews such as Heart of Oregon Corps and Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council to support restoration work. Cooperation, flexibility, and a willingness to work with others are key to the success of the OHA Bend Chapter - Forest Service partnership.
Trout Unlimited - Eastern Home Rivers Initiative, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia
Trout Unlimited Eastern Home Rivers Initiative’s (TU-EHRI) results-oriented team helps transition sound conservation ideas and restoration opportunities for aquatic resources into cost-effective realities. For more than a decade, TU-EHRI has collaborated with numerous partners to promote and accelerate implementation of various programs in West Virginia that improve aquatic resource conservation and sustainability across all lands. Partners include Forest Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, state agencies, non-governmental organizations, academia, private companies, landowners, and volunteers. Highlights of their accomplishments include aquatic resource inventory and monitoring, decommissioning more than 30 miles of road, 20 miles of riparian reforestation, pesticide treatments throughout 42 hemlock conservation areas, over 30 miles of stream and floodplain enhancement, three Aquatic Organism Passage projects, installation of livestock exclusion fencing to protect about 1 mile of stream, and facilitation of two week-long training workshops. TU-EHRI contributed approximately $680,000 of matching resources and in-kind contributions to the Forest Service partnership. With TU-EHRI’s help Monongahela National Forest satisfied criteria for improving the condition of a Watershed Condition Framework (WCF) priority watershed from “Functioning at Risk” to “Functioning Properly.”