Conservationists going above and beyond the call of duty were recognized Saturday evening at Michigan United Conservation Clubs 2021 Awards Banquet.
As part of the MUCC Annual Convention, conservation professionals from throughout the state were acknowledged for their selfless service, countless contributions and unwavering enhancement of Michigan’s natural resources.
In total, eight awards were given out to former and current Department of Natural Resources staff, MUCC affiliate clubs and a former public university educator. In addition, a coalition of diverse organizations was honored for its work on Proposal 1 of 2020.
MUCC award recipients are a true representation of the diverse and broad interests that our state’s natural resources provide for Michiganders, said Amy Trotter, MUCC executive director.
“Conservationists come from all walks of life, and this group of award winners truly represents Michigan as a leader in creating and maintaining the very best conservation professionals and volunteers,” Trotter said. “Without the combined effort of people volunteering their time, financial support, technology and biologists’ contributions to the scientific management of our habitats and species, Michigan’s conservation landscape would not be as well off as it is. Conservation truly is a team sport.”
The Abrams Foundation received the Special Conservation Award for the organization’s dedication to promoting youth hunting opportunities and creating the next generation of conservation stewards through Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp. Since 2013, The Abrams Foundation has granted MUCC $141,000 to use for creating camp curriculum, upgrading camp infrastructure and hosting an annual pheasant hunt for past campers.
For the 50 Years of Service to Conservation Award, former DNR Upland Game Bird Specialist Al Stewart was recognized for his efforts in bettering game bird populations and habitats across multiple continents and Michigan’s two peninsulas. Stewart has long been known as one of the greatest upland bird champions throughout the country, but what is often unknown is how much impact Stewarts’s work had on bettering deer hunting, habitat, forestry practices and deportment engagement with the public. From seasonal employee to biologist to specialist to interim chief, Stewart has undoubtedly bettered Michigan’s upland landscape and conservation legacy throughout his 50-year career.
Dowagiac Conservation Club received the Affiliate of the Year award for its continued engagement with MUCC’s education and outreach initiatives. Notably, Dowagiac Conservation Club hosts a Hunter Rendezvous each year as their main education fundraiser. The club uses the proceeds from this fundraiser to send kids to Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp and sponsor TRACKS Magazine in their local school district.
Educating the next generation of conservation stewards doesn’t stop with high school graduation. For educators like former Lake Superior State University professor Dr. Sally Childs, who has built her career educating and helping to foster growth within the next generation of conservation stewards, learning never ends. Receiving the Conservation Educator of the Year, Childs’ commitment to all her past students as they work through their professional careers has not gone unnoticed, and several of her past students have been and still are employed by MUCC.
DNR Biologist Chad Fedewa and Technician Chad Krumnauer have been instrumental in the implementation, growth and success of MUCC’s award-winning volunteer habitat stewardship program — On the Ground (OTG). Recognized as the On the Ground Conservation Partner of the Year, “the Chads,” as they are collectively known, have accounted for almost one-fifth of all OTG projects throughout the state. Without their continued dedication to bettering Michigan’s habitat and engaging volunteers on Michigan’s public lands, the conservation community would be siloed from the managers and technicians who do the important work of habitat and species management. DNR Wildlife Division Chief Jared Duquette attended to receive their awards on their behalf.
The Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Wayne Hanson. Hanson has attended and volunteered at more OTG events than any other person. Since 2013, Hanson has made it a priority to bring his family and friends to OTG events to help spread the message of conservation, volunteer stewardship and what it means to the species and public lands that benefit from OTG activities.
Geographical information systems (GIS) are one of those things in life that everyone has heard of but not many people are actually sure how it works. Luckily for Michigan, our DNR employed someone like David Forstat. Forstat had the forward-thinking mindset to apply GIS practices to many of the mapping initiatives the state has, including creating applications like MI Hunt, MI State Forests and the Prescribed Burn Story Maps. Forstat and his team were also tapped to help map lead pipes during the Flint Water Crisis and inventory our ORV and snowmobile trails throughout Michigan. For these many reasons and for dedicating most of his professional career to bettering Michigander’s access to public, interactive maps, Forstat was recognized as the Land Conservationist of the Year.
The final award presented at MUCC’s annual awards banquet was the Special Conservation Award. This was presented to The Nature Conservancy, The Michigan Environmental Council, Sustainable Michigan Fund, mParks, Heart of the Lakes, Michigan Trails & Greenway Alliance and MUCC for the collective’s work on Proposal 1 of 2020. Proposal 1 of 2020 amended the constitution to protect the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund in perpetuity and change the funding structure to allow for additional investments in public recreation and access. Passage of this proposal proved how effective a diverse set of organizations can be when rallying around one cause –– a cause as Trotter said, that “brought together the hippies, hikers and hunters”.
MUCC award winners can be nominated by any MUCC member. To receive information for nominating an organization or individual and what awards are available, please visit our criteria and award page or contact MUCC Policy Coordinator Ian FitzGerald at email@example.com.