Agency Citizen Awards highlight commitments to conservation and volunteerism

WDFW is grateful to all our partners and volunteers. Every year, we are humbly tasked with choosing the standouts from the many nominations we receive for our agency Citizen Awards. Thank you to all the volunteers who gave your time and expertise this past year.

Organization of the Year: Ducks Unlimited — Pacific Northwest Field Office

Ducks Unlimited — Pacific Northwest Field Office partners with WDFW on projects to protect, conserve, and restore wetlands for wildlife and people. The projects on WDFW Wildlife Areas range in type and scale, but with each one Ducks Unlimited demonstrates professionalism and dedication to conservation.

This past year, Ducks Unlimited and WDFW partnered for one of the largest estuary restoration projects on Puget Sound. Fifteen years in the making, the Leque Island Unit project removed dikes allowing tidal waters to flow onto 250 acres for the first time in over 100 years.

Ducks Unlimted staff Steve Liske, April Zohn, C.K. Eidem, and Greg Green celebrating the completion of the Leque Island estuary restoration project on WDFW’s Skagit Wildlife Area

Working together, WDFW and Ducks Unlimited also purchased over 1,600 acres near Westport. The newly acquired Elk River Unit property includes a large wetland complex that is made up of saltwater estuarine habitats, freshwater wetlands and ponds. Stands of old growth Sitka spruce trees can be found scattered throughout the site. This property provides habitat for Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, black bear, waterfowl, and other birds. The land will provide opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, and hunting of waterfowl and big game.

A third project on the Desert Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area restored function to about 200 acres of wetland, with around 50 acres yet to be completed. The project also includes removal of Russian olives and establishing native vegetation in the surrounding uplands. One million in project funding came from a combination of state Duck Stamp funds and two federal North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants. Ducks Unlimited facilitated securing funding, project management and design.

Several projects have been completed in South-Central Washington. Ducks Unlimited helped replace structures to control water levels at Giffin Lake on the Sunnyside Wildlife Area Unit. These improvements, needed for decades, will improve waterfowl habitat. Ducks Unlimited also helped to restore nesting habitat near Mesa Lake.

Ducks Unlimited also worked with WDFW’s Waterfowl Section in a monumental collaboration to collect information on spring migration through the channeled scablands landscape. This partnership included Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, Gonzaga University, Spokane Audubon, and the Intermountain West Joint Venture, among others. Partners worked together to craft a landscape-level conservation plan to conserve wetlands in eastern Washington.

Thank you, Ducks Unlimited, for all you and your members have done to help conserve wildlife habitat in Washington.

Brian Heck, Tina Blewett, and Chris Bonsignore

Volunteers of the year, Rachel Voss and Jim Terry, are perfect examples using their skills and offering their valuable time to improve wildlife conservation in Washington.

Volunteer of the Year: Rachel Voss

Rachel Voss, State Chair with the Mule Deer Foundation, is a tireless supporter of WDFW. She has contributed countless hours, wisdom, and financial support to the programs and regions.

Through her visionary work with the Mule Deer Foundation, Rachel coordinated with regional WDFW Captains to purchase over $15,000 in state-of-the-art trail cameras and related equipment to support officers in the field to help reduce poaching.

Rachel also sits on many volunteer boards, including the Budget and Policy Advisory Group, Wenas Wildlife Advisory Committee, Sunnyside Wildlife Advisory Committee, and the Game Management Advisory Committee. Rachel also plays an active role in the Recreate Responsibly coalition to help get Washingtonians safely back outdoors.

Representing the hunting community, Rachel has offered her support of the department by contacting media with op-ed letters of support and meeting with conservation groups on the complexities of the agency’s budgetary needs. Rachel also is an ally of Washington hunters on social media, at WDFW Commission meetings, and at the State Capitol.

Thank you, Rachel, for your positive, energetic spirit, your continued support to wildlife conservation and for helping share the department’s mission.

Volunteer of the Year: Jim Terry

Jim Terry has become one of the most important “staff” members to WDFW District 11. In the past few years, if the district has worked on a project, Jim was probably there too working as a volunteer. Giving his time, expertise, and the use of his own vehicle and equipment, District 11 is proud and grateful to have Jim on their team.

Jim has spent many hours solo and on teams trudging through wetlands and flooded agricultural fields in search of elusive Oregon spotted frog egg masses. Jim goes out twice a week to dispatch adult female non-native bullfrogs, one of the primary predators of Oregon Spotted Frogs at restoration sites. Jim, an aquaculturist, figured out how to use an aeration system that would create hydrological conditions in ponds to eliminate bullfrog breeding. Jim used grant funding to purchase the necessary equipment to deploy the project in 2020.

Jim Terry deploying equipment at Oregon spotted frog breeding site (left) and conducting Oregon spotted frog surveys (right).

Jim’s skills and willingness to take on challenges are an asset to state wildlife conservation. Several times a week, Jim makes his way out to monitor female pond turtles. On Larch Mountain salamander surveys, Jim spent several days of backbreaking work hiking into remote locations that included turning over scree rock for hours. Jim spent many evenings in remote locations to help set traps for bat surveys as well.

As a skilled marksman, Jim calibrated dart guns and got staff dialed in for immobilization work in preparation for deer captures. During the captures, Jim spent days driving forest roads to locate the illusive buck for capture.

For bog beetle surveys, Jim researched bog locations, reviewed aerial photography, spent hours hacking through brush, conducted shoreline surveys in a kayak, and set traps.

The days in the field can be long and tough but Jim is always ready for more. His happy disposition is valued as much as his hard work. Thank you, Jim, for your commitment of time and energy and all you are doing for wildlife conservation in District 11.

Jim Terry setting a black bear hair bait station.

Landowners of the Year: Mark Bailey and Gary Bailey

Brothers Mark and Gary Bailey have partnered with WDFW for more than 30 years. This partnership included tree and shrub plantings as part of the Snake River Mitigation Fund, many federal conservation programs, and work to provide hunting access for generations of hunters.

This past year, Mark and Gary Bailey worked with graduate students from Eastern Washington University to collect data on pollinator corridors within the Palouse Prairie and channeled scablands.

The Bailey’s also worked with the Spokane Chapter of Pheasants Forever and WDFW private lands biologists to host the annual Pheasants Forever Youth Mentor hunts.

The Bailey’s have encouraged hunting on their eight properties during the first annual Mentor Clinic in St John. Mark and Gary have been participating in various voluntary public access programs over the years and currently enroll about 5,000 acres in the Hunt by Reservation program.

Linda and Greg Bailey

Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award: Marty Kotzke

Hunter education instructor Marty Kotzke was awarded the Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award for his above and beyond commitment to Washington’s hunting heritage. The award honors Wildlife Agent Terry Hoffer, who was fatally wounded by a hunter accidentally discharging his firearm in 1984.

Marty has been a WDFW volunteer for more than 15 years. In 2019, Marty taught 17 hunter education courses, certifying over 300 students in Region 6 (Puyallup). He also trains new hunter education instructors and is a member of the Instructor Advisory Committee. Always a supportive role model, Marty is committed to ensuring all his students have a positive experience in hunter education.

Additionally, Marty volunteers on other WDFW education and conservation initiatives. Marty is involved in planning and staffing the annual National Hunting and Fishing Day event, introducing hundreds of youth to archery and shotguns. He also staffed the hunter education table at multiple public events throughout the year and is the lead volunteer for WDFW’s annual small game survey processing.

Marty is tireless, gracious, and generous with his time, skills, and knowledge. His experience has left a lasting impression on the Hunter Education program. Marty was previously awarded the 2018 Citizen Educator of the Year award for his outstanding teaching skills and accomplishments.

Marty Kotzke teaching a youth how to safely handle archery equipment.

WDFW citizen volunteers around the state logged just over 56,000 hours in 2019. WDFW welcomes volunteer help to benefit fish, wildlife and habitat. For more information, visit the agency volunteer page.

In addition to the volunteer and partnership awards, Director Susewind also presented two Director’s Awards and a Special Recognition distinction.

Director’s Award: Terry Williams

Terry Williams received the 2020 Director’s Award for his tireless work to establish and build collaborative forums to tackle tough issues in natural resource management. Since 1982, Terry has served as a Fisheries, Natural Resources, and Treaty Rights Office Commissioner for Tulalip Tribes. He has also served on the Northwest Indian Fisheries commission and the Pacific Fisheries Management Council since 1985. In 1997, Terry became a member of the Pacific Salmon Commission. Terry is a founding member of the Sustainable Lands Strategy of Snohomish County, created in 2010.

Previously as the Tribal Liaison to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Commissioner of Fisheries and Natural Resources, Terry often speaks to groups about tribal treaty rights and the importance of working together with private landowners. Terry has dedicated a lifetime to conservation efforts, as well as other collaborative efforts with many local, regional, and national partners. We thank Terry for his commitment to making the Salish Sea a better place, and we wish him, and his family, all the best in his well-earned retirement.

Director’s Award: Matt Oram

Matt Oram, WDFW’s Chief Information Officer, received the 2020 Director’s Award for his vision and leadership in Information Technology Services program. He has built a strong and smart leadership team positioned to lead WDFW into the future. Matt’s clarity of focus on developing a robust team culture based on values has resulted in increased team morale, innovative thinking and excellent product delivery.

Matt Oram

This past spring, Matt and his team seamlessly moved 1,500 staff to remote work in the course of three weeks. Matt and his team deployed Microsoft Teams in under a month, when it was expected to take close to a year. He solved seemingly stubborn problems with digital solutions that allowed WDFW’s business to continue and thrive. For example, he remained focused on finding paper-based processes — like hiring — and turned them into digital processes, eliminating the need for staff to return to offices to sign/scan documents. His team has kept WDFW safe from digital incursions and has ensured that all risks are being addressed as they arise.

Matt is an extraordinary leader and a valued member of the Department’s Executive Management Team and WDFW is proud to have Matt and his team heading up the Information Technology Services.

Congratulations Matt on receiving the Director’s Award.

Special Recognition Award: Captain Phil Johnson

Shortly after the state’s first COVID-19 case, a state of emergency was declared, and Washington initiated an Incident Command System (ICS). It was challenging to fill the many leadership roles at ICS because every agency was dealing with the pandemic. Capt. Johnson was the perfect fit to serve with his background in ICS, his expertise as an instructor, and his leadership skills. Assigned to the Department of Health (DOH), Capt. Johnson performed rotations as the Incident Management Team Commander at the DOH Lab in Shoreline from March through July. Seeing a need for additional help, he brought on two student officers, whose academy had been placed on hold, and positioned them into ICS functions, finding them meaningful work during a time of uncertainty.

Capt. Johnson advanced the state’s ability to quickly respond to shortages of medical supplies, testing kits, and personal protective equipment. He was able to use WDFW staff to help move supplies around the state when critical needs arose. Capt. Johnson’s work at DOH was also an enormous benefit to WDFW, as he shared knowledge of the latest updates and the protocols that were being established by DOH. He became a valued member of the WDFW safety team, addressing working conditions for essential workers and in developing return to work protocols.

Upon Capt. Johnson’s return to “normal duties”, he stepped in as an additional state agency liaison as WDFW continues to support the Washington’s COVID-19 response by collaborating with State Emergency Operations Center and other agencies in relation to the Safe Start Guide and the phased reopening directed by Gov. Inslee. Capt. Johnson brought an incredible perspective on the pandemic and in the early days helped WDFW understand and plan for what was likely to occur.

Thank you, Capt. Johnson, and congratulations for receiving the Special Recognition Award for your exceptional leadership and vision throughout the pandemic response.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

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