WDFW Annual Award winners exemplify commitments to service and conservation

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is grateful to all our partners and volunteers. Each year, we are impressed by the dedication of our volunteers highlighted in the Community Awards process. Thank you to everyone who volunteered and contributed your valuable time and skills over the last year.

Organization of the Year: Columbia River Chapter of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders

The Columbia River Chapter of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders completed many projects over the last year that provided improved fishing opportunities in southwest Washington.

In 2019, the Columbia River Chapter of NW Steelheaders noticed that drift boat/small boat access to the lower Lewis River via Goerig Park, in Cowlitz County was closed off due to vandalism, littering, and garbage dumping. Working in coordination with the Woodland Chief of Police, the Public Works Department, and Mayor, these committed steelheaders entered into an agreement to maintain the park by completing all park maintenance including brush clearing, grass cutting, weed eating, new garbage cans, and donated gravel for the new parking area. They do monthly cleanups and maintain the rustic launch area and even donated a stone rock bench and memorial for a long-time angler and fishing supporter in the park.

Members of the Columbia River Chaper of Northwest Steelheaders having a chapter meeting.

Chapter members recognized in 2020 that the boat launch on the north fork of the Lewis River at the golf course, in Clark County, was nearly unusable due to poor road conditions and overgrown vegetation. The chapter organized volunteers to improve the access road and boat launch, put down new gravel, and removed encroaching vegetation.

For many years, anglers in southwest Washington wanted a place to display photos of their catch and to clean their fish at reservoirs controlled by PacifiCorp. Working with PacifiCorp recreation manager, chapter members met and designed the brag boards. The first board is almost completed at Merwin Reservoir, with Yale Reservoir and Swift Reservoir to be constructed next. They plan to move forward with fish cleaning stations at those same Cowlitz County locations.

These are just a few of the examples of the good work that the Columbia River Chapter of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders has done over the years. Thank you so much for your volunteer’s dedication to angling and this incredible work to improve the fishing experience for anglers throughout southwest Washington.

Educator of the Year: Todd Rightmire

For 29 years at Mount Baker Senior High School in Whatcom County, among a demanding, varied list of classroom teaching duties and administrative responsibilities, Todd Rightmire has taught elective courses in natural resources that focus on Washington’s wildlife and their habitats, forestland management and water quality. He also dedicated time to delving into wild and cultured salmon and steelhead studies. Under Todd’s direct supervision, students in both introductory and advanced natural resources classes, visit the McKinnnon rearing facility several times a week to do regular feedings, monitor/maintain the water supply and observe critical fish life processes including growth, smolt transformation and general health. Over the years, several his students have gone on to technical school or university studies in pursuit of various careers in this field. Many past students will say how important and enjoyable Mr. Rightmire’s classes were for them.

Todd Rightmire and students working under a net at a fish hatchery pond.

In addition to being respected for his dedication and teaching ability, Todd serves as chair of the Northwest Washington Steelheaders of Everson where he hosts several annual fundraising events to support McKinnon Pond with fish food predator netting and other supplies to keep the facility running.

Thank you, Todd, for the passion and knowledge you have shared with the students of Whatcom County and for the work you have done on behalf of salmon in Northern Puget Sound.

Volunteers of the Year:

Cathy Flick

Volunteer of the Year Cathy Flick sitting in vegetation of large leaves and flowers

Cathy Flick has been volunteering for WDFW for 20 years, and since retiring from the U.S. Forest Service, she has only ramped up her contribution. Cathy brings a lifetime of passion for wildlife, while possessing all the skills of a professional biologist. Her data collection is meticulous, her attention to protocol is stellar, and she can navigate safely to the most remote areas, and she will charge uphill faster than you!

Projects that Cathy has volunteered for with WDFW include surveys for: Larch mountain salamanders, flammulated owls, peregrine falcons, prairie falcons, goshawks, ferruginous hawks, bald and golden eagles, short-eared owls, great blue herons, bats, western gray squirrels, and monarch, juniper hairstreak and Yuma skipper butterflies.

A highlight in Cathy’s volunteer career with WDFW came in May 2017 when she was working on butterfly surveys for WDFW biologist Ann Potter. Cathy’s knowledge of juniper habitat in Klickitat County prompted her to search several locations for the imperiled juniper hairstreak butterfly and she discovered a new juniper hairstreak population in the eastern part of the county!

Cathy’s best quality, though, is her enthusiasm. Everyone looks forward to working with her because she has a smile on her face, and she thanks you for the opportunity to volunteer. WDFW is beyond lucky to have such a passionate and dedicated volunteer — we literally could not do our work without her!

Hugh and Finn Carney

Volunteers of the year Hugh and Finn Carney standing in a wetland next to a boat with their dog and harvested ducks.

Hugh and Finn Carney are truly dedicated volunteers on the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area in Grant County. For many years, this father and son team have spent springs picking up and hauling garbage out of the Priest Rapids and Lower Crab Creek units. The Lower Crab Creek unit is an area with chronic dumping issues. So far this year they have already made nine trips from their home in Yakima. During these trips they haul out massive quantities of garbage (literally tons) including dumped appliances, mattresses, furniture, household waste, and other trash. The refuse they pick up is often big, heavy, and unwieldy, so they recruit friends and other family to help on these garbage runs. They do this all utilizing their own truck and trailer.

Their work has frequently been recognized by WDFW enforcement. Multiple officers have contacted Hugh and Finn in the field only to find they are hauling out yet another load of dumped trash. This season Hugh took it up a notch by hauling his own boat down and picking up garbage left from duck hunters on the hard to access west shore of the Columbia River on the Priest Rapids pool.

There is no way with current staff and budgets that the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area could address the dumping problem in the area as well as Hugh, Finn, and their recruits have. They never ask for any recognition and usually says something along the lines of “I’m just doing my part” but the truth is Hugh and Finn are doing a tremendous amount more than just their part. Their efforts have had, and continue to have, a significant impact on the overall quality of the Lower Crab Creek Unit as well as improving the user experience for visitors of the wildlife area.

Buzz Ramsey

Volunteer of the year Buzz Ramsey sitting on fishing boat holding a fish and fishing rod.

Buzz Ramsey has been a tireless supporter of the WDFW mission for almost 50 years through his dedication to educating generations of anglers to improve their skills and enjoy and support the sport. He has done this through writing countless tech reports, know-how reports, magazine articles, seminars, and television show appearances.

Buzz retired from his remarkable career of almost 50 years of leadership in the manufacturing of fishing goods and fish politics. Through his fishing creativity, he has influenced generations of salmon, steelhead, and trout anglers in Washington, the Northwest, and throughout America. He is a Hall-of-Fame member of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall-of-Fame. Throughout the last 50 years, he has been one of the most recognizable fixtures of northwest salmon and steelhead fishing. If you have fished in the northwest, you probably will have heard about Buzz Ramsey and he has improved your fishing skills and contributed to your conservation ethics.

Buzz has not only been recognized by WDFW, but he is also recognized by his peers. To give you a sense, here is a small sample of what the press has to say about Buzz:

“Ramsey has been the face of Northwest salmon and steelhead fishing for decades”. — In-Fisherman magazine

“He’s been a fixture of salmon and steelhead fishing”. -Salmon, Trout, Steelheader magazine

“Legendary lure designer”. — Game and Fish magazine

“One of the 20 best anglers on the planet” — Outdoor Life Magazine, May 2011

Buzz, thank you for all you have given the fishing community. We celebrate your accomplishments and contributions. Well done!

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