WDFW recognizes volunteers and others dedicated to conservation

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The saying is that many hands make light work. At the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, many hands also means accomplishing much more than staff could do alone to benefit conservation in Washington state.

Each year, WDFW honors volunteers and partner organizations with community awards. While we can never do enough to show our appreciation, we thank everyone who volunteered and contributed their valuable time and skills over the last year, including the following.

Members of the Washington State Trail Blazers on a stocking trip in 1959. Photo courtesy Washington State Trail Blazers website.

Organization of the Year: Washington State Trail Blazers
The Organization of the Year award recognizes organized groups that consistently make outstanding efforts on behalf of Washington’s fish and wildlife resources and recreation. The Washington State Trail Blazers is a volunteer organization of about 75 people that put their time, energy, and knowledge toward helping WDFW maintain high lakes fisheries for public benefit, and in a manner compatible with native species conservation. The Trail Blazers were formed in 1933 and have made 6,375 trips into the wilderness and carried over 3.5 million trout fry to our alpine lakes since then. In 2022, individuals from the club made 141 trips into the wilderness, backpacking a total of 39,804 fish into lakes in the Cascades and Olympics.

In the early days, this work consisted of backpacking many miles through remote areas with no trails. While planting methods for high lakes have since expanded to using aircraft and horses or mules, the Trail Blazers have been there consistently and are due much of the credit for these fisheries continuing to this day. Without their generosity, dedication, and determination, we would not be able to provide alpine lake fisheries without great expense.

Members have also participated in a variety of studies, conservation and wilderness protection activities, camp cleanups, stream restoration, beaver relocation, and trail maintenance.

Members of the Columbia Springs Team teaching and working on projects with participants.

Educator of the Year: Columbia Springs Team
The Educator of the Year award recognizes educators who have fostered appreciation for Washington’s fish and wildlife by educating children and adults about natural resources. The Columbia Springs Team is a non-profit organization with 100-acres in Vancouver that houses the WDFW Vancouver Trout Hatchery. Columbia Springs staff host approximately 6,000 students a year on-site. Their outdoor environmental education programs get youth curious about the natural world and immerses them in their local ecosystems.

The team also runs the Clark County Salmon in the classroom program; offering tanks, fish, and educational support to teachers. They have also been extremely supportive of helping WDFW in teacher trainings with other community partners. The Columbia Springs Team is truly shaping the next generation of natural resource stewards and practitioners.

Volunteer(s) of the Year Mike and Trudy Barker, as well as Mike’s canine co-worker.

Volunteer(s) of the Year: Mike and Trudy Barker
Mike and Trudy Barker, residents of WDFW Region 1 in eastern Washington, have consistently volunteered time, labor, money, or expertise for projects benefiting fish and wildlife or fish and wildlife recreation. The Barkers have assisted WDFW in many capacities over several decades, including maintaining the Fish Trap Lake access site, monitoring the lake, offering to operate net-pens to enhance the fishery at that lake, and assisting with rehabbing area lakes.

Trudy keeps an eye on the public access area to make sure people are following the rules when fishing is closed and Mike has helped in many ways, but most recently through his efforts helping with a rehab of Williams Lake. WDFW had arranged for a tractor to unload rotenone from a tractor-trailer. The tractor could not handle the work so staff looked around for alternate ways to get the work done. Not able to find an efficient way to get the work done, staff gave Mike a call. He said, “It’ll take me a little while to get there, but I’m on my way!”

Staff expected him to show up with his backhoe on a trailer in several hours but that’s not Mike’s style. He was there within an hour driving the backhoe into the access site. He stayed all day, making it possible to complete the treatment that same day; an unprecedented feat.

Operations at HT Rea Farms in the Walla Walla Valley.

Landowner of the Year HT Rea Farms
HT Rea Farms is WDFW’s Landowner of the Year. They are a fourth-generation Walla Walla Valley family farm focused on sustainable production of wheat (Salmon-Safe Certified), malt barley, garbanzo beans, green peas, canola, seed corn, sunflowers, alfalfa, vegetables, and certified seed.

HT Rea Farms are great stewards of the land and the environment, utilizing technology such as modern spray applicators and GPS-guided equipment to help reduce overlap, which saves fuel, chemicals, and man hours. This is all done to seek a balance between the environmental and economic risks associated with farming.

HT Rea Farms have been working with WDFW since 2012, have enrolled over 2900 acres into WDFW’s Feel Free to Hunt and Hunt with Written Permission access programs, and works with WFDW Conflict staff to reduce damage to crops and property by wildlife.

HT Rea Farms has also worked with staff in WDFW’s Habitat program constructing a new bridge over a creek to move equipment more efficiently and safely between fields and prevent damage to rock beds and creekbanks. HT Rea Farms works with WDFW’s Private Lands Biologists to enhance existing habitat at various locations that they farm as well as planting new wildlife habitat shrub plantings.

Congratulations to all award winters and thank you for the work you do to further WDFW’s mission of preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. We couldn’t do it without you.

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The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

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