WDFW recognizes volunteers, partners, and educators for conservation commitment


Every year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recognizes organizations, volunteers, landowners, and educators who have shown an extraordinary commitment to conservation.

These outstanding partners help WDFW advance its mission to preserve and protect Washington’s habitats and fish and wildlife species, while also offering sustainable recreation opportunities for all who call Washington state home. Whether offering their skills, resources, or time, these conservation champions all play a role in WDFW’s important work.

Volunteers of the year: Troy and Sandy Cortez

For 20 years, Tony and Sandy Cortez have volunteered on fish-in, fish-out monitoring projects in WDFW’s Coastal Region (Region 6). They drive 45 minutes, each way, to attend their weekly shifts during spawning season and again in smolt season.

Tony and Sandy have been a part of these projects from the beginning of the effort. They were involved when the creeks were still open channels through the land, and riparian plants were still tender young shoots in their protective blue tubes.

These habitats are now functioning riparian forests that Tony and Sandy have worked right alongside through each year of their succession. Tony and Sandy have seen these projects through supplementation and into the monitoring beyond. They have counted tens of thousands of fish (if not hundreds of thousands), in their time working with the department. In addition to their devotion, they are also just genuinely lovely personalities.

Organization of the year: Conservation Northwest

Conservation Northwest staff share information on forest restoration.

The Organization of the Year is Conservation Northwest. Conservation Northwest is a long-standing partner organization and regional wildlands and wildlife conservation group. Their Wildlife-Recreation Coexistence Program launched in 2021 in recognition of the rapidly growing year-round outdoor recreation occurring on public lands in Washington state amid the pandemic, along with potential negative impacts on vulnerable wildlife, and growing concerns from Native American tribes about recreation impacts. This program was years ahead of other nongovernmental organizations’ work on this topic and provides important leadership that influenced WDFW’s 10-year recreation plan for Department lands, as well as other science and policy making. Working with Methow-based Home Range Wildlife Research, Conservation Northwest staff produced a report and literature review of current science on Recreation and Wildlife In Washington (2022) as well as a Wildlife Ambassador pilot program in the Central Cascades. CNW has also solicited extensive media coverage on the topic of recreation interactions with wildlife, bringing attention to this growing issue.

Landowner of the year: Sean Jenks

Sean Jenks in WDFW’s North Central Region (Region 2) is our Landowner of the Year. Sean has worked with Private Lands staff to install shrub rows and native and beneficial grass plantings on three properties in two counties. He wants to plant several more shrub rows and see if there is any improvement possible on the grass plantings. Sean also wants to plant a wildlife crop on an abandoned 5-acre field section and improve unfarmed draws surrounding his fields. His farm is removing woody debris and is leaving piles to benefit wildlife. He sought advice to see if there was a different way to arrange the piles to maximize wildlife benefit. The future work comes from him reaching out for advice and a great desire to see even more wildlife around his and his family’s properties.

Educator of the year: Jen Herdmann

Jen Herdmann with students at the Wild WA Outdoor School field experience at Beebe Springs Wildlife Area

Jen Herdmann in Region 2 is our Educator of the Year. Jen has been a huge advocate of WDFW’s conservation education work in the region. She works closely with Wenatchee and Eastmont School Districts and has been integral in helping to get our State of Salmon curriculum adopted in those districts. As the Community Engagement and Education Program Specialist with Cascade Fisheries, Jen invests her time connecting students with fish and wildlife conservation issues, both in the classroom and by taking students into the field. She organizes the Salmon in the Classroom programs in multiple school districts, leads salmon release field trips for students in grades 3-5 in Wenatchee and Eastmont school districts (and others), and is partnering with WDFW on the No Child Left Inside grant-funded Wild Washington Outdoor Classroom program at Beebe Springs Wildlife Area. Throughout all her work Jen uses her enthusiasm, humor, and joyful attitude to help individuals of all ages find their own roles in recovering our native finned friends!

Congratulations and another thank you to all of these award winners and the work they do to support 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.



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.