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Employees and volunteers working for the National Wildlife Refuge System
were honored for their exceptional contributions to wildlife conservation
last weekend in Washington, D.C., with awards from the National Wildlife
Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The refuge system, which celebrated its 98th birthday on March 14, is the
world's largest system of lands and waters dedicated to wildlife

Three individuals and a community partnership group received awards at a
March 17 ceremony during the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources
Conference in Washington, D.C.  The National Wildlife Refuge Association
annually sponsors awards for the Refuge Manager of the Year, Employee of
the Year and Volunteer of the Year, and the National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation joins the Refuge Association in sponsoring the Friends Group of
the Year Award.

These awards are widely considered the most prestigious honors in the
National Wildlife Refuge System.

"All too often the outstanding work of the men and women, employees, and
volunteers of the National Wildlife Refuge System is overlooked or taken
for granted," said Refuge Association board member Bill Ashe.  "They make
the system function, and function well.  In a small way, the awards embody
and symbolize the significant accomplishments of all refuge workers."

"As we move toward the National Wildlife Refuge System's Centennial in
2003, we continue to recognize our employees and volunteers whose efforts
will carry the system into its second century--and beyond," said acting
Service Director Marshall Jones.  "Tonight's winners represent just a few
of these dedicated people."

Paul Kroegel Award for Refuge Manager of the Year

Al Trout received the Paul Kroegel Award for the Refuge Manager of the
Year.  Trout has been the manager of Utah's Bear River Migratory Bird
Refuge since 1989, and since that time has helped the refuge re-emerge as
habitat for a number of bird and mammal species after 6 years of flooding
by the Great Salt Lake.  From a rented office, and with no staff and little
budget, Trout rallied hundreds of volunteers who raised $50,000 in cash,
materials and services, and donated nearly 17,000 hours of labor to help
rebuild and reopen the refuge.

In addition, Trout was instrumental in the establishment of the Friends of
Bear River Refuge, which has helped construct boardwalks and overlooks on
the refuge and recently committed to raising $1.5 million toward rebuilding
the refuge's education and administrative offices.

This award is named for Paul Kroegel, the first refuge manager who,
beginning in 1903, used his own boat and shotgun to keep bird poachers away
from Florida's Pelican Island, the first national wildlife refuge.

Refuge Employee of the Year

The Refuge Employee of the Year award went to David Jamiel, who serves as
the on-site ranger-in-charge at Two Ponds NWR, a subunit of Denver's Rocky
Mountain Arsenal NWR in Arvada, Colorado.

Jamiel established an environmental education program at Two Ponds, hosting
or coordinating some 6,000 visits by school and scout groups.  He also
recruited 69 volunteers--including 51 students--to provide environmental
education and interpretation at Two Ponds, a 72-acre urban refuge with no
buildings or administrative facilities.

Volunteer of the Year

The Refuge Association named Harry Sanders, a volunteer at Don Edwards San
Francisco Bay NWR, as Volunteer of the Year.  Sanders, who will "retire"
from his volunteer work this year, has contributed hundreds of hours
managing a native plant nursery at the refuge.  The nursery, where Sanders
cultivates some 12,000 plants of 250 different native species, plays a key
role in the Service's native habitat restoration activities in the San
Francisco Bay area.

Sanders involved the local community in developing the nursery, enlisting
the help of a number of nonprofit horticultural organizations that have
contributed native plants or materials.

Refuge Friends Group of the Year

Friends of the Upper Mississippi River Refuges has been instrumental in
securing funding and volunteer services for three refuges along the
Mississippi River in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  The group's
four chapters have donated thousands of dollars in funding and volunteer
hours, organizing activities such as tree and shrub plantings, an annual
photography contest, and fishing activities for children and
developmentally disabled adults.

The Friends of Upper Mississippi River Refuges have also served as strong
advocates for the resources of the refuges and the National Wildlife Refuge
System as a whole, contacting Congressional Members and other influential
people and organizations on behalf of refuges.  The group's activities led
last year to Congressional funding for the Environmental Management
Program, designed to improved the ecological health of the Upper
Mississippi River.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and
plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American
people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge
System which encompasses more than 530 national wildlife refuges, thousands
of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66
national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological
services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws,
administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations,
restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife
habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their
conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that
distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and
hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

                                  - FWS -

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