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Technical Announcement:
Secretary of the Interior Recognizes USGS and its Collaborators with Partners in Conservation Awards

Released: 10/14/2010 4:43:43 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Diane Noserale 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4333

Clarice Nassif Ransom 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4299

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar selected four U.S. Geological Survey programs and their collaborators to receive a Partners in Conservation Award — The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council-USGS Water Quality Monitoring Program; the Council of Lake Committees, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey; the Giant Constrictor Risk Assessment Partnership of the USFWS, National Park Service, and USGS; and the Mount St. Helens Institute.

The Partners in Conservation Awards recognize individuals and organizations for their conservation achievements resulting from the cooperation and participation of landowners; citizens’ groups; private sector and nongovernmental organizations; and federal, state, local and/or tribal governments.

“These awards recognize the dedicated efforts of more than 600 individuals and organizations from all walks of life, from across our nation, and from across our border with Canada,” the Secretary said. “They embody a broad spectrum of conservation work ranging from preserving historic battlefields, restoring watersheds and wetlands, protecting wildlife, conserving water and fighting invasive species to teaching conservation values to the next generation.”

Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council-USGS Water Quality Monitoring Program

The Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council-USGS Water Quality Monitoring Program is recognized for helping the people of the Yukon River Basin gain a better understanding of the river’s environmental health, increasing their skills and abilities in water quality sampling and empowering them as stewards of their environment. The Yukon River Basin is becoming a focus for collecting climate change information; it is considered one of the most rapidly changing landscapes in the world. The unique characteristics of this watershed and its people are the principal reasons for the continued preservation of some of North America’s last natural, cultural and heritage resources. By training local communities to gather information about water quality using uniform protocols, the Council not only expands the skills of the communities but also provides data useful for the diverse needs of the communities and Council member organizations. By sharing knowledge and building on the mutual contributions of all participants, the Council supports the tribal and First Nations’ efforts to preserve the relatively pristine conditions of the Yukon River and their traditions, subsistence and economies.

The program includes government-to-government cooperation, including Alaska Native governments, Canadian First Nations and the USGS. Youth involvement and respect for native life are also critical elements of this work. The long-term project will provide data measuring the response to climatic and environmental changes over many years to improve the stewardship of the region.

Awardees from the USGS include: George Aiken, S. Michelle Bourret, Kenna Butler, Mark Dornblaser, Suzette Kimball, Susan Marcus (retired), Pete Murdoch, Paul Schuster, Rob Striegl and Kimberly Wickland. Awardees from the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council Partnership include: Clarence Alexander, Leah Anderson, Harold Gatensby, Bryan Maracle, Dave Pelunis-Messier, Carl Sidney, Pat Sweetsir, Carol Thomas and Jon Waterhouse. 

The Council of Lake Committees, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and USGS

The Council of Lake Committees, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, U.S. FWSFWS, and the USGS are recognized for their commitment to a science-based management approach for the conservation and sustainability of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes fishery is one of the most important freshwater resources on Earth. It’s worth $7 billion, provides recreation to 5 million anglers, supports 75,000 jobs, and contributes to a rich cultural heritage valued by the more than 30 million people who live near the Lakes. In April 2009, the partners signed a new five-year agreement to confirm, once again, their commitment to leveraging each other’s resources, avoiding duplication of effort and sharing critical scientific data to help decision makers conserve and sustain the vitality of the Great Lakes. The Council of Lake Committees, representing eight states bordering the Great Lakes, the Province of Ontario, two intertribal agencies, along with the USGS and the U.S. FWS, became signatories, committing to the ways critical scientific information would be collected and disseminated to decision makers.

The partnership continues to model what is becoming known as one of the world’s finest examples of trans-boundary cooperation. Examples of the cooperative initiatives resulting from the partnership include: successful rehabilitation of native species; production of world-class research through technical committees and similar partnerships; disease prevention and management; development of common fish community objectives for each lake; effective coordination of law enforcement; publication of “State-of-the-Lake” reports; sharing of equipment, resources, and data; and cutting edge research on aquatic invasive species and control, sustainable stocking levels, and allocation agreements on harvest quotas. For their extraordinary cooperative commitment to the conservation of one of the most valuable water, environmental, recreational and economic resources in North America, the Council of Lake Committees, Great Lake Fishery Commission, U.S. FWS, and U.S. Geological Survey are awarded the U.S. Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award.

Awardees include: Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority; Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission; Illinois Department of Natural Resources; Indiana Department of Natural Resources; Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Ohio Department of Natural Resources; Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Great Lakes Fishery Commission; U.S. FWS; and Russell M. Strach of the USGS Great Lakes Science Center.

Giant Constrictor Risk Assessment Partnership

The Giant Constrictor Risk Assessment Partnership of the U.S. FWS, National Park Service, and USGS came together to pursue a critical environmental issue — the spreading threat in southern Florida of non-native giant constrictor snakes. The Partnership was propelled by a common cause, fueled by the benefits of collaboration and sustained by the agreeable working environment the group created. An ad hoc alliance of Department of the Interior employees, the Partnership assembled without reference to agency, funding source, office or region to pursue a mutual goal. The particular challenge they faced was the mandated requirement for the independence of both the science and the regulatory process because the partnership involved USGS scientists providing unbiased information to independently inform U.S. FWS rule making. The partners carefully segregated their roles so policy objectives did not color the scientific results and personal judgments did not taint the regulatory proposals. A full spectrum of communication vehicles was produced, including print and video interviews and clips, a podcast, CDs, photographs, webpages and abstracts, talking points and Frequently Asked Questions, press releases, personal briefings, a USGS report, downloadable documents and scientific journal publications.  

In October 2009, the partners issued a risk assessment, paving the way for the proposal to list the Burmese python and eight other large constrictor snakes as “injurious wildlife.” For their exemplary teamwork and contributions to furthering the Department’s mission to conserve America’s natural resources and to prevent degradation by foreseeable threats, the Giant Constrictor Risk Assessment Partnership is awarded the U.S. Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award.

Awardees from the USGS include: Sharon Gross; Catherine Jarnevich; William Lukas; Jeff Morisette; Catherine Puckett; Robert Reed; Gordon Rodda; and Jennifer Shoemaker. Partner awardees include: Juliette Wilson, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation; David Hallac and Ray W. “Skip” Snow, the National Park Service; and Art Roybal and Paul Souza of the U.S. FWS.

Mount St. Helens Institute

The Mount St. Helens Institute is recognized for its support of the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument through its mission to “deepen understanding of, experience on, and involvement with” the most active volcano in the Pacific Northwest. In 2009, Institute volunteers donated thousands of hours, accounting for more than a third of the naturalist-interpretive workforce, allowing the Johnston Ridge Observatory to stay open and fully functioning, and also allowing the Pine Creek and Cascade Peaks Information Centers to reopen and welcome 22,000 visitors in 2009. Founded in 2000, this educational, non-profit organization has developed numerous public educational programs for students and adults and fostered interaction among the U.S. Forest Service, the USGS and university scientists.

The Institute sponsors many public events including: a monthly public lecture on geology and ecology called “Volcano News and Brews,” which has attracted more than 650 guests to a local pub in Portland, Ore.; the Volcano Explorers Program, which  connects scientists and researchers with 4th and 6th grade students through video conferencing; an environmental education overnight opportunity for youth and school groups called “Volcano After Dark;” a “Youth Stream Team” program in which 20 urban youth collected stream data near the mountain; an annual educational campout for 45 urban youth; eight group climbs of Mount St. Helens in 2009 led by professional volcanologists; guided Sunday hikes and snowshoeing trips; a family event, “It’s a Blast: Volcano Science in Your Backyard,” hosted by TV personality Bill Nye, the Science Guy, that helped raise money for a new seismic exhibit; and a Vietnam Veterans band concert that raised money for a new visitor center exhibit. For their extraordinary contributions to conservation, science education and volcano hazard awareness, the Mount St. Helens Institute is awarded the U.S. Department of the Interior Partners in Conservation Award.

Awardees from the USGS include: Carolyn Driedger, Larry Mastin, and Thomas Pierson. Partner awardees include: Jeanne Bennett and John Bishop of the Mount St. Helens Institute and Tom Mulder, U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

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