At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Regional Director’s Awards ceremony today, the Service recognized a group of partners for their efforts on behalf of the wild resources that belong to all Alaskans. Geoff Haskett, the Service’s Alaska Regional Director, said, “Partnerships are at the heart of meaningful conservation, and they are essential if we are to be truly effective in conserving Alaska’s fish, wildlife, and habitats. The organizations recognized today demonstrate this, and I’m grateful to have had an opportunity to celebrate their contributions.”

The groups awarded were:

The Great Land Trust: It is often said that the Service “can only achieve its mission in partnership with others.”  The Trust is a perfect example of the truth of this statement. It applies its outstanding facilitation skills, expertise, and political acumen to strategically focus on permanently conserving habitat for the benefit of fish, wildlife, migratory birds, and all Alaskans.

The Conservation Fund: The Fund made outstanding contributions to the National Wildlife Refuge System in 2011 through several crucial land acquisitions. It was able to successfully negotiate the acquisition of three high priority parcels of land totaling 321 acres, and donated $300,000 worth of key habitat to the Service.

Golden Valley Electric Association: Interior Alaska’s nonprofit rural electric cooperative, the Association works with the Service and other resource agencies to minimize its environmental footprint and make its infrastructure compatible with local fish and wildlife.

Island Trails Network of Kodiak: Whether it concerns trail-building techniques, causes of erosion, or impacts from marine debris, the Network has a lot to teach to the youth of Kodiak.  Since 2009, it has partnered with the Kodiak Refuge Youth Conservation Corps to assist in conservation projects. In 2011, Network workers removed 30,000 lbs of marine debris from the Kodiak Refuge. In addition to those in the YCC, students were brought in from out of state to experience and improve the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge through the efforts of Island Trails Network.

Eni Petroleum: On March 18th 2011, a polar bear sow and her cub emerged from their den on Eni’s Spy Island drill site. When the bear had entered her den the previous fall there had been no human activity for weeks. When she and her cub emerged, however, they found themselves at an active construction site. Acting upon a response plan approved by the Service, Eni immediately established a one mile no-disturbance zone around the bears and contacted the Service. Everyone involved did everything right, for the benefit of polar bears, industry, and people.

The Watershed School of Fairbanks: A vibrant partnership with a local school is a key to reaching young audiences. Perhaps no school in Alaska has been a better partner than The Watershed School. In May 2011, the Service partnered with the school, Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Chena Hot Springs Resort to conduct a Sustainability Camp. Students learned to live more sustainably while furthering fish and wildlife conservation.

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