Scott Mills – Environmental Educator of the Year 2019

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This year’s recipient of the Dave McNett Environmental Educator of the Year award, Scott Mills, received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science at The Ohio State University. He went on to earn a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona in 1979. For the 8 years he was in grad school, Scott was either a research or teaching assistant, included serving as Assistant Curator of Birds for several years at the University of Arizona. After graduation, Scott spent 3 years as a Zoologist for the Nature Conservancy in Tucson, followed by a career as an Environmental Consultant full time until 1998, part time after that. His work spanned a wide range of projects including many surveys and assessments of endangered species.

Scott was active in Tucson Audubon Society, serving on their Board of Directors, Chaired and Co-chaired committees, lead field trips, and taught bird classes. He was on the Arizona Birds Record Committee. Still infected by the teaching bug, Scott taught Ornithology at the University of Arizona as an Instructor for two semesters. Then, fortunately for us, he moved to Olympia in 1999.

Since 2000, shortly after his arrival in the Northwest, Scott has conducted seabird surveys from NOAA ships, and has worked with Westport Seabirds, as a “spotter” on their pelagic birding voyages. Scott has taught bird classes for Black Hills Audubon, Seattle Audubon and the Seattle Audubon Master Birding Class since 2008. Classes have included “Beginning Birding”, “Birding 101”, “Advanced Birding”, “Bird Anatomy and Physiology”, “Birding by Shape”, “Bird Flight”, “Shorebirds”, and “Birds of Washington.”

As a teacher, Scott has a deep grasp of his subject, a patient but enthusiastic teaching style, and a willingness to meet each student where they are, while encouraging and enabling them to learn more. After learning of his selection for the award, Scott’s humble nature and informal style prompted him to decline to attend the BHAS Annual Dinner. When presented with the plaque at the beginning of the class he is currently teaching (Shorebird Identification), Scott typically deflected praise and shared all the credit with BHAS.

Maria Ruth – Conservationist of the Year 2019

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For the past seven years, Maria Ruth has been involved with the Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet that is being developed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Maria is the author of the definitive book, Rare Bird, that brought to the general public the saga of solving the mystery of where murrelets nest; namely, on high branches of old growth trees often many miles from the ocean where they forage. Mountaineers Books reissued this book in paperback in 2013 as Rare Bird Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet. Maria has given presentations on murrelets to many Audubon chapters and other conservation groups across Washington and in Oregon and California and testified on behalf of this species at public hearings before the Board of Natural Resources and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. As she says, she was up to her ears in murrelets!

Not really looking for another murrelet-oriented task, in 2017 she nevertheless attended the open-house hosted by the company RES Americas that concerned its proposed development of the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project. This project planned 51 (now 38) wind turbines on a prominent ridge near the border of Lewis and Thurston Counties to produce power to be purchased by Puget Sound Energy. Black Hills Audubon, like National Audubon, supports wind energy — because it can help reduce fossil fuel use and thus address climate change and protect birds and other wildlife — that is, as long as there is adequate protection and/or mitigation for direct kills of birds.

The turbines will have high-tech sensors capable of detecting Bald and Golden Eagles and stopping blade rotating as these very large birds approach; however, these sensors cannot identify smaller birds. Marbled Murrelets are particularly at risk because of the immediate proximity of the proposed wind farm to occupied marbled murrelet nesting sites and because of the tenuous hold of this species on continued existence in Washington State.

In order to advance murrelet conservation, Maria plunged in, reading dozens of reports and studies; talked to murrelet biologists and wind-energy specialists; read several hundred pages of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement; and drafted comments on behalf of Black Hills to help reduce the harmful impacts of this wind-energy project not only on Marbled Murrelets but also on Bald and Golden Eagles, migratory song birds, and several species of bats.

Working with others in and outside of Audubon (including Willapa Hills Audubon and the Washington Forest Law Center), she led the BHAS effort to submit scoping comments on the Skookumchuck Project, as well as many pages of comments to Lewis County and the US Fish and Wildlife Service on the draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan.

Conservation projects seem never to be finished — and the Skookumchuck project is no exception — but time has been provided for RES-Americas to respond to our concerns and take bigger steps to make this a cleaner clean-energy project.

Margery Beeler – Volunteer of the Year 2019

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Thank you from Margery Beeler – I will never find the perfect words to express my gratitude for being chosen to receive BHAS’s first Volunteer of the Year Award.

I came to Olympia in 2002 from S.W. Florida, where I was deeply involved with one of Audubon’s most impressive custodial possessions: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. This was my second post-retirement relocation from my life in Schenectady, New York, and career in public libraries. My life in Olympia has been intertwined with BHAS from my arrival, and I have loved this organization, not just for its mission (the original drawing point) but more importantly for the community of people it attracts.

My involvement in the Annual Dinner and its auction was truly a labor of love from the beginning in 2003. We never made a huge amount of money with the auction, but I always liked to think we provided members with a chance to feel they were contributing to the organization through their donations or purchases, as well as a venue at the dinner for social interaction.

As membership chair, I have been happy to maintain our membership database. While this is not always an exciting effort, I have always believed in its importance and am glad I can continue to do it for BHAS. I have enjoyed participating in the various areas in which I felt I could contribute, and I plan to contribute as long as that contribution is acceptable. Having my contributions acknowledged as valuable is the veritable icing on the cake.

Thank you all. You’ve made me very happy.

2018 Conservation Award Recipient

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Dr. Daniel Einstein received the 2018 Jack Davis Conservation Award for his work to protect, acquire, and restore great blue heron habitat in Olympia. He played a primary role in getting the Olympia City Council to pass significant amendments to the Critical Areas Ordinance (CAO) that allow nomination of locally important species for protection and adoption of habitat management guidelines.

His interest in conservation is long standing, fostered at an early age. As a child, he was turned on to nature in the woods and at the Audubon Society’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA. As a young adult, he was involved with his neighbors in the preservation of Katahdin Woods in Lexington MA. In 2000, he moved with his wife from Seattle to a farm in Olympia near Woodard Bay, where they enjoyed watching the great blue herons from the Woodard Bay colony. In 2006, they moved to their current residence in West Olympia, where their daughter was born. From their front porch, they have enjoyed watching the West Bay colony during their raucous breeding season, and have followed with increasing concern the progressive destruction of their nesting grounds. That concern grew into a commitment to OlyEcosystems mission to protect, preserve and restore the diverse ecosystems of Olympia that that include the freshwater, shoreline, tidal waters, and upland forests that are home to the Pacific Great Blue Heron, cutthroat trout, salmon and companion species.

Dr. Einstein is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at Saint Martin’s University, with a restless curiosity about all things. He received his Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Washington. Prior to his appointment at Saint Martin’s, he worked in research with 15+ years’ experience participating in multiple interdisciplinary research teams in the national laboratory system, at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles and at the Cleveland Clinic. His research focuses on theoretical developments in nonlinear continuum mechanics and the development of numerical frameworks applied to computational biomechanics in the heart and lung. He has authored over 50 peer-reviewed papers.

Jack Davis Conservationist of the Year Award

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Patrick Dunn, 2016 Jack Davis Conservationist of the Year

Patrick earned his bachelor’s in biology from The Colorado College and his master’s in ecology from California State University, Los Angeles. Pat has restored natural lands and conserved rare species in salt marshes of Southern California, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the tropical dryland and rainforests of Hawaii, and the prairies and oak woodlands of Cascadia. Pat’s expertise includes habitat restoration and management for rare species, including plants, rainforest birds and prairie butterflies, birds and mammals.

More than 20 years ago, Pat founded the South Puget Sound prairie conservation and restoration effort that originated with The Nature Conservancy and was transitioned to the Center for Natural Lands Management in 2011. Patrick provides direction, management and oversight for CNLM’s preserves and operations in Washington. Under his direction the South Puget Sound Program was designated the pilot for the Sentinel Landscapes Program, a federal initiative that brings together three federal agencies to assist conservation in a specific landscape, in this case the South Sound Prairies.

If you visit Prairie Appreciation Day in May at the Glacial Heritage Preserve you will now see about 600 acres of blue camas, yellow buttercups and a myriad of other flowers, a much different sight than the wall of Scotch broom prior to restoration. You can visit a patch of federally listed golden paintbrush that today contains more individuals than were present in the world ten years ago. Pat helped this plant on its way to one of the fastest trajectories ever to become a delisted species. Similarly, you might be lucky enough to see some Taylor’s checkerspots, a federally listed butterfly that was reintroduced.

Pat’s restoration efforts started with helping Joint Base Lewis-McChord on their prairies – improving the Army’s training lands for both the soldiers and conservation. That relationship with the Dept. of Defense remains today, and provides major funding of prairie conservation efforts in the South Sound, both on and off military lands. Pat also initiated much of the infrastructure needed to conduct restorations throughout the region. Fire is a historically important process on prairies, and Pat’s group now leads the greatest number of prescribed burns in the Northwest.

They work with the Evergreen State College Sustainability in Prisons Project, where inmates grow and plant a hundred thousand plant plugs each year, benefitting both conservation and the community of inmates. They also employ vets from the Veterans Conservation Corps providing the simple joy of working outdoors alongside a mission driven team dedicated to conservation.

Furthermore, Pat has completed a number of critical land acquisitions advancing efforts to protect the South Puget Sound Prairies. He assisted with the Black Hills Audubon and Friend’s project, the West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area. Pat advised our attempt to save this area from development by Citifor and the Port of Tacoma. Through the negotiations, the initial owner sold the site to the WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, creating a wildlife area that supports western spotted frogs, golden paintbrush and Mazama pocket gophers. We also procured a mitigation fund that continues to support conservation projects on the wildlife area.

Pat has cultivated partnerships with diverse groups, developing innovative conservation strategies to facilitate prairie conservation throughout the ecoregion, from British Columbia through the Willamette Valley. We thank Pat for his tremendous work. (By Elizabeth Roderick, graphic )

Jack Davis Conservationist of the Year Award

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Anne Mills, 2015 Jack Davis Conservationist of the Year 

PigeonGuillemotMatingAnne has a long history in conservation in our area as coordinator for South Sound GREEN (Global Rivers  Environmental Education Network). For ten years, she worked tirelessly in bringing watershed-based, hands-on science education to countless teachers and their students throughout the South Sound. She retired from this work in 2012, planning to spend part of her much-deserved retirement learning about a citizen-science project to monitor Pigeon Guillemot populations; after just one meeting with the Whidbey Island Pigeon Guillemot Research Group, Anne plunged in and began an ambitious collaborative citizen-science project in South Sound, focusing on the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve (NRAR) encompassing 14,826 acres of state-owned and DNR-managed tidelands and bedlands.READ MORE

Susan Markey, Helen Engle Volunteer of the Year for 2015.

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Susan Markey photo

A core member of Black Hills Audubon Society leadership for more than three decades serving as Co-President, Conservation Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Echo Editor, and Publications Chair.  Integral grassroots advocate; served as the Chair for the Washington State Audubon Conservation Committee.  A champion for a collaborative Audubon voice at all levels. Thoughtful, insightful, steady and trusted voice for the Audubon network in Washington.  A positive force for change who tackles issues and challenges with intelligence, organization, a wealth of history and wisdom.  READ MORE