Monday, August 20, 2018

IDNR and ICF Honor Volunteer of the Year Recipients and Hall of Fame Inductees During Conservation Day at Illinois State Fair

Conservation Day at the 2018 State Fair was buzzing with activity.  Governor Rauner signed two pieces of legislation, volunteers received recognition as well as the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame Class of 2018 was recognized.  You can watch the LIVE broadcast here:

The 2018 IDNR Outstanding Volunteers of the Year are:

Bill Bridges, Tamms
Bill Bridges is being honored for his volunteer service as the campground host at Horseshoe Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in Alexander Co. Bill is well known among campers for his work ensuring that facilities in the Horseshoe Lake campground are well supplied, and for traveling through the campground and the entire park picking up trash. After storms, Bill is diligent in picking up downed tree branches and limbs, cutting them for firewood for use in the campground. Bill also delivers firewood to those campers who have no means to transport it, and is ready to loan out extension cords, hoses, and jumper cables to campers in need. He has also worked to keep Horseshoe Lake’s westside boat access area clear of debris. Bill Bridges has gone above and beyond the role of campground host at Horseshoe Lake, all while battling pancreatic cancer. IDNR site staff salutes Bill Bridges as Horseshoe Lake SFWA’s Outstanding Volunteer of the Year.

Joann and Mike Fricke, Waterloo
Joann and Mike Fricke have been volunteering with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and IDNR for 10 years, contributing more than 3,000 hours on natural resources stewardship, monitoring, and protection efforts at Illinois Nature Preserves, Land and Water Reserves, and Natural Heritage Landmarks. Joann is also a board member with CLIFFTOP, an important IDNR/INPC partner in southwest Illinois, and serves on the Salt Lick Point Land and Water Reserve Committee. The Frickes have also put thousands of hours of effort into stewardship on their own natural areas – the Illinois Ozarks Nature Preserve and the Luella Schaefer Memorial Hill Prairie Land and Water Reserve. Joann and Mike Fricke are tireless volunteer ambassadors for natural areas preservation and conservation in southwest Illinois.

Kevin Gooden, Loda
Kevin Gooden’s volunteer service at Kickapoo State Recreation Area and Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area in Vermilion Co. has totaled more than 700 hours during the last two years. Kevin secured a planter and donations of corn and soybean seed for planting approximately 20 acres of food plots at the sites. He has also assisted site staff with tractor and equipment maintenance and repairs, and by utilizing his welding skills for a variety of tasks around the park. Kevin Gooden also took the lead in a project revamping the site’s campground amphitheater, which now hosts full-house crowds for movie nights. Kevin also assists with trail maintenance, brush removal, tree trimming and other tasks much appreciated by visitors to the sites.

Neil Graves, East Peoria
Neal Graves is being honored as an Outstanding Volunteer of the Year for his work with the IDNR Safety Education Program, and his commitment to furthering hands-on training of those interested in trapping in Illinois. Neal, who serves as president of the Illinois Trappers Association, is a new volunteer instructor for the IDNR Trapper Education Program. He assisted in revising the IDNR Trapper Education student manual. Neal Graves also provided a training course for Illinois Conservation Police officers, helping them better understand trappers and trapping methods to assist them in enforcing regulations. He has also assisted other safety education instructor teams and organized and taught classes outside his core area to help meet the demand for classes. He has also purchased equipment and used his personal gear for training classes.

Doug Heusner, ClintonDoug Heusner, a retired Illinois Conservation Police Officer, has been a volunteer for the last three years for the Clinton Lake Shotgun Deer Hunt for persons with disabilities. Doug spends many hours scouting hunting blind locations. He conducts a safety meeting on the first day of the hunt, and coordinates the hunt from 5:00 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. during the entire three-day event. Most importantly, Doug serves as “The Board Master” for the hunt – tailoring special provisions for each hunter based on their abilities. Doug also coordinates drop-off and pick up of hunters. His attention to detail helps make the hunt a success every year.

Melody and Russ Howard, Ramsey
Melody and Russ Howard have been outstanding volunteer campground hosts at Ramsey Lake State Park for the past 14 years. From early April through mid-October each year, the Howards greet park visitors, provide park information, and provide a warm and joyful welcome for campground visitors. Campers have come to rely on the Howards over the years, as they are always ready to help with a spare extension cord, can opener, or cup of sugar. Melody and Russ go the extra mile to make sure Ramsey Lake campground visitors enjoy their stay. Campground hosts are vital to the success of the visitors’ campground experience, and Melody and Russ Howard are an all-star team at Ramsey Lake State Park.

Dick McLane, Springfield
Dick McLane has been an active volunteer in the Illinois State Museum since 2001, assisting with programs in the Museum’s children’s exhibits, including the Play Museum, and providing additional assistance at special events at the ISM. Dick is always welcoming and engaging with the public, and visitors tell Museum staff how much they enjoy talking with Dick on Sunday afternoons at the Play Museum. Dick is always willing to serve with new volunteers at the Museum, and serves as an ambassador for the Illinois State Museum and its volunteer programs in the community…understanding that word of mouth from current volunteers is a great recruiting tool. Nominators on the Museum staff report that “Dick McLane is a gem, and we cannot express how glad we are to have him as a member of our team.”

John Muir, Oglesby
John Muir has been a volunteer and board member for the Starved Rock Foundation for the past 14 years, providing volunteer service at Starved Rock State Park. The Foundation is a not-for-profit group of friends of the park who provide time and volunteers in support of the park’s education programs, provide guided hikes, and assist at the customer service desk in the park’s Visitor Center. John Muir is the current treasurer for the Starved Rock Foundation, and co-manager of the Le Rocher Gift Shop in the Visitor Center. He has donated hundreds of hours of volunteer time staffing the gift shop, helping at the front desk, leading hikes, and providing valuable information to visitors at Illinois’ busiest state park.

Bob Schanzle, Chatham
Bob Schanzle brings more than 40 years of experience as a diver and expert on freshwater mussels to his volunteer efforts for important IDNR mussel surveys and mussel relocation projects. For the past eight years, Bob has participated as a volunteer in numerous mussel projects in all parts of the state. A past president of the Illinois Chapter of the American Fisheries Society, Bob also assists the IDNR Division of Fisheries with fish surveys. Bob Schanzle recently donated a mussel collection to the IDNR for use in education programs. He also volunteers with the IDNR Division of Natural Heritage and the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission on prescribed burn projects. Following a 37-year career with the IDNR, Bob Schanzle continues to serve the people of the State of Illinois as a retiree, and an outstanding volunteer.

Illinois River Hunting and Retriever Club
The Illinois River Hunting and Retriever Club’s volunteer members built and maintain three dog training and test areas at Banner Marsh State Fish and Wildlife Area in central Illinois. Group members have also improved site roadways, mowed and cleared debris from the training areas, and have provided countless volunteer service hours and individual and group monetary donations to projects at Banner Marsh.

Mississippi Valley Duck Hunters of Illinois
Volunteer members of the Mississippi Valley Duck Hunters of Illinois during the past year provided 15 new wood duck structures to the IDNR, and provided two work days on which volunteers placed the duck boxes at Wagon Lake Land and Water Reserve in St. Clair Co. Group members also maintain goose nesting structures at Pyramid State Recreation Area in Perry Co., and provided seed for wildlife plantings at Kaskaskia River State Fish and Wildlife Area in southwest Illinois. The group has also provided duck hunting blinds at Kidd Lake Marsh State Natural Area and Doza Creek Waterfowl Management Area at Baldwin Lake in southwest Illinois. Group members host youth wingshooting clinics, and sponsor competitive youth shooting sports teams.

Southern Illinois Master Naturalists/Kids in the Woods Program
Since the fall of 2015, Master Naturalist volunteers – led by coordinator Lorie Allen – have hosted 10 to 15 families a month for education programs at Giant City State Park in Makanda as part of the group’s “Kids in the Woods” initiative. Master Naturalist volunteers dedicate several hours a month for each program, which brings families to the park for outdoor-themed, hands-on activities – many bringing equipment and resources from their homes for the programs at the park. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Lorie Allen and other volunteers, many families who have never been to Giant City State Park get an up-close experience with nature-based activities.

Starved Rock Cleanup Crew
The Starved Rock Cleanup Crew consists of individual volunteers from many walks of life who care deeply about the care and maintenance of the natural beauty of Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks in the Illinois River valley in La Salle Co. Cleanup Crew members volunteer weekly, and in some cases daily, picking up litter and restoring the beauty of the parks’ canyons and woodland areas. Group leaders salute Starved Rock Cleanup Crew members Ollie Miller, Kelly Lavoie, Kelly Cox and family, Layla and Liam Cox, John Small II, Ana Sprague, Sharon Shieh, Joe Jakupcak, Diane Sims, Jake Donka, June Donka, Kay Carter, Makala Heibel, Brent Bader, Becky Mancuso, Wanda Conness, Melissa Ann and family, Terry Warren, Desiderata Ratajczak, Nolan Hallock, Nick Holas, and Nicholas Donka.

Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame Class of 2018

Diane Banta, Chicago

During her more than 35-year career with the National Park Service, Diane Banta’s enthusiasm for the causes of outdoor recreation has been instrumental in bringing together partners to advance successful initiatives throughout northeast Illinois. Those success stories range from the completion of the Cal-Sag Trail, the founding of the Millennium Reserve and the Calumet Collaborative, the formation of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge, and the development of water trails throughout the region. Ms. Banta is well-known for bridging gaps between partners, for turning project skeptics into enthusiastic supporters, and for ensuring that local residents have their voices heard on projects in their communities. Ms. Banta’s advocacy has expanded development of water trails on rivers, lakes, and the Lake Michigan shoreline allowing canoeing and kayaking. Getting kids and families in Voyageur canoes through the “Canoemobile” program gives novice paddlers a chance to see Chicagoland from a unique, new perspective. Diane Banta’s nominators describe her as an “awesome champion” for outdoor recreation in Illinois, thanks to the breadth of her influence in bringing all parties together to expand opportunities for Illinois citizens and visitors to enjoy the outdoors.

Sylvan (Jerry) Beverlin, Petersburg
Jerry Beverlin’s commitment to and passion for conservation in Illinois earned him a reputation as an ethical and responsible steward of the land, with an expansive understanding of conservation land management for the benefit of all Illinois citizens. Mr. Beverlin began a lengthy public service career with the then Illinois Department of Conservation when he was hired as a maintenance worker at Sam Parr State Fish and Wildlife Area at the age of 18. Serving later as superintendent of a number of state sites, Jerry focused on improving infrastructure, while protecting natural lands, developing hiking trails, improving park roads and day-use areas, and expanding boat accesses. He rose through the ranks of the Department to later serve for 15 years as Director of the Office of Land Management, making him the longest-serving manager of the Illinois state park system. During his tenure, Mr. Beverlin was instrumental in acquisition of what is now Lowden-Miller State Forest, development of Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area, acquisition and development of the World Shooting and Recreational Complex, securing dedicated state funding through the Environmental License Plate, expanding trails and trail funding, modernizing park maintenance equipment, expanding the hiring of seasonal park workers, and expanding the park interpreter and Department-wide education programs. In retirement, Jerry’s commitment to conservation continues, as he has helped draft legislation and enact programs to further land protection and conservation programs, helped write conservation stewardship plans, and advocated for outdoor recreation programs as an officer with the United Bow Hunters of Illinois.

David F. Grohne, Wilmington
David F. Grohne, former chairman of the Independence Tube Corporation of Chicago, and his wife, Marg, are longtime passionate supporters of efforts to enhance and expand wetland habitat to benefit waterfowl and other wildlife. Mr. and Mrs. Grohne were recognized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited for their lifetime of philanthropic support, leadership, and service in 2017 with the naming of a 1,380-acre Waterfowl Protection Area in their honor.Mr. Grohne’s support has helped conserve thousands of acres of critical waterfowl nesting habitat, restore and preserve crucial duck migration habitat in the Illinois River Valley, and fund numerous important waterfowl research projects in conjunction with the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, Delta Waterfowl Foundation, and The Wetlands Initiative. Through the Independence Tube Corporation and the D.F. and M.T. Grohne Family Foundation, nearly $800,000 has been donated to fund nature field trips for more than 100,000 students through the Illinois Biodiversity Field Trip Grant program managed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Mr. Grohne realizes the value in providing students and teachers with the opportunity to take their learning outside the classroom, and to experience nature. One nominator wrote: “There is no more outstanding example of a citizen conservationist than Dave Grohne; Illinois is
lucky to have him, and his efforts will last for generations to come.”

Sam Oliver, Barrington
Sam Oliver, one of northeast Illinois’ best-known conservationists, directed the efforts of more than 700 volunteer members of the Barrington-based Citizens for Conservation, an organization she led as staff director from 1984 to 2015. Citizens for Conservation (CFC) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring native habitats that once covered northeast Illinois. CFC preserves and restores land with the help of volunteers and donors who want to protect the health and beauty of the land for future generations. Under Sam Oliver’s leadership, the organization expanded education programs for youth and other community members, and expanded CFC’s natural lands preservation and restoration efforts. CFC volunteers and donors have helped preserve more than 3,100 acres of open space, and acquire more than 430 acres of natural habitat in the Barrington area. One of her nominators noted that “Sam Oliver is synonymous with conservation and volunteerism.”

Steve Widowski, Vienna
Steve Widowski dedicated most of his professional career serving as a wildlife biologist for the U.S. Forest Service in the Shawnee National Forest, but his influence in enhancing wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities extends well beyond the forest in southern Illinois.  The Chicago native was instrumental in the development, restoration and management of much of the critical wildlife habitat on the Shawnee, including the Big Muddy Bottomlands, and the Oakwood Bottoms Greentree Reservoir, which provides an important migration and wintering area for waterfowl. Mr. Widowski took the lead in coordinating a partnership involving the Forest Service, the HeartLands Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and other conservation partners to acquire high-priority sites in the Mississippi River floodplain and to restore thousands of acres of wetland and bottomland forest habitat across southern Illinois. Now retired from the Forest Service, Mr. Widowski continues to work to protect and manage natural resources in the region as a special projects coordinator for the HeartLands Conservancy.

The Illinois Conservation Foundation is an IRS 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit corporation established in 1995 to help support the mission and programs of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The ICF inspires today’s youth – tomorrow’s leaders – by providing quality outdoor education and programs that instill interest in conservation, ecology and sustainability.Contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. For more information on the Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame, or to register for the 2018 Illinois Outdoor Hall of Fame Gala, check the ICF website

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