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January 26, 2010

Congratulations to the 2009 EE Award Winners!

Since 1993, USEE has been recognizing outstanding community members who have made significant contributions to environmental education (EE) efforts in Utah. Public nominations were held in August of 2009 and USEE members chose recipients from the following award categories: Environmental Educator, Environmental Education Program, Environmental Business, and Environmental Education Volunteer of the Year. This is also the first year that USEE is proud to present the Environmental Education Lifetime Achievement award. Award winners were announced at the 20th Annual Utah Environmental Education Conference on November 20, 2009.

The 2009 EE Award Winners are:

Environmental Education Lifetime Achievement Award:

Vern A. Fridley

Vern Fridley, a second generation forester, was one of the four founders of USEE in 1981. As part of his career with the US Forest Service, he spent the last 20 years with the agency in Ogden as an EE Specialist, with responsibility for assisting the National Forest Service in Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. He was involved with the Western Regional Environmental Education Council in the development of PLT, and he served on PLT's National Advisory Council for 5 years. In 1970 he was named the Federal Civil Servant of the Year in Idaho, and in 1884 the Federal Civil Servant of the Year in Utah. More recently he and two others developed the North American Association for Environmental Education "Affiliates" program, of which USEE is a member. Upon retirement in 1990 he mortgaged his truck, rented an office and became USEE's first full-time (non paid) Director until Tim Brown replaced him in 1996. For the past 10 years Vern has lived in Parowan where he Chairs the City Shade Tree Board. Last year the City was named the "Utah Community of the Year" by the Utah Community Forest Council.

Vern A. Fridley Environmental Educator of the Year:

Tara Poelzing, Tracy Aviary

Tara Poelzing, three-year Director at Bend-in-the-River Urban TreeHouse and Green Space, worked to bring people into regular contact with the natural world at an urban site. Tara’s most important place-based work with second-grade students at nearby Riley Elementary, met the second-grade Utah Core Curriculum in both science and math. She matched the lesson rigor to the abilities of the students—many were ESL – and worked to meet the students’ needs so environmental education included both in-classroom and on-site lessons at the Bend. Upon receiving the PLT Greenworks! grant in 2008 Tara instituted a plant cycle program for these classrooms. She brought students to the Bend and brought the natural world into the classroom: learning about the plant cycle by collecting seeds at the Bend, then preserving the seeds, planting them, monitoring growth progress, and finally planting the mature plants back at the Bend. Tara also developed a meaningful internship program with students at the UofU. Matching the interests of the students to the needs of the Bend – past interns focused on environmental education, ecological restoration, and marketing. Finally, Tara organized/led large-scale volunteer events, educating and engaging volunteers about ecological restoration. She acted as a model of collaboration, partnering with others to ensure a EE broader reach. Tara also organized weekly service-learning projects for diverse groups and ensured that each volunteer left having learned something about the environment and their relationship to it. This is what Tara has made her career all about—connecting folks with nature in their everyday lives.

Environmental Education Program of the Year:

Utah Master Naturalist Program, Utah State University

The goal of the Utah Master Naturalist Program is to “develop a corps of well-informed Master Naturalists who provide education, outreach, and service to promote citizen stewardship of natural resources within their communities.” The focus of the UMNP is to learn about and explore Utah’s natural systems including watersheds, deserts and mountains while focusing on the physical characteristics, representative organisms, management techniques and current issues—allowing participants to understand each system as whole throughout Utah. The program follows the EE Guidelines for Excellence. By providing participants with accurate in-depth written materials, enthusiastic instruction—including techniques that create effective learning, skill building and critical thinking, meaningful fieldtrips, and effective guest speakers the program provides the participants with an understanding of Utah’s natural resources. It more importantly helps them to gain a personal stake and sense of responsibility in the stewardship of the state’s assets as well as giving them the skills to positively affect pubic awareness and conservation of the Utah’s natural resources. After participating in this program as a student and as an instructor, I know the UMNP is unique in its ability to give the participants both the information and the skills to share what we have learned with others. We have all developed a greater connection to these ecosystems and have become better stewards of Utah. Mark has made the program his passion and instills the same feelings to all who are in the classes he teaches. It is unique and fabulous.

Environmental Business of the Year

The Wild Bird Center of Layton

As the owner of the Wild Bird Center of Layton, Bill Fenimore has been dedicated not only to helping people understand, learn about, and appreciate birds, but also to conserving bird habitat throughout Utah. Whether it is finding the right feeder and seed for attracting birds to our backyards, or participating in conservation organizations, legislation, and projects throughout Utah, Bill has been tireless in his passion for sharing his love of avian life with people of all ages. He regularly leads birding trips throughout northern Utah, is a valued member of the local Audubon Society chapter, and is integral in helping organize the annual Great Salt Lake Bird Festival. Bill is more than just a business owner; he is a great example of an environmental steward. The Wild Bird Center of Layton reflects these aspects to everyone who walks thought the doors.

Environmental Education Volunteer of the Year:

Patricia Meekins, Hogle Zoo

Pat Meekins has been a volunteer at Utah’s Hogle Zoo for several years. So far this year she has given 798 hours of time to the education and animal care departments. As a volunteer she presents both on-and off-site programs about Utah wildlife, habitats and conservation. These presentations are given to scout, school and community groups as well as Zoo camps, classes and to general Zoo visitors. This year we were unable to hire summer camp instructors. Pat volunteered her time to develop and teach several weeks of summer classes. She also gives her time as an education office assistant and schedules the school and community programs that are given by our docents and maintains their records. Always reluctant to say no to anyone who wants to learn, Pat will often give additional presentations herself when another volunteers cannot be found. She has given over 50 classroom and community programs this year alone! Pat has also recently become certified as a Utah Master Naturalist in Aquatic and Wetlands Systems as well as Deserts and has eagerly been sharing her knowledge with family and friends as well as other Zoo staff, volunteers and visitors. Without Pat the educational opportunities the Zoo is able to provide to the community would be greatly reduced.

Congratulations 2009 Award Winners! Thank you for all you do for EE in Utah!

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