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U.S. Forest Service

Hiawatha National Forest's Monarch Butterfly Research Project Receives the Wings Across the Americas Award

Group photo of award recepients. Group photo of Wings Across The Americas awards recipients.

On June 4, 2008, the Hiawatha National Forest hosted a reception to honor employees, partners and individual volunteers whose involvement in the Hiawatha National Forest’s Monarch Butterfly Research Project over the past 15 years has lead to the receipt of the prestigious Wings Across the Americas (WATA) Award.

Originally announced in March in conjunction with the 73rd North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, the Wings Across the Americas Award honors outstanding achievement in conservation of birds, bats, and butterflies. This award recognizes the important roles these species play in the environment as well as their value to human society. The International Programs division of the U.S. Forest Service sponsors Wings Across the Americas. In collaboration with the other Forest Service deputy areas (National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, and Research and Development) International Programs works with a wide range of partners here in the United States and with other countries and international partners to conserve birds, bats and butterflies and their habitats.

At Peninsula Point, Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor, Thomas Schmidt, congratulated the recipients on their achievement, saying, "The longevity of the Monarch Butterfly Research Project is a sign that this is something really special, and it speaks volumes about the values, ideals, and dedication of you - the community of people who have kept the project alive and made it so successful."

Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor Tom Schmidt addresses the group during the WATA awards reception. Hiawatha National Forest Supervisor Tom Schmidt addresses the group during the WATA awards reception.

Four recipients of Wings Across Americas Awards. Left to right: migration monitoring and tagging volunteer coordinator Gina Badgett; environmental education volunteer coordinator Therese Fix; Assistant Ranger and volunteer coordinator Anne Okonek; and, monarch larva monitoring volunteer coordinator Pat Landry.

Recipients of the Wings Across The Americas Award include the following individuals and organizations who provided critical leadership for the Monarch Butterfly Research Project: Anne Okonek (Forest Service), Janet Kudell-Ekstrum (Forest Service), Ed McCarthy (Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County), Robert Schmeling (Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County), Gina Badgett, Pat Landry, Sue Jamison, Therese Fix, CJ Meitner, and Clara and Bill Benesch.

Robert Schmeling accepts the WATA award from District Ranger Dave Silvieus. Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County board member Robert Schmeling accepts the WATA award from District Ranger Dave Silvieus, while Ed McCarthy, also of Wildlife Unlimited looks on.

District Ranger Dave Silvieus presents the WATA to volunteer Bill Benesch. District Ranger Dave Silvieus presents the WATA to volunteer Bill Benesch.

Wings Across the America’s Certificates were awarded to the following volunteers, without whose dedicated assistance the project would not have survived: Chelsea Badgett, Jack Badgett, Dave Badgett, Mary Lachat, Nancy Mead, Amy Wilson, Judy Hansen, George Semmens, Mary Strom, Naomi Hult, Nancy and Herbert Carlmark, Vicky and Jim Nugent, and Julie Landwehr.

Wildlife Unlimited of Delta County has been with the project since its beginnings in 1994. The organization has funded all equipment, training, and volunteer stipends. Because the monarch butterfly does not fit under a category that typically receives funding, this important work would not have been possible without the support of Wildlife Unlimited.

To date, the Monarch Butterfly Research Project volunteers have contributed over 7,000 hours to the project. Their efforts have resulted in one of the oldest monarch butterfly data sets in North America. These data have been published in research journals and used in drafting the recently released North American Monarch Conservation Plan.