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2015 National Volunteers & Service Award Recipients

The Forest Service recognizes partners, volunteers, and staff for their contributions in five categories: Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships, Cultural Diversity, Enduring Service, Leadership and Restoration.  Here are the 2015 honorees.

Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships

Mt. Adams Institute, Washington

A photo of Nate Chase, uses a crosscut saw to remove this fallen tree from the trail

Public Lands Steward AmeriCorps member, Nate Chase, uses a crosscut saw to remove this fallen tree from the trail. Photo credit: Mt. Adams Institute/ Jimmy Pardo

Mt. Adams Institute is recognized for expanding engagement of veterans, on Forest lands.  Established in 2012, Mt. Adams Institute’s VetsWork and GreenCorps programs offers veterans training in natural resources. Veterans who serve in these programs are eligible to earn a $5,725 AmeriCorps education award funded by the Corporation for National & Community Service. In 2015, the VetsWork program placed 37 returning veterans in internships on ten different National Forests across the country. They collectively contributed 47,000 hours of work on forests in the Pacific Northwest, Southern and Eastern Regions and about half of the participating veterans have since been hired by the Forest Service. Based out of Trout Lake, Washington, Mt. Adams Institute is committed to strengthening the connection between people and the natural world and increasing the Forest Service’s capacity to accomplish critical work.

Cultural Diversity

The Cultural Diversity awardees are Lexington School of the Deaf with Forest Service staff Joanel Lopez & Holly Knox and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Lexington School of the Deaf, New York and Forest Service staff Joanel Lopez and Holly Knox, Vermont

A photo of Joanel Lopez, demonstrates proper axe handling techniques to Lexington students

Forest Service employee, Joanel Lopez, demonstrates proper axe handling techniques to Lexington students. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

The mission of the Lexington School of the Deaf is to empower deaf students to achieve their highest potential through an exemplary education to become productive citizens in our diverse and rapidly changing society.  Under the leadership of Forest Service employees, Joanel Lopez and Holly Knox, 14 students from the school visited the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont for a week-long service-learning project in summer 2015. The project goals were to  provide an outdoors experience for urban youth and hands on exposure to the work of Forest Service employees, and to expand awareness about Deaf culture. Many of the students had never ventured beyond the borders of New York City and most of them had never visited a forest prior to this experience. Through interactions with agency staff, local business owners, partners, and community members Lexington School students learned about career opportunities with the Forest Service and how partnerships with local community groups are vital to a healthy forest. The project developers, Joanel and Holly, both went above and beyond to create an enriching l experience for the students, Forest Service employees and other community stakeholders. This new partnership is a direct outcome of the Forest Service commitment to promote inclusion and diversity, and develop the next generation of conservation stewards.

Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Hawaii

A photo of Youth participants gaining valuable hands-on experience at the Hawai‘i Experimental Tropical Forest

Youth participants gaining valuable hands-on experience at the Hawai‘i Experimental Tropical Forest, learning about ecological restoration through native tree planting and invasive species removal. Photo credit: Division of Forestry and Wildlife/ Elliott Parsons

As part of efforts to restore the unique Pu’u Wa’awa’a, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) partnered with community groups to restore this unique dry and mixed mesic forest. The Pu’u Wa’awa’a Watershed Water System Improvements and Natural Resource Protection Project is funded by the Forest Stewardship and Cooperative Fire programs of the Forest Service. The opportunities provided through these projects established relationships between communities and the land, resulting in citizen engagement and awareness about the threatened dry forest of Pu’u Wa’awa’a. In 2015, DOFAW collaborated with 31 unique groups including local schools, a housing consortium, scout troops, youth corps, and cultural practitioners, among others to design and implement service learning opportunities for students in grades K-12. Working with local youth who had little to no opportunity for environmental science exposure, the program integrated hands on native species restoration activities with local cultural and natural history. Through the care of native plants, Hawaiian youth learned about how their culture is directly linked to Pu’u Wa’awa’a. DOFAW promotes inclusion by intentional coordination with underrepresented communities to promote conservation and awareness.

Enduring Service

High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew, California

A photo of The High Sierra Volunteer Trail crew

The High Sierra Volunteer Trail crew is recognized for their enduring service on the Sierra National Forest. Photo credit: Bob Geerts.

he Enduring Service Award recognizes the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew (HSVTC) for their many years of service and their efforts to prepare the next generation of conservation stewards. For 20 years, HSVTC has worked with the Sierra National Forest to complete environmental restoration and trail maintenance projects. The crew engages volunteers including families and over 500 youth to plan and conduct various trail projects. Over a thousand volunteers have contributed 50,000 hours valued at more than $1 million. The Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew has sustained its service with the Sierra National Forest for many years, while preparing the next generation to be stewards of our natural resources.

Leadership

The leadership awardees are Joelle Hertel and Jane Mobley.

Joelle Hertel, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico 

A photo of Joelle takes a break with two youth from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps

Joelle takes a break with two youth from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, who participated in restoration activities she coordinated. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service / Sandra Arazi-Coambs

Leadership comes naturally to Joelle Hertel, Cibola National Forest volunteer, because she is passionate about restoration. When the restoration of two historic Citizens Conservation Corps era picnic sites were halted due to budget cutsshe organized meetings with Forest Service staff and partner groups. Together, they developed a work plan, raised funds, and coordinated with other partners and youth corps to get the work done. Joelle organized groups to restore a trails system, engaging community members and state and county government representatives. When confronted with work projects about which she was unfamiliar, that didn’t stop her. Instead, she took initiative to educate herself about historic preservation by seeking out the district archeologist. To build her base of knowledge about organizing trails projects with volunteers and other groups, she sought out the district trails coordinator. Because of Joelle’s proactive leadership, the Cibola National Forest, effectively accomplished important restoration work with the help of volunteers and 21st Century Conservation Service Corps crews.

Jane Mobley, Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri

A photo of Jane Mobley at her desk

Jane Mobley’ innovate leadership on the Mark Twain National Forest helps the Forest Service engage over 100,000 people in service programs each year. Photo credit: Felicia Hausman Photography

As Manpower Development Specialist on the Mark Twain National Forest, Jane Mobley manages volunteerism and service programs, in addition to other duties. Her passions are working with partners to increase public engagement on the Mark Twain National Forest and supporting volunteers and service members who want to work for the Forest Service. Through sheer persistence, Jane successfully acquired approval from the Veterans Administration for the VetsWork partnership to become an official On the Job Training and Apprenticeship Program, which allows participating veterans to receive G.I. Benefits while they intern on the Mark Twain National Forest. Her ability to think creatively helped her problem solve when confronted with barriers and access diverse resources that resulted in summer employment opportunities for urban youth, the engagement of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps teams, and the expansion of veterans and Job Corps students working on the National Forest. Jane’s extroverted approach helps her make valuable connections at career and job fairs and has inspired school counselors to view her as a valuable resource for students exploring career options. Jane is recognized for her work, can-do attitude and willingness to think outside the box. Her efforts over the past 15 plus years have positioned the Mark Twain National Forest as an outstanding contributor to the Forest Service’s priority to increase the capacity and focus on volunteerism and community service.

Restoration

Gerald Heinrich, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois

A photo of Jerry Heinrich leads a public tour of Midewin's South Patrol Road Prairie

Jerry Heinrich leads a public tour of Midewin's South Patrol Road Prairie restoration area to interpret the importance of the endangered tallgrass prairie ecosystem and all the wildlife it supports. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service/ Allison Cisneros

Gerald helped gain protection of a  former ammunition plant to provide wildlife habitat and open space in Illinois. He was involved, along with many other community members and conservation organizations, in building awareness and support for the establishment of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. A “prairie under construction,” the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie continues to be restored. For 20 years, Gerald participated in all prairie restoration activities from collecting seeds and planting to monitoring frogs and removing invasive species. His commitment to restoration is best demonstrated by his willingness to voluntarily participate in state agriculture sponsored trainings and classes to become certified and licensed to properly mixi, transport and apply heribicide, and how to stop the establishment of invasive wilidlife on the prairie. Most remarkably, Gerald has maintained a stellar safety record while working with herbicides and equipment.

The Forest Service is proud to recognize these individuals, organizations and partners for their exceptional work.

Are you interested in volunteering or partnering with the Forest Service?  Find out more about how you can work with us!

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