WILDLIFE -- A fondness for wood ducks and other creatures has earned a sportsman and member of the Richland Rod & Gun the high distinction as Volunteer of the Year named by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Other award winners named on Tuesday include a standout hunter educator instructor, an enforcement officer and landowners.
Dale Schielke, a retired engineer, has worked on many projects with the Richland club over more than three decades, but his wood duck nesting box project is a hit with local waterfowl as well as with a global audience.
Schielke and other club members have fixed web cams on five nest boxes allowing people far and wide to learn about the handsome waterfowl and share the delight of seeing the ducklings take their first big leap from the nest to the ground to head out into the wild world.
- Most of the boxes are still active and worth checking online.
"Dale always has a smile, whether he is providing shelter for wood ducks, organizing fishing days for thousands of young people in Central Washington, or working in fish slime from dawn to dusk at Ringold Hatchery," said Jason Fidorra, a WDFW wildlife biologist.
Following are WDFW notes on the other standouts being recognized:
Educator of the Year, Cathy Lynch certified 369 students, or more than 10 percent of hunter education students in the North Puget Sound region, in 2015. She also helped train and certify 24 new volunteer hunter education instructors. When asked if she would assist in classes oriented toward women hunters, she quickly secured a venue and an all-female teaching team to make it happen months ahead of schedule.
"Cathy sees what needs to be done and does it," said Steve Dazey, a hunter education and volunteer coordinator with WDFW. "The classes oriented toward women have been so well received by the public that we decided to expand the program statewide."
Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award: Bill Vincent was recognized with the Terry Hoffer award for his outstanding contributions as a hunter education instructor. He also currently serves on the Instructor Advisory Committee, and has served on the Master Hunter Advisory Group and the Fish and Wildlife Commission's Americans with Disabilities Act advisory committee.
"Serving hunters in remote communities, as well as youth, tribal and military populations, Bill has done it all," said David Whipple, hunter education division manager. "He is a versatile, involved leader who is helping to ensure a bright future for hunting in Washington."
The award honors Wildlife Agent Terry Hoffer, who was fatally wounded by a hunter accidentally discharging his firearm in 1984.
Organization of the Year: The 15 independent chapters of Puget Sound Anglers were recognized for thousands of hours spent volunteering at hatcheries, organizing kids fishing events and educating anglers on release techniques to protect wild salmon, steelhead and rockfish.
"Puget Sound Anglers consistently support policies that are critical to stewardship of Washington's fish and natural resources, mark selective fisheries and hatcheries, and many other conservation efforts," said Larry Phillips, WDFW inland fish manager.
Landowner of the Year: Murray Benjamin and his daughter, Jenna Benjamin, were recognized for committing over 240 volunteer hours to organize people and equipment to prevent elk damage on agricultural lands in the Skagit Valley.
"The Benjamins helped organize a community group to address elk damage concerns, said Scott Witman, an environmental specialist with WDFW. "This led to WDFW and tribal managers implementing landowner proposed habitat and fencing solutions to reduce elk damage in the valley."
Citizen volunteers around the state logged nearly 60,000 hours on WDFW projects in 2015, said WDFW Director Jim Unsworth.
For more information about volunteer activities that benefit fish, wildlife and habitat, visit the agency volunteer page.