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For Release: Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Hunting Safety Instructor George Downing Receives DEC's Annual Wayne W. Jones Award of Excellence

Award Recognizes Outstanding Participation in DEC's Volunteer Hunter Safety Instructor Program

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has awarded George Downing Jr. of Dutchess County with its seventh annual DEC Region 3 Wayne W. Jones Award of Excellence, recognizing Mr. Downing's outstanding contribution to the agency's Volunteer Hunter Safety Instructor Program.

"George Downing is a credit to the Hunter Education Program who inspires his students and fellow instructors to embrace and continue the tradition of sportsmanship in a safe and ethical manner," said John Petronella, Acting DEC Region 3 Director. "We are proud to announce George as our seventh recipient of the annual Wayne W. Jones Award of Excellence."

All first-time hunters, bowhunters and trappers must pass one or more courses before they can get a hunting license in New York State. Trained and DEC-certified instructors, such as Downing, teach safe and responsible outdoors practices while stressing the important role of hunters and trappers in conservation and management. Volunteer instructors provide invaluable support to the implementation of New York State's Hunter Education Program.

George Downing Jr. on the left being handed the award

Downing has been a volunteer instructor for the past five years, certified in each of the four teaching disciplines, and has led 22 classes since he became a certified instructor in 2014. He has also been instrumental in training and certifying other instructors, always welcoming applicants and volunteers to teach and learn with him. His daughter, Erin, has also followed in her father's footsteps and become a certified instructor.

Downing has earned praise from his students. Lee, from Woodsburgh, NY, described his experience as excellent, "Not only was the class extremely informative, but the quality of instruction and practical knowledge of the instructors second to none," he said.

Matt, from Buffalo, considered his five-hour drive to attend George's class well worth the trip.

"The most valuable contribution this instructor has made overall is the sheer dedication he brings to encouraging proper handling and safe techniques with firearms, combined with a serious effort to ensure hunter safety and hunter etiquette via teaching methods and connecting with the students and other teachers," said fellow instructor William Alexander. "He really cares about the subject matter and the people he is teaching, and it shows."

Since the 1960s, the hunting incident rate has plunged more than 70 percent. The past five-year average is 3.2 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s. Two-thousand-eighteen was one of the lowest years on record, with 13 incidents, tying the 2016 New York hunting season that had the lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents on record in part due to more than 60 years of dedicated efforts of more than 2,500 volunteer Sportsman Education Instructors.

The award is named for Wayne Jones, the Hunter Education Program Administrator for New York from 1992 to 2008. Jones was instrumental to the program, and during his tenure achieved many significant accomplishments for the Hunter Education Program, not the least of which was his work on the international level to develop online educational tools and national standards for course contents. The award recognizes active volunteer instructors who have demonstrated and contributed to the advancement of the Hunter Education Program through enhancing students understanding and enjoyment of our wildlife resources; creating awareness of responsibilities and instilling respect towards habitat, wildlife, non-hunters, hunters and themselves; and by enhancing public understanding and acceptance of hunting and trapping as legitimate public recreation activities and as proper wildlife management practices.

Instructors are nominated by their peers based on a set of criteria including:

  1. achieving substantial improvements or innovations to program operations or classroom activities;
  2. collaborating with other groups across traditional program boundaries to expand the audience of the Sportsman Education Program;
  3. working above and beyond required job descriptions, exceeding expectations, and achieving noteworthy results in and accelerated or impressive timeline; and
  4. applying or developing innovative techniques or approaches that demonstrate best practices and/or serve as a model to inspire others to outstanding achievement.

Under Governor Cuomo's Adventure NY initiative, DEC is making strategic investments to expand access to healthy, active outdoor recreation, connect more New Yorkers and visitors to nature and the outdoors, protect natural resources, and boost local economies. This initiative will support the completion of more than 75 projects over the next three years, ranging from improvements to youth camps and environmental education centers to new boat launches, duck blinds, and hiking trails. For more information on planning an outdoor adventure in New York State, visit DEC's website.

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