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For Release: Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Schenectady Man Receives DEC Hunter Education Award

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that it has awarded Joe Viva of Schenectady with its annual Region 4 Wayne W. Jones Award of Excellence for his work as an outstanding volunteer hunting educator.

Viva has been teaching hunter education since 1992 and bowhunter education since 1993, during which time he recruited and cultivated new instructors to the program and introduced innovative teaching methods to better engage students.

"Joe Viva is always willing to step in to help with a class, provide support to bolster the confidence of new instructors, or serve as a mentor for current instructors," said DEC Region 4 Director Keith Goertz. "It's our honor to present him with this award."

Viva has worked hard to reach out to instructors throughout the region to foster unity among teaching teams, and has led his instructors through policy changes and implementation of new protocols with level-headed leadership.

Most recently, Viva and his team helped to write guidance for the new instructor manual on how to respond to threats or incidents in the classroom. In addition, he has worked with Saratoga Plan (Preserving Land and Nature) to educate the organization on the benefits of hunting, and demonstrated how hunters and other user groups can share natural resources without conflict.

All first-time hunters, bowhunters, and trappers must pass one or more specific courses before obtaining a New York State hunting license. DEC-certified instructors teach safe and responsible firearms conduct and skills while stressing the important role hunters and trappers play in conserving our renewable natural resources.

Volunteer instructors provide invaluable support to the implementation of New York State's hunter education program, which DEC credits with helping to produce the safest generation of hunters on record. The hunting incident rates, incidents per 100,000 hunters, over the last five years have been the lowest on record since statistics started being compiled in 1958. Since the 1960s, the incident rate has plunged more than 70 percent. The past five-year average is down to 3.2 incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 in the 1960s.

This award is named for Wayne Jones, the hunter education program administrator for New York from 1992 through 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 content.

The Wayne W. Jones award recognizes active volunteer instructors that have demonstrated and contributed to the advancement of the hunting education programs by enhancing students' understanding and enjoyment of our wildlife resources; creating awareness of responsibilities and instilling a respect for wildlife, habitat, non-hunters, hunters, and themselves; and by enhancing public understanding and acceptance of hunting and trapping as legitimate public recreation activities and as appropriate wildlife management practices.

Hunter safety is a priority for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and is part of the New York is Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative. The dedication of DEC's volunteer hunting education instructors is the cornerstone of this initiative.

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