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Stewardship Appreciation Awards

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The 2020 Stewardship Appreciation Awards

In 2020, DEC launched the inaugural Stewardship Appreciation Awards to recognize the dedication and volunteer service of partner organizations, individuals, educational institutions, and municipalities on state lands. DEC manages 4.6 million acres of public lands, including three million acres in the Adirondack and Catskill Forest Preserves, more than 5,000 miles of formal trails, campgrounds, day use areas, and hundreds of trailheads, boat launches, and fishing piers. These lands provide countless outdoor recreational experiences for the public, while also protecting valuable natural resources. Volunteers and partner organizations are essential to the continued stewardship and promotion of these resources. The program is not currently accepting award nominations.

See the winners of the 2020 Stewardship Appreciation Awards below.

2020 Stewardship Appreciation Award Winners

Public Engagement Award - Stony Kill Foundation

children around a table outdoors
Students focus on hands-on learning
at Stony Kill Farm

In 2017, Stony Kill Foundation launched a new collaboration with San Miguel Academy of Newburgh, NY that bridges the Foundation's hands-on farming and environmental education programs with San Miguel Academy's mission to educate and inspire City of Newburgh youth, so they may break the cycle of poverty and achieve new potential. Every two weeks, San Miguel students spend time at Stony Kill Farm with the Foundation's educators, helping raise lambs, tapping maple trees, incubating chickens, and participating in a wide range of immersive projects that encourage students' curiosity and confidence and foster a closer connection to the working farm, its fields, and forests.

Natural Resources Steward Award - Adirondack 46ers

people at a table under a tent
Volunteers of the Adirondack 46ers
Trailhead Stewards Program

From its 46ers Trail Crew to Outdoor Skills Workshops, the 46ers collaborate with DEC to steward state lands and educate the recreating public. In 2017, the 46ers started a Trailhead Steward Initiative held on summer and fall weekends to help educate hikers heading up Cascade Mountain about Leave No Trace principles, proper gear, waste disposal, and general DEC guidelines. Over the course of a season, the completely volunteer-run Trailhead Steward Initiative interacts with more than 13,000 hikers. Other recent projects include the relocation of the Mt. Van Hoevenberg lean-to and rock and gravel work at the bridge over Santanoni Brook.

Natural Resources Volunteer Award - Mike Medvesky (Friends of Five Rivers Environmental Education Center)

man in a classroom holding a book
Mike Medvesky teaching at Five Rivers
Environmental Education Center

Mike Medvesky is a volunteer instructor with the Guided School Program (GSP) at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center in Delmar, NY. GSP volunteer instructors are responsible for guiding outdoor ecology lessons to groups throughout the school year. These instructors are invested in environmental education and work collaboratively with DEC and Friends of Five Rivers staff to offer instruction on the living environment, as well as seasonally relevant content. In his 10 years of volunteering, Mike has led 264 lessons and reached nearly 4,000 students and chaperones.

Adventure NY Award - Catskill Center for Conservation and Development: Fire Tower Project

people at a fire tower
Catskill Fire Tower Project volunteers
at Overlook Mountain Fire Tower

The Catskill Fire Tower Project was established in the 1990s as a partnership by DEC and the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development (CCCD). The project has a network of passionate volunteers who deliver an invaluable service to the Catskill Park and surrounding towns by providing historical and naturalist interpretation at the five public fire towers, conducting visitor counts, and reporting maintenance issues to DEC. In 2019, the volunteers helped to facilitate the Catskills Fire Tower Five Challenge by greeting and encouraging visitors to finish the challenge. Nearly 900 outdoor enthusiasts from across New York State, 12 additional states, and Canada completed the challenge between July and December 2019.

NextGen Award - Rocking the Boat

young student holding a net
A student participating in a Bronx River
education program

Rocking the Boat created a Bronx River ecology curriculum, dubbed the Bronx River Experience. This year they hosted a virtual class of 29 students who spent three program days in a curriculum unit called Water and Responsibility, where they learned about combined sewer overflows affecting the river, and used "Sewer in a Suitcase" models to illustrate runoff issues and design their own urban landscapes to prevent contamination from runoff. The 21 Job Skills apprentices dove deep into the impact of the Clean Water Act of 1972 as the foundation for water regulation today.

Innovation Award - Grasse River Restoration Partners

people around a boat sorting mussels
DEC Scientist Liz Clohessy, Mary McCann
of HDR Engineering, and Dr. Denise Mayer
of NYS Museum collecting and sorting mussels

A groundbreaking effort to preserve native mussels and their habitat in the Lower Grasse River in Massena, NY, this effort was launched in 2017. As part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-led cleanup project to remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from river sediments, a seven-mile stretch of the lower Grasse River was dredged in 2019 and 2020, and capped starting in 2020 with an additional 200 acres to be capped this year. In order to prevent widespread loss of the freshwater mussel community, DEC embarked on multiple efforts to collect mussels from the river bottom ahead of dredging/capping activities and temporarily placed these mussels in areas that were not subject to capping or dredging. The New York State Museum and St. Regis Mohawk Tribe are collaborating with DEC on the project. As of early 2021, 400,000 mussels have been saved because of this effort and 12 founder colonies of mussels have been placed back into remedial areas to jumpstart recovery. The mussel relocation project is part of an ongoing partnership with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to address a legacy of contamination and improve habitat in the region.

Eligible Nominees

Minimum Eligibility Requirements:

Nominees may be:

  1. Not-for-profit organizations;
  2. Individuals;
  3. Educational institutions; or
  4. Municipalities.

Nominees must have one of the following formal agreements with DEC:

  1. An active Volunteer Stewardship Agreement (VSA);
  2. A current Memorandum of Understanding;
  3. A current Use and Occupancy Agreement; or
  4. Proof of organized volunteer activities on State lands.
  5. Nominees must currently and for at least the past three years, be in good standing with DEC and in full compliance with the Environmental Conservation Law.
  6. Nominee was not involved in any litigation against DEC or State of New York within the past seven years.

The efforts for which the individual or entity is being nominated must be:

  1. Located on or in support of DEC lands or conservation easements; and
  2. Initiated or completed within the past three years.

Official nomination forms contain complete terms and conditions.

DEC is encouraging those who meet the eligibility requirements and are committed to improving lands, waters, and facilities including, but not limited to, forest preserve, state forests, conservation easements, wildlife management areas, and environmental education centers to submit a nomination.

Examples of projects completed by volunteers and partners include:

  • Rehabilitation of trails.
  • Restoration of historic buildings, structures, or other interpretive structures related to the conservation of natural resources.
  • Promoting environmental education efforts for the public, for example, Leave No Trace and outdoor safety principles, natural resource stewardship efforts, and outdoor recreational programming.

Nomination Process

This program is not currently accepting award nominations.