Congratulations to the 2020 Legends Award winners!

Congratulations to Steve Baldwin, the Bureau of Land Management’s 2020 Legend!

Steve Baldwin (left)

For 37 years, Steve has worked for the Oregon/Washington BLM in forestry, fire and operations, but he found his true calling when he became Park Manager of the extremely busy Fisherman’s Bend Recreation Area.  Steve also provided leadership as Chief of Recreation Operations for the entire Northwest Oregon District through a district merger.

Steve has been a superb manager of BLM recreation operations in Northwest Oregon by ensuring that all aspects of a visitor’s experience to the district are the best they can be.  He is diligent about everything from healthy, safe shade trees in campgrounds to ensuring that the park rangers and volunteer hosts demonstrate a friendly, helpful demeanor when dealing with the public, and have the training, support, and equipment they need to deal with emergencies. The direct result of Steve’s efforts are popular recreation sites loved by the public.

Sites under Steve’s supervision receive close to 500,000 visits each year. The Fisherman’s Bend Campground that Steve oversees has seasonal occupancy rates which have exceeded 85%, remarkable for public campgrounds.  Steve’s responsibilities range from heavily used developed recreation sites to wilderness areas. 

Steve has developed strong innovative relationships with community organizations including the Linn County Juvenile Work Crew, which prepares over 100 cords of firewood a year to sell to campers, generating over $25,000 in fee revenue;  the Oregon School for the Blind, coordinates with Steve on skill building placements for people with disabilities by doing park renovation projects; a recycling and container collection program generating hundreds of dollars annually donated to a local senior center; and various Youth Corps in Oregon, where he has built a solid reputation as a project coordinator who provides safe, fulfilling experiences for youth crews.

Steve truly exemplifies the best of what the BLM recreation and visitor services program is about.

Watch a special video message from BLM Acting Assistant Director for the Bureau of Land Management National Landscape Conservation and Community Partnerships Directorate Alan Bittner

Congratulations to Russ Dunn, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2020 Legend!

Russ Dunn has been the National Policy Advisor for Recreational Fisheries at NOAA Fisheries for 10 years. During his tenure, Russ’ leadership, innovation, and partnership-building have greatly enhanced the relationship between NOAA and the recreational fishing community. With Russ leading the way, NOAA continues to engage with the recreational community and support sustainable fisheries access for anglers.

One of the first actions Russ undertook in his position was to craft NOAA’s landmark National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy. Developed with input from recreational fishing and boating communities, conservation organizations, and managers across the nation, the policy reflects anglers’ voices on a variety of concerns, including public access, resource stewardship, and agency communication. This action was the bedrock for NOAA’s sharpened focus on recreational fisheries.

Russ has continued to spearhead the implementation of the national policy, while developing partnerships internally and externally. With his work across NOAA, including the National Ocean Service and the National Marine Sanctuary System, Russ supports ongoing dialogue with sanctuary managers and the recreational fishing community. Russ was also a key lead in developing the milestone Memorandum of Agreement between NOAA and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. The agreement bolsters public-private sector cooperation promoting sustainable and responsible recreational fishing and boating opportunities in public waters, including National Marine Sanctuaries. His collaboration and communication with the recreational fishing community serve as a model for successful public-private partnerships.

Even during times of crisis, Russ has been able to keep the public and NOAA focused on recreational fishing. Earlier this year, while many Americans were not able to be out on the water enjoying their favorite pastime, Russ formulated a partnership with a leading saltwater fishing media company to host a national recreational fishing photo contest. When anglers could not be out fishing, Russ gave them a place to share their favorite fishing memories and connect with the angling community.

Russ is not only dedicated to sustainable resource management, but also the sustainability of the sport. Russ has orchestrated NOAA support for the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing and Guide Academy, which merges salmon and river education with recreation and conservation principles to educate, engage, and inspire Alaskan young adults and opens the door to careers as fishing guides. Further, Russ has helped support and organize a youth fishing event with local partners and NOAA staff in Hawaii, bridging generations to promote public involvement in natural resource management.

Russ would be the first to tell you that his job is not always the easiest, but this has never dulled his sharp sense of humor and personable nature. As the marine environment continues to change and recreational fishing continues to grow, NOAA is lucky to have dedicated leaders like Russ Dunn to navigate these challenges. Congratulations, Russ, on being NOAA’s 2020 ORR Legend!

Watch a special video message from NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver

Congratulations to Dee Hewitt, the National Park Service’s 2020 Legend!

Deirdre “Dee” Hewitt, has dedicated the past two decades of her career to helping communities enhance their access to the outdoors and improve their quality of life. She has been a leader in the NPS in helping ensure that diversity, equity and inclusion goals are integral to community assistance programs. Since 2001, Deirdre has helped many rural and urban communities with their conservation and outdoor recreation needs throughout the southeast. Though many communities may not be comfortable working with the federal government, Deirdre is able to meet people where they are by inviting them to join the conversation, building rapport and breaking through barriers. She strives to ensure that all voices are heard, and participants are meaningfully engaged.

In many southeastern states, rural and economically challenged communities oftentimes do not have access to a town planner or someone who can facilitate meetings and bring people together. Deirdre has dedicated her career to helping people and communities faced with significant quality of life challenges. Hundreds of communities have benefited by her empathy, professionalism and dedication to making their restoration, conservation and outdoor recreation visions a reality.

In recent years, southeastern states have experienced back-to-back hurricanes due to the changing climate. What once was thought to be a one-hundred-year event has become routine with the storms getting stronger and causing more damage than ever. Flooding has inundated large swaths of Louisiana and devastated entire communities in the Florida’s panhandle and Caribbean Islands.

As the southeast program manager for the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program * (RTCA), Deidre developed and continues to lead an innovative partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NPS and State and local interests to help communities be more resilient to storm events while improving environmental resiliency and enhancing access to outdoor recreation. She has led a team of planners and designers that now regularly assist communities in restoring lands damaged by such storms. They responded first to the Louisiana flood events at the request of the Governor and Department of the Interior. In just the first few months, Deirdre and her team offered priceless planning assistance to more than 20 different communities helping them with tourism development, park restoration, green infrastructure and new conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities enhancing their storm resilience and promoting a healthier quality of life for their residents.

As more catastrophic storms began to take their toll, FEMA found itself tasked with a severe backlog of challenging community needs for these devastated places and turned to Deirdre for support. Realizing a new approach was required, Deirdre evolved the Hurricane Recovery Model that established a new role for the NPS in providing critical assistance for dozens of communities devastated by storms. With Deirdre’s leadership and ability to collaborate with other agencies and organizations, she charted a course to more comprehensively serve communities impacted by natural disasters. Unique to her leadership is the ability to engage all different aspects of a community to come together, to develop a shared vision and then lay out strategies to move in an agreed upon direction. This community outreach and engagement has brought together groups who might never have thought they had common goals.

Deirdre’s work and efforts on planning, recovery and resiliency has charted a new pathway for vital assistance and has been so impactful that FEMA now requests NPS RTCA regularly for support with recovery projects. Through her hard work and dedication, Deirdre jump-started and coordinated this partnership by ensuring staff had the capacity to assist the devastated communities. Deirdre has now activated half of her staff to conduct FEMA work, including herself. Their efforts have ensured quick and expedient planning that minimizes costs and provides exceptional public and citizen engagement.

Today, more than 50 different projects have been completed between the states of Louisiana and Florida, and more than 100,000 local citizens have benefited from Deirdre and her team. Her leadership has helped countless individuals and many communities re-imagine their parks, walkable spaces, town character, recreation amenities, and future for their outdoors. It also established a new path for how the National Park Service could collaborate across agencies and departments in emergency response situations.

For more than 31 years, the National Park Service (NPS) has assisted thousands of communities across the country with achieving their conservation and outdoor recreation visions. The National Park Service – Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program staff are invited into communities to partner with local governments or organizations working to develop or restore parks, trails, tourism infrastructure, rivers and conservation lands.

Watch a special video message from NPS Acting Assistant Director for Partnerships and Civic Engagement Reggie Chapple

Congratulations to Gary Fottrell, the Federal Highway Administration’s 2020 Legend!

The Federal Highway Administration is proud to recognize Gary Fottrell as our 2020 Legends Award winner. For more than 15 years, Gary has been a passionate federal program partner responsible for oversight of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) in Tennessee. Gary provides technical assistance and oversight for the RTP and has initiated streamlining and stewardship measures to improve program efficiency and accountability. Gary is considered an active and trusted partner for the delivery of non-motorized or non-traditional projects in the State of Tennessee. His approach to partnership is one of openness and collaboration to seek innovative solutions for all users of recreational facilities. He is frequently consulted to identify new ways to extend the reach of public funds through match of federal program funds and to establish new cooperative agreements with project sponsors and partners to enhance program delivery. In addition to his role in the RTP, Gary is responsible for oversight of the Transportation Alternative Program and assists in oversight of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program in Tennessee, both of which provide extensive non-motorized and non-traditional transportation solutions. He actively promotes these programs to partner organizations and seeks opportunities for non-traditional project sponsors to collaborate with governmental agencies to offer services such as ridesharing programs, greenways, and multi-modal and transit services. Gary led efforts with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to adopt new agreements for the RTP.

Gary’s efforts to create predictable, accountable, and streamlined RTP implementation extend beyond inter-agency coordination. He has assisted in FHWA-led reviews that identified risk areas within RTP where project activity had not been occurring for months or years. As a result of his efforts, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has improved their rate of project close outs and reduced their number of inactive projects. Another frequent issue in the RTP was addressing Buy America requirements. Gary addressed questions from TDEC about how to ensure the Buy America requirements are met and documented on RTP projects and developed a Buy American certification form for TDEC to use on RTP projects. This form creates a consistent expectation for the requirements and ensures adequate documentation of Buy America compliance.

Gary acts as a mentor for the RTP to FHWA staff nationally. Gary routinely fields questions from other states about RTP program monitoring and implementation. He is considered a highly knowledgeable and innovative federal partner for the RTP. He has provided written and verbal technical guidance to other Division Offices on financial accountability, program streamlining, and the relationship between other program requirements and the RTP, such as the Buy America program. Gary is a true Legend, and we are thrilled to congratulate him on this award.

 

Watch a special video message from FHWA Office of Environment, Planning and Realty Associate Administrator Gloria Shepherd

Congratulations to Valerie Heath-Harrison, the Bureau of Reclamation’s 2020 Legend!

The Bureau of Reclamation is proud to recognize Valerie Heath-Harrison from the Upper Colorado Regional Office as the agency’s 2020 Legends Award winner. Over the last 18 years as an Outdoor Recreation Planner, Valerie has obtained vast knowledge and experience in administering Reclamation recreation management programs. She is confident and competent, which enables her to quickly assess the situation, come up with a plan, communicate that plan to others and execute the plan successfully.

Valerie’s work with the C.A.S.T. (Catch A Special Thrill) for Kids Foundation exemplifies her dedication to providing outdoor recreation experiences. C.A.S.T. joins volunteers who love to fish with children with disabilities and children who experience disadvantages for a day of fishing in the outdoors. In the Upper Colorado Region, Reclamation hosts the event, provides most of the funding and coordinates the event with a local coordinator, if available. Valerie, with the assistance of the C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation, has worked tirelessly over the last four years to find, recruit and train new coordinators as older coordinators dropped out of the program due to retirement or time constraints. Over the last 12 years, Valerie has worked with Reclamation staff as well as volunteers from surrounding communities to host 51 C.A.S.T. Events. Because of her major contributions to making these events happen, more than 1,157 children with disabilities or children who experience disadvantages in their lives had access to enjoy outdoor recreation at Reclamation’s beautiful reservoirs on a day set aside especially for them and their families. Without her dedication, these events would not have taken place in the Upper Colorado Region which spans Utah, parts of Southwestern Wyoming, Western Colorado, Northern Arizona, most of New Mexico and part of southwestern Texas.

Because of her efforts over the last four years as Lead Recreation Planner for the Upper Colorado Basin, new or improved facilities were constructed/rehabilitated at several reservoirs throughout the region and the effort is ongoing. Valerie is also serving as the Regional Accessibility Coordinator, and has done so for the past 22 years. She has acted as the regional representative for the Reclamation-wide and Interior-wide policy team for Reclamation’s Recreation and Concessions Management Program and has also served as a technical coordinator on Interior’s youth program initiatives, such as “Every Kid In A Park” and employment initiatives for young adults by serving on the Technical Review Committee for the latest series of youth hiring contracts, which includes intern opportunities and crew opportunities for field work. Her dedication is a credit to the entire Bureau. Valerie is a true Legend.

 

Watch a special video message from Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman

Congratulations to Martha Williamson, the U.S. Forest Service’s 2020 Legend!

The U.S. Forest Service is proud to honor Martha Williamson from the Rio Grande National Forest as our 2020 Legends Award recipient. For close to 15 years, Martha has provided forward-thinking leadership in which she has championed the multiple-use mission of the USDA Forest Service – fostering and planning for steady increases in recreational uses on the District while fully supporting very active range and timber management programs. Martha’s dedication to encouraging diverse user groups to come together to create stronger partnerships, increasing public participation in the recreation planning process, and simply encouraging and providing opportunities for people to get to know one another on a personal basis has built and strengthened relationships and partnerships between local communities and the Forest Service.

In her innovation, solving some of the key challenges facing outdoor recreation on the District, Martha builds trust and understanding between the District, increases outdoor recreational interest and use in the community, and cultivates partnerships. Martha’s motto, “Just be nice to one another,” has established an atmosphere of respect and kindness in the local community that cannot be easily quantified, but is demonstrated in how she navigates the challenges of maintaining and improving recreational experiences and supporting local communities that depend upon the Forest Service to provide sustainable recreation opportunities.

Martha, through her poise and proficiency in communicating her intent, and while expressing her understanding of concerns raised by others, has built a strong partnership network with county commissioners, outdoor recreation clubs, volunteer groups, non-profit organizations, stakeholders, permittees, cooperating agencies, and most importantly, the people who enjoy and utilize public lands. Martha’s holistic approach to developing and managing positive relationships begins in the pre-NEPA and NEPA planning processes and carries through with full integrity into the implementation and monitoring phases.

Martha’s effort to build relationships and diverse partnerships while improving recreation opportunities and strategically resolving existing and new challenges along the way highlight her energy, enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication to bringing people together.

Martha’s extraordinary effort to expand and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities encourages a connection to public lands for all ages of people, and increases partnerships in recreation. Her innovative leadership and dedication to enhancing and increasing outdoor recreation opportunities across public lands exemplifies the purpose and selection criteria for the Legends Award.

 

Watch a special video message from USFS Chief Vicki Christiansen

Congratulations to Patricia Williams, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ 2020 Legend!

Ms. Patricia (Patti) Williams has served to benefit the USACE Recreation Program since her first position as the Natural Resource Manager at Dewey Lake in 1986 until today, where she serves as Northwestern Division’s Natural Resource Management/Environmental Compliance Program Manager. Ms. Williams serves as a beacon for change and progress for recreation management in USACE. Early in her career, she saw and addressed visitor needs. She implemented alcohol bans and mandatory PFD wear for children 12 and under, educating the recreating public and addressing historic high drowning rates and visitor/ranger safety issues. This work served as a foundation throughout her 30+ year career of enhancing and improving recreation opportunities for the visitors to Corps parks and facilities. Ms. Williams shines as an extraordinary leader in outdoor recreation through innovative partnerships and programs and by sharing these advances across her projects, districts, and division and within USACE. Many look to her as a mentor and seek her advice and counsel when evaluating management decisions at their location.    

Ms. Williams is a true professional and outstanding ambassador for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Program. She serves as a national leader and innovative thinker.  Through creative partnerships, stakeholder collaboration and thoughtful leadership, she leads the organization in offering the best possible Corps of Engineers recreational opportunities to the visiting public. Ms. Williams’ guidance and recommendations are highly respected and sought out by the Corps at all levels. Her selfless service, tenacious spirit and passion for the Corps’ Recreation Program distinguish her as a Recreation and Land Management leader nationally. These qualities and her many accomplishments reflect great credit upon Ms. Williams, Northwestern Division and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Watch a special video message from USACE Chief, Natural Resource Management Jeff Krause

Since 1991, Legends Awards have honored employees from federal agencies that manage outdoor recreation on public lands and waters for outstanding work to improve outdoor recreation experiences and opportunities for the American people. Legends Awards are the only awards nominated by agency peers and are given to individuals whose extraordinary efforts have made a concrete difference in enhancing outdoor recreation programs and resources.