There are many people who took the reins and led the conservation effort in Michigan this year, but there were some who stood out from the rest.At MUCC's Annual Convention, some of those leaders were recognized at MUCC's Conservation Award Banquet.
Outstanding Conservationist of the Year: Mike LeonardWithout Mike Leonard, Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management (CPWM) would not have gathered almost 375,000 signatures in support of the Scientific Fish and Wildlife Management Act, it’s as simple as that. Mike, a member of the Chelsea Rod & Gun Club, represented Safari Clubs International (SCI) on the steering CPWM steering committee, for which he served as Treasurer. From the beginning of the campaign, Mike took charge and helped organize volunteer trainings, volunteered himself nearly every weekend and many weekdays to collect signatures, recruited volunteers, and helped perfect the way that all volunteers asked for signatures. He also set up the volunteer tables at the two most successful locations, Cabela’s in Grandville and Dundee. He also almost single-handedly raised the bulk of the fundraising required for the initiative, including over $400,000 from SCI chapters around Michigan and the rest of the country, and making a $100,000 personal loan to the campaign to keep it going when it needed it most.
Exceptional Outdoor Woman: Susan BlackallAs a third grade teacher for over 30 years, Susan Blackall is no stranger to youth education. But it was in 2008 when the “aha!” moment happened, and Susan, who is an active member of the Sparta Hunting and Fishing Club, began educating students through hands-on habitat work. When a school building moved, it left three to four acres of brownfield holding nothing but a few poisonous berry bushes and a blue spruce. “That didn’t look right to me,” said Susan, so she attended a seminar on native plants. “And my car has been a mess ever since!” The mess is understandable; she’s been very busy. Starting in 2008, she organized projects for her students to plant native wildflowers and shrubs. “The insects need something to eat,” she says. She also maintains a 25-acre native grass prairie and plants butterfly gardens with the help of third-graders, special education students and the high school biology class. The students cut out willow, planted berry-producing shrubs near holding ponds, spot-sprayed Canadian thistle and pulled spotted knapweed.
Conservation Educator of the Year: Shar McCoheghyMichigan’s hunter’s safety instructors do a tremendous job of teaching kids how to hunt safely, ethically and legally. But with frequent changes in regulation and methods, how do they keep up? Well, for the past 25 years, they’ve stayed up to date thanks to Shar McCoheghy, who just retired from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources after 42 extraordinary years. For the past quarter century, Shar has made sure that hunter’s safety materials are up to date not just with regulations, but also with new methods. For instance, once crossbows became legal, she worked with the Law Enforcement Division to make sure instructors had access for teaching safe methods of crossbow hunting. Since 2008, she has also worked on the recreation, ORV and marine safety programs. Michigan’s excellent track record of safe hunting is a testament to the quality of volunteer hunter’s safety instructors we have in our state. And their great work is a testament to the tremendous contributions of Shar McCoheghy, MUCC’s 2014 Conservation Educator of the Year.
Conservation Organization of the Year: Shiawassee Conservation AssociationThis year’s conservation organization of the year holds the distinction as the birthplace of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, but it is their contribution to the future of conservation, not the past, that earned them this year’s award. Youth outdoor education is the future of hunting, fishing and conservation, and the Shiawassee Conservation Association (SCA) is fully committed to this mission. Over 200 students are enrolled in its youth archery program, spearheaded by Clyde Christmas, who chairs its archery committee. Many of these students are sponsored by club members to attend. It also has 25 kids in its trap program, many of whom are also sponsored. This year, SCA held its 22nd annual Conservation Education Dinner, raising over $22,000 for youth programs. Shiawassee Conservation Association also sent four students to the Michigan OutofDoors Youth Camp this year, and sponsored Tracks Magazine for over 800 students!
Special Conservation AwardsThe extraordinary success of the Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management petition drive depended on the efforts of, literally, thousands of volunteers. But there were a few provided signatures from key locations around the state on a consistent basis, from manning a store's petition table on a daily basis to organizing entire regions. We honored some of those key volunteers with Special Conservation Awards: Jim Pryce, Bob Matota, Paul Chapman, Bob Guntle, Jack VanRhee, Judy VanRhee, Gary Robb, Nick Amicone, Eldon Montross, John Dixon, Dennis Cronk, Jon Southworth, Dale Hendershot, Mike Schippa, George Lindquist, Al Ettenhoffer, Joshua Billow, Bob Borchak, Dale Siwula, Jane Finnerty and Joe Harlow.
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