DWR Presents Yearly Awards


Sixteen Division of Wildlife Resources employees were honored recently for their work to help Utah’s wildlife. The employees received their honors at the division’s Annual Awards Banquet. The banquet was held Sept. 7 at Gardner Village in West Jordan.

Three awards from DWR Director Jim Karpowitz were among the awards presented that night.


Employee of the Year

After 33 years of outstanding and dedicated service, Ron Hodson will retire on Sept. 16. But he’ll leave the DWR with a nice going-way present — the Employee of the Year Award.

The award is given annually to the agency’s outstanding employee. Even though he’s a resident of Syracuse, hunters and anglers in southeastern Utah know Hodson well. He spent 29 years in that part of the state.

Hodson started his career as a conservation officer. In addition to protecting the state’s wildlife by enforcing the state’s wildlife laws, Hodson helped sportsmen and wildlife in southeastern Utah by transplanting big game animals, stocking fish and helping with habitat projects.

After serving several years as an enforcement officer, Hodson transitioned into a wildlife biologist position. Increasing the number of bison on the Henry Mountains and the number of mule deer on the Henry and Manti mountains are among his greatest accomplishments. Under his leadership, the number of bighorn sheep throughout southeastern Utah also increased.

Karpowitz, who served in the region with Hodson, said “it’s impressive to compare what is there now to how things were 33 years ago.”

After 29 years of service, Hodson moved to northern Utah to lead the agency’s Northern Region as its supervisor. He’s served as the regional supervisor in northern Utah for the past four years.

“You brought new energy to the region and showed the entire agency what can happen when leadership creates confident, competent people who own their performance,” Karpowitz said. “Under your direction, the employees in the Northern Region transformed themselves into a highly productive, innovative team.”

Director’s Outstanding Service Award

As the DWR’s private lands/public wildlife coordinator, Boyde Blackwell has a tough job — balancing the needs of wildlife and public hunters and anglers with the needs of private landowners. And he does his job cheerfully, professionally and with a smile.

As he presented the Centerville resident with the Director’s Outstanding Service Award for 2011, Karpowitz highlighted two reasons Blackwell received the award:

  • The work he’s done to open more private land to public hunters and anglers through Utah’s Walk-In Access program.

Recently, a new program under the federal Farm Bill gave states an opportunity to obtain federal funding to open even more private land to public hunters.В  Utah was one of the few states to receive any of that money.

“Your dedication in participating in the national discussions and preparing our application resulted in Utah receiving a $2.1 million award when many states came up empty,” Karpowitz said.  “This money has allowed the division to greatly expand our Walk-In Access program and provide more places for hunters and anglers to [hunt and fish on]
private land.”

  • The leadership Blackwell showed, as he added more work to his already busy schedule by serving as the acting chief of the agency’s Wildlife Section until a new chief could be found, was noted too.

Director’s Leadership Award

Mike Canning exemplifies what it means to be a great leader. For that reason, Canning, a resident of West Jordan and chief of the agency’s Habitat Section, received the Director’s Leadership Award for 2011.

“You have exhibited exemplary leadership ability as the Habitat Section chief,” Karpowitz said. “The consistently high performance of your employees is a direct result of the leadership you provide.”

Karpowitz also pointed out several major habitat projects where Canning has helped lead the way.  For example, Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative is the largest effort in the nation to improve wildlife habitat. Through Canning’s efforts and leadership, the project continues to move forward despite funding challenges several of the DWR’s partners are facing.

But the massive Watershed Restoration Initiative isn’t the only important project where Canning’s leadership abilities have helped.

“Your willingness to be a team player is, once again, evidenced by the way you embraced the mule deer initiative, helped implement the NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative, and participated in several U.S. Forest Service planning efforts,” Karpowitz said. “Respectively, these efforts will benefit the DWR [and Utah’s wildlife] for years to come by proactively dealing with wildlife/highway mortality, staving off Endangered Species Act listings, and improving the way management/policy decisions are made.”

Additional Director’s Office awards

Karpowitz also presented Paul Briggs with the 2011 Kevin Conway Habitat Conservation Award. Briggs is the chairman of the Utah Partners for Conservation and Development team in southwestern Utah.

Director’s Partnership awards were also presented to Tom Wharton, outdoor reporter and editor at The Salt Lake Tribune, John Harja, director of the Utah Public Lands Policy Coordination Office and a member of the Western Governor’s Wildlife Council, and Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism.

Section awards

The following were honored by DWR sections as their outstanding employee for 2011:

Administrative Services – Karen Caldwell, information specialist

Aquatic – Alan Ward, lead aquatic biologist at Strawberry Reservoir

Conservation Outreach – Mark Martinez, Web developer

Fish Culture – Zane Olsen, supervisor of the Wahweap State Fish Hatchery

Habitat – Morgan Williams, habitat maintenance specialist in the Central Region

Law Enforcement – Holly Betteridge, executive secretary

Wildlife – Justin Dolling, migratory game bird and upland game coordinator

Region awards

The following were honored as the DWR’s outstanding regional employees for 2011:

Central – Chris Crockett, native aquatic species biologist

Northeastern – Calvin Black, wildlife biologist

Northern – Val Bachman, manager of the Ogden Bay, Howard Slough and Harold Crane waterfowl management areas

Southeastern – Justin Shannon, wildlife manager

Southern – Blaine Cox, volunteer services coordinator

Utah Wildlife Board awards

Ernie Perkins, vice-chairman of the Utah Wildlife Board, also presented two awards from the board.

Ashley Green, the DWR Lands and Central Utah Project coordinator for the DWR, received the board’s DWR Professional of the Year award.

Habitat Council member Michael Christensen received the board’s Conservation Individual of the Year award.

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