Tag Archives: awards

California Wildlife Officers Receive State’s Highest Honor, Medal of Valor

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers Ryan Stephenson and Timothy Little received awards today at the 2016 Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award Ceremony in Sacramento. The awards acknowledge state employees for acts of heroism and bravery. Officer Stephenson and Little will both receive the Gold Medal for their “Special Acts” defined by the program as, “an extraordinary act of heroism by a state employee extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at great risk to his/her own life in an effort to save human life.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wildlife Officer Ryan Stephenson:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Stephenson was patrolling Lake County when the Valley Fire ignited. The fire had just consumed the small town of Cobb and was now headed toward Middletown and Hidden Valley Lake.

Stephenson raced ahead of the inferno to warn people about the fire and help them evacuate so they wouldn’t be trapped by the flames. Working door to door, he had evacuated several homes and escorted eight people to safety when one of the residents realized their neighbor had been overlooked. The neighbor, an 88-year-old wheelchair bound woman, was still in her home, lying on the couch, unaware of the approaching fire. Officer Stephenson quickly returned to her street, which was now engulfed in flames, identified the woman’s house, entered, and found her asleep on her couch. She was unable to get out on her own, so Officer Stephenson carried her in his arms to his patrol truck. As he was getting ready to leave, the woman told him she was worried about her dog. Officer Stephenson then went back into her home and returned to the truck with her dog, driving them all to safety just minutes before her home became engulfed in flames. The fire subsequently destroyed the woman’s home.

Stephenson’s heroic act saved the life of an elderly woman and her dog.

Wildlife Officer Timothy Little:

On September 12, 2015 approximately 3 p.m., Little was working as a safety patrol in the town of Cobb as he and other first responders scrambled to evacuate or assist residents during the Valley Fire.

As the fire began to consume the small town of Cobb, an emergency call went out about an elderly woman trapped in her home and in need of immediate rescue. Hearing radio calls from other rescue personnel saying they were unable to respond because of fire and debris in the roadway, Little immediately headed toward the woman’s home. Driving his patrol vehicle through raging flames and burning road hazards, Little found the house and entered the home where he found an elderly woman trapped with her 11-month old granddaughter. Little rescued both the woman and child, getting them out of their home safely just minutes before fire incinerated her home.

Shortly afterward, Little learned that another elderly woman was trapped in her house and needed serious medical attention. He also learned that no medical transport crews would be able to make it there in time. He raced to provide aid. After locating the house, he found the woman trapped on the second floor, unable to walk. Little carried her down a flight of stairs to a waiting vehicle and escorted them to the hospital. Little then continued to assist in other searches.

Little’s heroic acts saved the lives of two women and one infant.

“Our more than 400 wildlife officers understand and accept their roles as peace officers, caretakers, guardians and public servants,” said CDFW Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess. “They are well trained and prepared to not only deal with wildlife law enforcement, but general peace officer work and first responder duties. The brave and selfless acts by these officers exemplify the outstanding force of CDFW wildlife officers.”

Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

California Photographer Named Winner Wildlife Photo Contest

Media Contacts:
Troy Swauger, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8932

Berkeley resident Jennifer Joynt’s image of an American pika in Yosemite National Park earned the 2015 grand prize in the California Wildlife Photo of the Year contest. The image of the furry, diminutive critter was chosen as the winner of the yearlong contest presented by Outdoor California magazine and California Watchable Wildlife Inc., and sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the State Coastal Conservancy.

JenJoynt_Yosemite_Pika_small2

Joynt’s picture captures the animal as it crests a rock formation along a trail near Gaylor Lake. The shot was the winner for the November/December issue of Outdoor California magazine, and in early January, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham selected it as the year’s top wildlife photo.

“The image of this pocket-sized American pika holding blades of grass that are nearly longer than its body length captures the imagination immediately,” Director Bonham said. “You can’t deny the ‘aww-factor’ that comes from the facial expression, but I see a pika on a mission to build its hay pile, its nest, its future. Such is the indomitable way of nature.”

Beginning Monday, the top eight images (including a second photo of Joynt’s) from the contest will hang as part of a week-long display at the Capitol outside the Governor’s Office. The photographs include all of the year’s top finishers and honorable mentions selected by the contest sponsors. In addition to Joynt’s pika photograph, the photos on display include:

  • Gray kit fox (Jennifer Joynt)
  • American Rubyspot Damselfly (Phil Robertson, Lincoln)
  • Northern river otter (Beth Savidge, Davis)
  • Great Egret at marsh (Sandrine Biziaux Scherson, Irvine)
  • Ferruginous hawk (Gary Kunkel, Visalia)
  • Black bear cub (Brent Paull, Tulare)
  • Summer tanagers (Brent Paull)

On Thursday morning, Joynt will join Senator Loni Hancock (D-Oakland) on the floor of the Senate, where she will receive a proclamation honoring her work.

This is not the first time Joynt has been recognized for her photographic skills. Two years ago, her photo of a marmot pair near Tuolumne Meadows was selected as the honorable mention winner for the contest. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Nature Magazine and Berkeleyside. She has also contributed multiple photographs to the East Bay Regional Park District for use in park signs, brochures and calendars. Her favorite Bay Area wildlife photography locations include the East Bay Regional Parks and Point Reyes National Seashore.

In 2011, Outdoor California teamed with California Watchable Wildlife to launch an annual contest to acknowledge photographs that illustrate the state’s diverse wildlife and the viewing experiences found throughout its natural and wild lands. California Watchable Wildlife celebrates the state’s wildlife and diverse habitats by promoting the value of wildlife viewing to individuals, families, communities and industries while fostering awareness of and support for conservation and protection efforts. After a successful first year, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy joined as a contest sponsor to encourage more representation from a region rich with a diversity of wildlife. The State Coastal Conservancy joined last year as a sponsor.

CDFW Awards $31.4 Million to Fund Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 24 projects that will receive funding from its Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1) Restoration Grant Programs

The grants, which total $31.4 million, are CDFW’s first distribution of funds through these programs. They include approximately $24.6 million awarded through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program to projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta; and approximately $6.8 million awarded through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program for projects that benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta specifically.

In response to this first solicitation, announced last August, CDFW received 190 proposals requesting a total of $218 million in funding. All proposals underwent an initial administrative review, and those that passed were evaluated through a technical review process that included reviews by CDFW scientists, as well as experts from other agencies and academia.

The 24 approved projects will further the objectives of the California Water Action Plan, including establishing more reliable water supplies, restoring important species and habitat, and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality, flood protection and habitat) that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades.

“These projects achieve the spirit and intent of Proposition 1 to protect and restore important ecosystems around the state,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Investing in these projects is exciting. These projects prove we can conserve California’s natural resources, while also contributing to other critical statewide needs, such as enhancing water supply reliability.”

Californians overwhelmingly approved Proposition 1 in November 2014. CDFW received its first appropriation of funds for allocation July 2015. In a little over one year from voter approval, and just more than six months from legislative appropriations, CDFW is awarding these first grants with Proposition 1 funds.

Projects approved for funding through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Reclamation District 2035/Woodland-Davis Clean Water Agency Joint Intake and Fish Screen ($8,128,621 to Reclamation District 2035);
  • South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project Phase 2: Ravenswood and Mt. View Ponds ($5,000,000 to California State Coastal Conservancy);
  • San Joaquin River – Invasive Species Management and Job Creation Project ($1,497,843 to River Partners);
  • San Joaquin River – Native Habitat Restoration and Species Enhancement at Dos Rios Ranch ($798,978 to River Partners);
  • North Campus Open Space Coastal Wetland Restoration Project ($997,095 to Regents of University California, Santa Barbara);
  • San Francisco Estuary Invasive Spartina Removal and Tidal Marsh Restoration Project ($3,000,000 to California State Coastal Conservancy);
  • Tuolumne River Bobcat Flat Salmonid Habitat Restoration-Duck Slough Side Channel Restoration for Off-Channel Rearing Habitat ($453,618 to Tuolumne River Conservancy);
  • Native Trout Preservation in the Santa Ana Watershed in Southern California ($44,093 to Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District);
  • Restoring Fish Migration Connectivity to the Salt River Coastal Watershed ($1,995,438 to Humboldt County Resource Conservation District);
  • Grasslands Floodplain Restoration Project ($576,351 to American Rivers);
  • Perazzo Meadows Restoration ($607,889 to Truckee River Watershed Council);
  • San Gabriel Watershed Restoration Program ($65,000 to Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District);
  • Sequoia National Forest Prioritized Meadows Restoration Project ($486,173 to Trout Unlimited); and
  • Lower Putah Creek Watershed Restoration ($990,312 to Solano County Water Agency).

Projects approved for funding through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Reconstructing juvenile salmon growth, condition and Delta habitat use in the 2014-15 drought and beyond ($800,484 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences);
  • Drought-related high water temperature impacts survival of California salmonids through disease, increasing predation risk ($625,740 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine);
  • Hydrodynamic influences on the food webs of restoring tidal wetlands ($867,235 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences);
  • Rush Ranch Lower Spring Branch Creek and Suisun Hill Hollow Tidal Connections Project ($839,449 to Solano Land Trust);
  • Mechanisms underlying the flow relationship of longfin smelt: I. Movement and feeding ($1,263,991 to San Francisco State University);
  • The Effect of Drought on Delta Smelt Vital Rates ($678,275 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Office of Research, Sponsored Programs);
  • Yolo Bypass Westside Tributaries Flow Monitoring Project ($331,148 to Yolo County);
  • Problems and Promise of Restoring Tidal Marsh to Benefit Native Fishes in the North Delta during Drought and Flood ($969,238 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Center for Watershed Sciences);
  • Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Habitat and Drainage Improvement Project Permitting ($145,944 to Ducks Unlimited); and
  • Knightsen Wetland Restoration and Flood Protection Project ($240,000 to East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy).

More information about CDFW’s Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants. Funding for these projects comes from the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act 2014 (Proposition 1) bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Proposition 1 can be found here.

CDFW Names Warden Frank Milazzo Wildlife Officer of the Year

Fish and Wildlife Officer Frank Milazzo, a 27-year veteran, was selected as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) 2016 Wildlife Officer of the Year. Milazzo recalls his first encounter with a game warden vividly at age 11, on one of many outdoor adventures with his grandparents. From that day, he developed a love and passion for California’s fish and wildlife and set a goal to become a game warden.

Milazzo attended California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, graduating with a degree in zoology. He attended the first Fish and Game Academy at Napa Valley College in 1989. Milazzo enjoyed a variety of patrol districts and assignments in his career, including the patrol boat Hammerhead in Long Beach; positions in the San Gabriel Valley, Santa Barbara County and his current position in Mariposa County, where he has served since 1999. Milazzo gained expertise handling a variety of wildlife-human conflicts including mountain lion and bear attack investigations. Milazzo is known as a thorough, tireless and detailed investigator and technical report writer. He has investigated hundreds of deer and bear poaching cases over the years using a variety of techniques from old-fashioned hard work and surveillance to use of the latest forensic techniques and applications. Over the past 16 years, Milazzo has worked closely with local law enforcement and the citizens of Mariposa County and built a solid reputation as a go-to resource for all fish and wildlife related issues.

Milazzo has developed a reputation for deep community involvement. In 2014, he was selected by Mariposa County Judge Dana Walton to serve on the Mariposa County Civil Grand Jury, where he served with distinction for a one-year term. Milazzo is a past member of the Mariposa County Resource Conservation District and was selected by the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors for a position on the Mariposa County Historical Sites and Records Preservation Commission.

Milazzo received the Director’s Achievement Award in 1993 for his outstanding accomplishments in support of CDFW’s wildlife and conservation goals. In 1997, he was nominated as the southern enforcement district’s officer of the year. In 2008, Milazzo was awarded the department’s Medal of Valor and received the Governor’s Gold Medal of Valor, the highest honor bestowed on a state employee, for his selfless acts of heroism in deterring and detaining an armed, suicidal and homicidal suspect.

“In light of Milazzo’s awarded and dedicated career, his diverse experience with the department and his extensive involvement with his community, he is an excellent choice for the CDFW 2016 Wildlife Officer of the Year,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Division Chief David Bess.

When Milazzo is not pursuing his warden endeavors and proudly serving the department, he enjoys spending time with his children sharing his inherited values of hunting, fishing and collecting historic fish and game memorabilia.

####

Media Contact:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

Wildlife Conservation Board Director Honored for His Work

John Donnelly, executive director of the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), recently received the Rangeland Conservation Impact Award from the California Rangeland Trust. The WCB authorizes and allocates voter-approved funds for the purchase of land and waters suitable for recreation purposes and the preservation, protection and restoration of wildlife habitat.

“The California Rangeland Trust is proud to honor John Donnelly with our first Rangeland Conservation Impact Award,” said California Rangeland Trust CEO Nita Vail. “John works diligently on behalf of the state to successfully protect our rangeland, air and water quality, wildlife habitat and local food supplies through his leadership at the Wildlife Conservation Board.”

The Rangeland Conservation Impact Award is a new honor presented by the California Rangeland Trust, a nonprofit organization working to protect and enhance the environmental and economic benefits working landscapes provide. The award is given to conservation professionals that exemplify true dedication to advancing rangeland conservation and preserving the viability of California’s ranching industry and Western legacy, while protecting the valuable habitat and ecosystems provided by working ranches.

“Rangelands play a significant role in providing plants and animals refuge from urban development. Their importance in the mosaic of lands in California cannot be over stated,” Donnelly said. “It is an honor to receive this award from the California Rangeland Trust.”

Donnelly started work at the WCB in 1996 as a land agent. In 2003, he was promoted to assistant executive director and then became executive director in 2006. While at the WCB, he has overseen 530 projects that protect more than 466,000 acres of conservation easement and fee title lands, statewide, and restored and/or enhanced more than 92,000 acres of wildlife habitat.

Having grown up in Sierra Valley, which is predominantly a ranching and farming area, Donnelly worked on ranches before he began his wildlife career. He studied and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration at California State University, Sacramento, then worked for the California Department of Fish and Game (now Wildlife) from 1988 to 1996.

John Donnelly was honored Sept. 26 at “A Western Affair,” the California Rangeland Trust’s annual family event in Woodside.

green and gray, grassy rangeland and tree-covered foothills
California rangeland in Sierra County. WCB photo

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420