Tag Archives: honors

CDFW Climate Change Expert Honored for Innovation

Dr. Amber Pairis, director of the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, recently received the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Climate Adaption Leadership Award for Natural Resources. The award recognized her inventive approaches to preparing Southern California for the effects of climate change.

The Climate Science Alliance is a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative with more than 140 partner agencies and organizations. Its mission is to increase resilience to climate change among the natural and human communities of the South Coast Eco-region through community-focused activities and partnerships.

“Today we recognize individuals and agencies who are developing and using innovative methods to safeguard the nation’s living natural resources from a rapidly changing world,” said Kevin Hunting, chief deputy director of CDFW and co‐chair of the Joint Implementation Working Group of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. “Their leadership is a source of inspiration for additional efforts to advance climate‐smart resource conservation and management with lasting positive impacts on the nation’s communities and economy.”

Recipients were selected from 27 nominations representing activities from individuals and federal, tribal, state, local and non‐governmental organizations throughout the country. Dr. Pairis’ nomination was submitted by the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

Dr. Pairis has worked on climate change issues since 2005. In 2013, Governor Brown appointed her assistant secretary for climate change at the California Natural Resources Agency to coordinate the state’s nature-based climate adaptation activities. Previously, as senior climate change advisor for CDFW she created the Climate Science Program, CDFW Climate College, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Climate Committee, and supported development of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.

The San Diego native earned her doctorate in environmental studies with an emphasis on conservation biology at Antioch University New England.

California’s natural resources provide important benefits and services to Americans every day, including jobs, income, food, clean water and air, building materials, storm protection, tourism and recreation. For example, outdoor wildlife‐related recreation contributes an estimated $7.5 billion to our state’s economy every year, and marine ecosystems sustain a seafood industry that supports more than 130,000 jobs and $23.4 billion in economic activity annually.

Information about CDFW’s Climate Science Program is at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Climate-Science.

For more information about the 2017 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards for Natural Resources, including the eight recipients, honorable mentions, and all 27 nominees, please visit the Climate Adaptation Leadership Award main page.

A woman gestures enthusiastically with seven children at a classroom table
Amber Pairis teaches kids about climate change

Media Contacts:
Dr. Amber Pairis, Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, (916) 205-9478
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

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.”

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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

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.

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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

CDFW Names Warden Chris Stoots as Wildlife Officer of the Year

Warden Chris Stoots and K9 Quinn
Warden Chris Stoots and K9 Quinn

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has announced the selection of Warden Chris Stoots as its 2015 Wildlife Officer of the Year. Stoots’ dedication to his job and the tenacity with which he relentlessly pursues poachers are widely respected by officers with many more years of experience and by his supervisors within the Law Enforcement Division, as well as within the community where he works.

“As good as he is at catching poachers, Stoots finds time to promote ethical enjoyment of California’s fish and wildlife resources in both a consumptive and non-consumptive manner,” said CDFW Law Enforcement Chief David Bess. “Stoots has done dozens of community presentations and enjoys interacting with outdoors enthusiasts at hunting and fishing trade shows. His enthusiasm for his job is evident no matter what he’s doing.”

A warden since 2008, Stoots has been based out of Colusa County. In recent years, he has developed a reputation for turning small and unlikely pieces of information into what most officers would consider to be a once-in-a-career case. In 2014, Stoots was the lead investigator in a large-scale, multi-suspect, multi-county commercial poaching case involving habitual offenders. The case culminated with the service of search warrants at seven locations and followup at an additional five. Stoots committed several months to the extensive investigation, including coordinating a three-day jury trial with eight officers’ testimonies. His persistence and collaboration with the District Attorney resulted in an unprecedented number of felony and misdemeanor convictions, including night hunting, spotlighting, trespassing, hunting in closed seasons, take without proper tags, exceeding bag limits, prohibited species, illegal snaring, shooting from vehicles, shooting near dwellings, commercial sales of sport taken wildlife, theft of diesel fuel, marijuana cultivation and felons in possession of firearms.

Based on the gravity and magnitude of the violations, the suspects’ criminal histories, and the thorough investigation and testimony by Stoots, the suspects received prison and jail sentences of up to seven years, and forfeiture of their ATV and trailer, 25 firearms and all other hunting equipment, and several hundred pounds of wild game meat.

Stoots uses a variety of surveillance tools, including night vision, to combat stealthy poachers. He regularly uses the CDFW wildlife forensics laboratory to process even the smallest evidence samples and connect them to crimes committed against wildlife.

In addition to his remarkable investigative work, Stoots has brought great credit to CDFW over the course of his career by still making time to take on additional assignments. He spent three months as one of CDFW’s representatives for the California Department of Justice Campaign Against Marijuana Planting, and he serves as a firearms instructor, a field training officer, a canine handler and a member of the Critical Incident Stress Management team. He is often recognized in public, as he appeared as one of the primary officers in the National Geographic television series Wild Justice.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 651-6692

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988