Volunteer Award Winners
2022 National BLM Volunteer Making a Difference Awards
On June 15, 2022, the BLM honored nine outstanding volunteers at the 26th annual Making a Difference National Volunteer Awards ceremony. The event was held live via Zoom and included opening remarks from Tracy Stone-Manning, BLM Director and Laura Daniel Davis, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management who offered heartfelt remarks and personally thanked our award winners from California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming.
Volunteers are essential for the BLM to achieve its mission of sustaining the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands. Each year almost 25,000 BLM volunteers perform nearly 900,000 hours of service, valued at over $25 million. This year’s extraordinary award winners served thousands of hours in 2021 across the country and in various capacities such as visitor services, recreation maintenance, cultural resources, riparian and water quality monitoring, and education, to name a few.
The nine individuals and groups we honored this year committed themselves to find new and inventive ways to connect to the land and the people who wanted to visit them. Without these commitments, the BLM could not have handled the demands placed on our public lands. You can view their achievements in the profiles below.
Lifetime Achievement Winners
Idaho - Rich Bupp
Rich Bupp of Twin Falls, Idaho is a passionate and dedicated promoter of BLM’s aquatic resources, wildlife, and recreation programs. Starting in 2001-2003, Rich contributed 150 hours to inventory, repair, and rebuild wildlife guzzlers in the Shoshone Field Office (SFO). During 2004-2005, he volunteered nearly 400 hours at the SFO providing safety support for river activities and recreation site maintenance. He also helped rebuild wildlife guzzlers damaged by wildfires.
Since 2012, Rich has volunteered at the BLM’s Jarbidge and Bruneau Field Offices, providing safety support for wilderness river transportation and backcountry logistics. He also provided technical support on water quality projects involving monthly water quality monitoring and was instrumental in aiding with sample collection and logistics in a study that provided meaningful information about the distribution of sensitive redband and threatened species of bull trout. Sampling between the gages provided additional information about bull trout distribution, the rarer of the two species.
Rich continues to volunteer hundreds of hours of his time and expertise. His passion and dedication are contagious as demonstrated by Daina Jackson who volunteered 50 hours alongside Mr. Bupp, while driving into the high desert at 4:30 AM once a week over a three-month sampling period to collect time critical water samples in 2018.
Montana - Donald Galvin
Volunteer Don Galvin has worked and volunteered for the BLM-Montana for the last 21 years. He has put in more than 300 volunteer hours this past year alone, helping with a wide variety of projects and tasks. His total volunteer contribution is nearly 5,000 hours. Examples of his initiative and abilities include: Removing graffiti from a vault latrine; Helping to map off-road travel routes; Researching infrared counters, picking locations, and installing counters on newly designated trails; Organizing and leading National Public Lands Day events; Hauling logs to the top of the Pryor Mountain Horse Range to aid in the restoration of the historic Pen’s cabin; Conducting research at a local museum to help create an interpretive panel about Perrin L. Cummins (“Pen”), which was placed at Pen’s cabin in the Pryor Mountains.
In addition to the Recreation Program, Don has also long been interested in and engaged in the Cultural Program. Examples of his contributions include: Assisting with Archaeology Day events held at Four Dances Natural Area, giving visitors rides up the hill to Will James Cabin and other areas of the site; Helping to create and install signage at Petroglyph Canyon; Engaging the field office archaeologist to teach Montana Conservation Corps crews about cultural resources before they tackle new projects; Proposing ideas to enhance recreational opportunities in the Pryor Mountains, such as parking areas or scenic lookouts. Although these proposals don’t always come to pass, they are an indication of his initiative and interest in making it easier for the public to get out and enjoy the Pryor Mountains.
Oregon - Jim Harper
Jim Harper typically spends more than 500 volunteer hours a year driving to various raptor sites and conducting breeding surveys at these many sites for the BLM Medford District. As an example of his commitment and dedication, in 2018, he personally visited 52 peregrine falcon breeding sites on the Medford and Coos Bay BLM Districts, as well as on Forest Service managed lands. This represents most of the sites in Southwest Oregon and approximately 25 percent of the sites in the entire state. He has also researched historical golden eagle records and has helped locate historic sites in the area. Without his efforts, many of these bald eagle, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, and osprey sites would not be monitored.
Jim has made numerous contacts with private landowners and has built trusting relationships with them to facilitate access to nests and observation points. He has developed an extensive network of professional and amateur biologists who he coordinates with each year to assist in conducting the eagle and falcon breeding surveys across SW Oregon. He continues to mentor new wildlife biologists at the BLM. Even in retirement, Jim is continuing to leave a legacy for others to follow.
Jim’s rapport across a broad network of professional and amateur biologists, private landowners, birders, educators, and students has inspired conservation and cooperation for the benefit of many wildlife species across Southwest Oregon. His efforts have also supported the BLM’s mission of multiple use and sustained yield because his surveys have provided long term baseline and current data for monitoring and effects analyses for timber, recreation, hazardous fuels reduction, road construction, and other BLM projects on the Medford District.
Wyoming - Vic Orr
Volunteer Vic Orr from The CORE program has provided BLM Rock Springs Field Office with labor necessary to complete important maintenance projects at high use recreation sites, such as building fence, painting facilities, replacing and installing fire pits and picnic tables, replacing damaged signage, clearing downed trees, and removing invasive weed species. Mr. Orr spearheaded these projects, building the skills and self-confidence of Wyoming youth while also developing an appreciation for public lands. Mr. Orr also engages the CORE youth in lessons about Leave No Trace, Wilderness First Aid, fire safety, plant and animal identification, and exploration. Mr. Orr can provide these youth with incredible opportunities to connect with their public lands, engage with their peers, and feel rewarded in their work. Vic is an incredible leader and role model for these youth and inspires a pride and work ethic that sticks with them long after the program. By the end of each weeklong project, every youth involved has the rules of Leave No Trace memorized, knows how to safely use a variety of tools, and are filled with a pride in the work they have accomplished and the fun they have had. These lessons and accomplishments are just a small example of the work.
Mr. Orr and this youth group contributes to our public lands year after year. In 2021, Mr. Orr and the CORE youth group conducted a 3-day effort at the RSFO’s campgrounds along the Wind River Front, including the Sweetwater Bridge and Sweetwater Guard Campgrounds. During that short three days, the group of 13 youth ages 8-18 and 3 adult supervisors repaired a 1/2 mile of buck and rail fence surrounding the two campgrounds that had been destroyed by windstorms and tree fall and replaced 5 large directional signs that had been vandalized. These campsites are some of the RSFO’s highest utilized recreational areas in the field office, and through their efforts the CORE group has assisted in keeping these sites safe, and beautiful. The labor they provide saves BLM funds and labor; an estimated $5,500 was saved by the work of the CORE youth volunteers this past year.
Outstanding Achievement Winner
Nevada – Richard Green
As a volunteer camp host for the past seven years at Zunino-Jiggs Recreation Area, Richard Green is well versed at greeting and orienting visitors to the area, providing fire and campground information, and performing light maintenance in the campground. However, at the end of his volunteer season in the fall of 2020, Richard knew there was just a little more work to be done at another campground to open it to the public. Two hours north of Richard’s regular post, the North Wildhorse Campground had fallen victim to a wildland fire in 2018 and was under a health and safety closure. After almost two years, much of the work had been completed to repair the burned picnic tables, shade structures and campsites. However, the vegetation had grown up and the repaired structures needed to be painted before they were ready for visitors and the moisture of the winter and spring. Enter Richard. He removed over 20 cubic yards of vegetation from the campsites, applied over five gallons of brown paint on the repaired structures, and suddenly 18 campsites were usable, just in time for the fall hunting season and only after two years of sustaining major damage.
Richard’s work contributed directly to one of the Departmental Priorities of improving access to recreation. He spent three weeks getting the campground ready for visitors, after having served all summer long at his regular campground. Additionally, when Richard arrived at the Zunino-Jiggs Reservoir later that spring, the water levels were low, indicating that the reservoir would dry up by summertime. Instead of leaving early when the reservoir began to dry up and few visitors came, Richard volunteered to assist with the other three campgrounds in our district. He tirelessly volunteered over 700 hours—estimated to be over $20,000 of in-kind work—and provided immeasurable amounts of savings to the American public for coming up with creative ways to fix items that needed repair by using existing items in the recreation program.
Outstanding Group Winners
California - California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB)
At BLM’s Fort Ord National Monument (FONM) California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) has helped restore over 250 individual sites across over 150 acres into productive natural habitat, supporting rare plants and animals. CSUMB has collected millions of seeds and planted over 300,000 native plant seedlings through the Return of the Natives (RON) Restoration and Education Program which engages the community with learn-by-doing opportunities. CSUMB partners with local elementary schools (mostly those from traditionally underserved communities) bussing over 150 classrooms with about 3,000 students to the FONM for hands-on enrichment during native seedling planting events which support BLM’s habitat restoration program.
The CSUMB RON program enlists students of all ages, volunteers, hosted workers and others to collect native seed on the FONM; sows those seeds at CSUMB nursery or partner greenhouses (including at local elementary schools) and organizes school visits and public planting events to plant those seedlings on the FONM. CSUMB has provided the BLM about 670 Service-Learning students that have volunteered over 16,700 hours of help to restore and improve the FONM in a variety of ways CSUMB has provided dozens of graduate assistants, biological assistants, eco-crew members, and other hosted workers to the BLM to augment FONM programs. CSUMB has also sponsored and mentored dozens of undergraduate and master’s thesis research projects that have assisted the BLM with better understanding rare plants and animals, recreation use patterns and demographics, site specific hydrography, and the efficacy of the FONM sheep and goat grazing programs.
Most importantly, CSUMB has provided a wonderful platform to connect BLM professionals with students and faculty that creates a magical synergy that benefits both the land, and the regional population. When the former Fort Ord closed, the local community wanted the closure (initially very unpopular) to have positive benefits to the Environment, Educational Opportunities, and not kill the local economy that was closely associated with the military presence. The Three E’s of success. The BLM’s partnership with CSUMB has been a cornerstone to ensure that this closed base recovery is a win at regional, state, and national levels.
Colorado - Colorado Canyons Association (CCA)
The Colorado Canyons Association (CCA) contributes significantly to BLM’s youth education, volunteer, and river restoration programs. The CCA gets over 2,000 youth out into the National Conservation Areas (NCAs), McGinnis Canyons, Dominguez-Escalante and Gunnison Gorge, each year to learn STEM based outdoor curriculum that meets Colorado Academic Standards. The CCA organizes thousands of hours of volunteer time for river cleanups, riparian monitoring, citizen science projects, and youth education.
2020 and 2021 were a particularly challenging two years for management of these special places. With indoor spaces closed due to the pandemic, public lands were more important than ever. Increased use brought increased impacts, and increased need for stewardship. The pandemic was equally difficult for small non-profits like CCA. Most of their education programs were cancelled due to schools closing. Despite these challenges CCA persevered and found creative ways to make a difference in the stewardship of the NCAs including the following in FY 2021: Organized 124 volunteers to provide over 1,528 hours of service on public lands; Hosted two Americorps VISTA volunteers, one in BLM GJFO and one in BLM UFO, providing a total of 3,160 hours of service and developed Junior Ranger Programs, developing online educational content, and NCA adventure kits available for check-out at local libraries; Organized virtual volunteer lecturers and delivered three virtual educational community presentations for the Life Science Lecture Series as well as a Dark Skies Webinar Organized virtual volunteer lecturers and delivered three virtual educational community presentations for the Life Science Lecture Series; Organized volunteers for two spring trash cleanup events; Staff and volunteers partnered with BLM for Leave No Trace tabling outreach multiple weekends in all three NCAs; Organized volunteers for the Sieber Fire rehabilitation, sagebrush seed collection, grow out, and replanting effort; Planned and executed volunteer led MCNCA 20th anniversary events including: four guided hikes, two trail rides, a river trip, a life science lecture series, a Jr. Ranger use demo, and the National Public Lands Day events in Escalante Canyon Cleanup; Ruby-Horsethief, Colorado River volunteer cleanup event; Volunteer trail adoption, monitoring and cleanup program; Organized and provided volunteer educators for Nature Knowledge Days in MCNCA. Spring event for over 1,000 youth cancelled due to Covid so CCA made YouTube videos providing virtual field trips instead; Organized and provided volunteer educators for Cottonwood Days youth education event in GGNCA cancelled due to Covid so CCA made YouTube videos providing virtual field trips instead.
Oregon - Friends of the Owyhee (FOTO)
Since forming in 2015, Friends of the Owyhee (FOTO) has promoted conservation, stewardship, and recreation in the Owyhee ecoregion of Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada. As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed more and more members of the public outdoors, FOTO reached out to local communities to offer a weekly after school Nature Explorers program; several youth leadership camps emphasizing conservation and stewardship; participate in two Outdoor Schools; initiated a First Saturday Stewardship program; family camps and activities for families unfamiliar with camping; a stargazing and night skies series; a geology series; member camping and hiking trips; and more. Due to social distancing requirements, in person participation was limited, however, many programs were offered via Zoom or Facebook. The programs and services offered by FOTO and their volunteers significantly contributed to the BLM’s ability to engage local communities in learning, service and stewardship of public lands.
Nature Explorers (a city-based outdoor program) aims to teach young minds between the ages of 6 and 12 about basic scientific concepts and natural public spaces. Owyhee Science Field Camp, aimed toward students 13–18, delves further into more complex biological and geological concepts while physically out on the land. The Owyhee Geology Series is an all-ages program that takes community members out to the Owyhee landscape to learn about the region’s geological history, and our various conservation advocacy multi-day trips provide a space for informal education about the human and natural histories of the Owyhee.
Outstanding Youth Winner
Idaho - Renaissance High School
The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions impacted people of all ages including Youth during 2021. Outdoor activities from sporting events to festivals were cancelled. One especially tragic casualty for over 5,000 fourth graders in Boise was the day long outdoor event in May, called, The “Fourth Grade Rendezvous.” Idaho history is part of fourth graders core curriculum. The studies and presentations at the Rendezvous introduce Idaho’s rich cultural history of Native American tribes, miners, land settlers, national and state parks, lakes, rivers, mountains, and canyons. At previous Rendezvous BLM also distributed free Every Kid Outdoor (EKO) Program passes, and educational materials to fourth graders and their families for summer enjoyment.
On May 14, 2021, 46 members of the Renaissance High School’s National Honor Society came to the rescue! The youth assembled 5,700 packets consisting of a free EKO pass, an EKO brochure and a colored, table-top-sized, folded map of Idaho. The map identifies all the Federal and state public lands, parks, destinations, and campgrounds. The packets were organized and labeled for every fourth and fifth grade class in the largest school district in Idaho. Boxes of sorted packets were delivered to the West Ada County School District’s offices for distribution prior to the end of the 2021, spring semester. Fifth graders were included in the free EKO pass distribution only in 2021, due to COVID-19 related closures the year before.
In November 2021, the school district announced the springtime 2022, fourth grade Rendezvous would again be cancelled, due to COVID. In response, 26 youth from Renaissance High School’s National Honor Society gathered on December 1, 2021, and in assembled over 3,000 EKO packets for delivery to the fourth graders and their families in the West Ada and Boise School Districts. As a result of their volunteer efforts, 8,700 fourth and fifth grader and their families received free EKO passes and BLM Idaho educational materials during 2021! The students hope to continue the partnership into 2023. Other high school youth from National Honor Society clubs in Boise are joining this volunteer partnership with BLM Idaho. It is an excellent opportunity to give back to younger people and families in their own communities.