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Profiles of BLM’s 2012 "Making a Difference" 
National Volunteer Award Winners  

Volunteer Winners

Photos from the Volunteer Award Ceremony, Department of the Interior South Interior Building Auditorium, Washington, D.C., May 24, 2012.  Click on the photos for larger views.

Catherine Leonard, Glennallen Field Office, AK

Cathy Leonard logged well over 1,200 hours in 2011 as the volunteer campground host at BLM-Alaska’s popular Sourdough Creek Campground.  This campground provides access to the Gulkana Wild and Scenic River, one of the state’s few road-accessible waterways and a premier salmon fishing river. Cathy’s friendly face greets 20,000 campground visitors each year from May through September, when BLM-Alaska’s campgrounds are open. But she arrives early in the season to help ready all BLM-Glennallen recreation facilities and to assist with the clean-up and repairs needed to open the campground to eager fishermen and boaters. Besides serving as a host, Cathy assists with invasive weed control, routine campground maintenance, and the protection of cultural resources within the campground and on nearby public lands.  She also stocks and distributes brochures in neighboring lodges and campgrounds, traveling over 400 miles of rugged highways in each roundtrip. Additionally, Cathy serves as an educator at special events such as National Public Lands Day. She welcomes and connects with visitors of all ages, never hesitates to help anyone, and always has a smile on her face.  This summer, she will assist with a revegetation project within the Delta Wild and Scenic River corridor at the newly renovated Tangle Lakes Campground. Over her term of service, Cathy has contributed well over $200,000 in time to BLM. 


Volunteer winner Cathy Leonard

BLM Director Bob Abbey, Cathy Leonard, her father Ed Brandes, Department of the Interior Secretary's Chief of Staff Laura Davis, and Alaska Acting Associate State Director Ron Dunton at the Volunteer Awards Ceremony May 24.

David Hicks, Tucson Field Office, AZ

As the unpaid Executive Director of the Arizona Trail Association (ATA), David Hicks has assisted BLM with development of the 28-mile White Canyon Passage of the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZST), which was completed in December 2011 after seven years of work. David facilitated trail design and development plans, environmental reviews, right-of-way acquisitions, and trail construction, and helped to rally community support for the effort. He recruited volunteers for trail construction, and administered contracts and agreements for trail easement acquisition and construction. He also coordinated efforts to realign a portion of the planned trail in order to avoid potential land use conflicts. David  helped to secure matching funds and contributions from Arizona State Parks, business sponsors, and grant sources for a BLM Challenge Cost Share project totaling approximately $300,000. David’s contributions to construction of the White Canyon Passage (since renamed the Gila River Canyons Passage by the ATA) resulted in completion of this particular passage as well as other segments, and, ultimately, the AZST as a whole.

Volunteer Winner David Hicks
BLM Arizona Associate State Director Deb Rawhouser, Bob Abbey,  David Hicks, Laura Davis, and Francisco Mendoza of the Tucson Field Office.

East High School, Arcata Field Office, CA

East High School, a continuation school for at-risk students located in Fortuna, California, has established a volunteer partnership with the BLM to implement stewardship projects at the Headwaters Forest Reserve. The school’s goal is to equip students to be responsible adults, contributing community members, lifelong learners, and effective communicators. A partnership with BLM has provided a positive avenue by which to achieve these goals through service learning projects at the Reserve. In the spring of 2011, 20 student volunteers constructed a replica of a historic, late-1800s structure (the “sand shack”) next to the Headwaters Education Center (HEC), which itself is a restored locomotive barn. Using as much original lumber as possible, the students built components at their school wood shop, and then assembled the building on site with the help of BLM staff.  The original shack was used to dry sand to increase traction for the locomotives that once hauled logs to a nearby lumber mill; it now serves as a unique interpretive exhibit. During the wet winter months, East High students assisted with planting native vegetation in areas along the Elk River Trail and around the HEC in conjunction with the installation of new interpretive exhibits. Student volunteers also initiated a project to monitor amphibians as bioindicators of redwood forest health at the Reserve. The students were involved in every facet of the project, from designing and constructing the monitoring “cover boards” to collecting and analyzing data in cooperation with BLM resource specialists. The East High partnership has truly made a difference in the lives and education of the student volunteers and has helped BLM to meet resource management, conservation, community involvement, and youth engagement goals.

Volunteer winner Dan Tangney of East High School
Bob Abbey, California Associate State Director Angie Lara, Dan Tangney representing East High School of Fortuna, California, and Laura Davis.

Bill Baker, Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument, CA

Bill Baker began his “career” as a BLM volunteer when he was approached by a BLM park ranger while picking up trash on a trail within the national monument. Bill had already been “volunteering” his time cleaning up trails out of sheer love for the public lands. But after becoming an “official” volunteer, he became the monument’s most active trail steward, putting in hundreds of hours building retaining walls and campfire rings, removing graffiti, and cleaning up illegal dumpsites. Because of limited staffing and the vastness of the monument, Bill is often the only BLM contact for visitors. In order to enhance his skills, he has attended extensive training in trail building, invasive species eradication, Global Positioning Systems, and trail mapping. He has become a “Tread Trainer” through the Tread Lightly! Motorized-recreation ethics organization, and educates the public during his hours on the trails.  Bill also began volunteering in the monument visitor center, working one shift per week.  He became a Certified Interpretive Guide through the National Association for Interpretation and leads hikes as part of the monument’s Hikes Program, sharing his knowledge of the area’s history, geology, trails, flora, and fauna. Bill is a cheerful, enthusiastic and very generous volunteer, always willing to help in whatever capacity is needed.  Bill is essential to monument visitors’ enjoyment and safety, as BLM staff are often told by the people who encounter him on the trails. With good reason, other monument volunteers look to Bill as an example of how to truly serve. 

Bill Baker of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument near Palm Springs, CA.



Craig and Marjorie Purdy, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, MT

Craig and Marjorie Purdy had always enjoyed visiting the James Kipp Recreation Area in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, so when they retired, they readily stepped up to serve as volunteer campground hosts there. Little did they know what a year 2011 would be for them, especially as relatively new volunteers. In May, heavy rains came to the monument, just as the area’s record-setting snowpack was melting; it was a recipe for disaster. Closely monitoring the Missouri River’s rising waters, the Purdys kept meticulous records of the flow and ensured that BLM managers and monument visitors were informed of conditions. Eventually, authorities ordered an evacuation. The Purdys’ subsequent actions were nothing short of outstanding.  They sounded the alarm, prepared the site for closure, and provided constant updates to authorities, helping to ensure a safe, orderly evacuation and campground closure. Temporarily relocated several miles away, the Purdys continued to travel to the bluffs above the damaged campground to monitor conditions. Meanwhile, more than 100 miles upriver, another BLM campground, Coal Banks Landing, was also in need of assistance. So the Purdys cheerfully packed up for a second time and made the trip.  The visitor center contact station at their new “home,” a recently renovated campground, required some finishing touches.  Craig, a skilled handyman, built shelving, installed interpretive displays, and maintained the grounds while Marjorie assisted with visitor registration. Thanks to their efforts, the site operated unimpeded during the busy summer boating season. By midsummer, an unexpected staff shortage at yet another campground led the Purdys to pack up once more to head to the remote Judith Landing Recreation Area. This picturesque campground and take-out site proved to be the icing on the cake for the well-traveled Purdys:  they immediately fell in love with their new duty station.  By season’s end, the Purdys had survived a historic flood, relocated three times, and spent countless hours performing myriad duties with tireless dedication.  It’s an understatement to say that as BLM volunteers, the Purdys truly “made a difference.”

Volunteer winners Marjorie and Craig Purdy
Bob Abbey with Marjorie and Craig Purdy, Laura Davis, and Montana Associate State Director Kate Kitchell.

Pat Bruce, Black Rock Field Office, NV

As the Field Project Coordinator for the Friends of Nevada Wilderness, Pat Bruce has devoted six years to coordinating volunteer projects within the Black Rock Field Office’s 10 Wilderness Areas and four Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), which encompass approximately one million acres of BLM lands. His long hikes into remote areas have enabled digitization of all routes, ways, and WSA boundary features for use with Geographic Information Systems. This information has been critical to the accurate inventory of current conditions, including physical developments and disturbances related to livestock grazing, wildlife management, vegetation treatment, mining, and recreation. Pat has consistently provided timely, precise, and useful information to BLM, including reports of potential violations. He has dedicated countless hours to the effort to gain wilderness designation for a Nevada WSA, providing both insight and labor to a diverse community group of wilderness advocates, off-highway-vehicle clubs, local ranchers, recreationists, and area residents. Pat also has been an active volunteer supervisor for non-wilderness projects. He and his volunteers have participated in dozens of restoration, protection, and education projects to benefit BLM’s Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area. In addition to his on-the-ground efforts, Pat has coordinated extensively with area volunteer groups to provide education programs, conduct training, coordinate travel to remote locations, and arrange supervised activities for the children of volunteers. Pat works closely with BLM staff to ensure that all projects follow best practices and comply with resource management plans and legal requirements. With good reason, Pat is held in the highest regard by his peers, and is a true asset to the BLM team.

Volunteer winner Pat Bruce
Bob Abbey, Pat  Bruce, Laura Davis, and Nevada Acting Associate State Director Rex McKnight.

Sandra and Geoff Freethey, Moab Field Office, UT

Sandra and Geoff Freethey provided invaluable volunteer service to BLM-Moab throughout 2011. As volunteer chair of “Trail Mix,” Grand County’s non-motorized-trail committee, Sandra worked with both the county and BLM on recreation resource projects that support the Grand County economy. Specifically, Trail Mix secured Federal funding for paved bicycle paths on BLM lands within Grand County; in addition, the organization has built over 40 miles of new singletrack mountain bike trails, implementing a decision in BLM’s 2008 Moab Resource Management Plan. As representatives of Trail Mix, Sandra and Geoff worked with user groups to conserve and protect public lands in the Moab area while also considering community needs. For example, when illegal construction of mountain bike trails occurred, Sandra undertook a Trail Mix campaign to work with BLM to consider legal designation of the bike trails in question. They met with stakeholders regarding various issues, often helping to settle disagreements. In addition, Geoff and Sandra designed bulletin boards, fabricated signs, maintained non-motorized trails, and organized volunteer projects on BLM lands. As members of the Moab Friends for Wheeling, they also contributed to motorized-trailhead projects, including the design and fabrication of project signs. When unseasonal rains caused a weed infestation along paved bike paths in the summer of 2011, Sandra and Geoff organized weeding parties among local bikers, even renting equipment to aid the effort; the rapid response prevented the invasives’ spread. By channeling the energy of the recreation community to sanctioned BLM projects, Sandra and Geoff cemented local partnerships and improved on-the-ground BLM recreation facilities. The dollar value of their contributions totals at least $40,000 in 2011 alone.  The value added, in terms of organizing group volunteer efforts, providing professional design, and involving the local community, is incalculable. BLM is indeed fortunate that Sandra and Geoff’s efforts have been devoted to projects on the public lands.

Volunteer winners Sandra and Geoff Freethey

Sandra and Geoff Freethey of Moab, Utah.




Volunteer Winners: Lifetime Achievement


Martha and Roland Mace, Farmington Field Office, NM

Martha and Roland Mace have been volunteers in the Cultural Resources Program of the Farmington Field Office for over 12 years. In that capacity, they have made numerous trips each year from their home in Santa Fe to Dinétah, rugged ancestral Navajo territory managed by BLM, seeking and documenting significant cultural sites. Their days-long visits have culminated in nearly 70 field reports, including detailed location maps, assessments of condition or threats, and photographs.  Both on their own and at the request of BLM program staff, Martha and Roland have re-located and re-identified many “legacy sites” originally recorded 50 to 70 years ago by early archaeologists and historians. Such sites are otherwise unaccounted for in the archaeological record because reliable maps and locational aids were absent in those early years. Martha and Roland have also identified many sites not previously known, assisted in the recovery of threatened artifacts, and helped to collect tree-ring dating samples from 18th-century Navajo fortifications and antelope traps.  They have sought out written information languishing in the collections of museums in New Mexico and Arizona that have contributed to the identification and understanding of many archaeological sites.  When accompanied by friends on their various field excursions, Martha and Roland always promote protection and preservation of cultural sites. The value of the Maces’ work is estimated at about $60,000; however, not once in their 12 years of BLM service have the Maces asked for reimbursement of any kind for the significant expenses they have incurred while volunteering. They do it for the pure love, fascination, and respect for the cultural resources of Dinétah. Not only have they discovered new sites, but without their efforts the locations of many important historic and prehistoric legacy sites would remain unknown. Martha and Roland’s efforts have provided the BLM with important information that is helping the agency manage these irreplaceable cultural resources for present and future generations. That truly is a lifetime achievement.

Volunteer winners Martha and Roland Mace
James Copeland of the Farmington Field Office, New Mexico Acting Associate Director Felicia Probert, Bob Abbey, Roland and Martha Mace, and Laura Davis.

Winning BLM Employee

Martha “Marty” Dickes, Ridgecrest Field Office, CA

Marty Dickes, the Wilderness Specialist for BLM-Ridgecrest, has been with BLM since 1994. Since the very beginning of her service, she has been passionately engaging volunteers in her work.  Marty and her volunteers have rappelled down waterfalls in their quest for invasive tamarisk, which they have successfully eradicated over miles of wilderness streams.  She has worked with a variety of volunteer groups, including the Sierra Club, Desert Survivors, California Wilderness Coalition, Washington State University students, and the communities of Ridgecrest, Darwin, and Trona, California.  Marty’s 2011 volunteer projects included construction of a trailhead at a new addition to the Bright Star Wilderness; monitoring and repairing fencing around an illegal hill-climbing area in the Great Falls Basin Wilderness Study Area; monitoring and clean-up of Chris Wicht Camp in Surprise Canyon after a wildfire; assessing the condition of historic sites in the Inyo Mountains Wilderness; removing tamarisk in the Saline Valley, the Surprise Canyon Wilderness Area, and other locations; working with Student Conservation Association crews to block and reclaim off-road-vehicle trespass routes along Wilderness Area boundaries; monitoring and maintaining kiosks, equestrian-pedestrian gates, barriers, and fences; and documenting wilderness characteristics in the Sacatar and Owens Peak Wilderness Areas. Marty distributes seasonal volunteer project calendar brochures to inform volunteers of up-coming events.  She motivates and entices her volunteers by offering spectacular wilderness hikes near work sites and sometimes schedules barbeques and concerts to reward volunteers after a long day’s work. Thanks to Marty’s efforts, BLM-Ridgecrest’s Wilderness Areas have retained their pristine characteristics. Her 106 volunteers contributed a total of 14,440 hours in 2011, which translates into more than $300,000 worth of work. Perhaps more importantly, Marty has built a strong working relationship between BLM and the local community, and has helped the public to understand and appreciate BLM’s mission.

Volunteer employee winner Marty Dickes
Bob Abbey with Marty Dickes, Laura Davis, and California Associate State Director Angie Lara.

Last updated: 05-25-2012