On Sept. 27, the Boulder County Parks & Open Space Department held the annual Conservation Awards ceremony to celebrate the 2023 award winners for their outstanding contributions made to the conservation, preservation, and protection of land-based environmental resources. Here are highlights from the special gathering for this year’s recipients:
Land Conservation Award
The Land Conservation Award recognizes contributions that demonstrate notable achievements in preserving Boulder County’s open space lands through the sale or donation of land or conservation easements, donation of funds, or through significant activities that resulted in the preservation of open space. In April 2023, the Boulder and White Rock Ditch and Reservoir Company donated a conservation easement over the 403-acre Panama Reservoir to Wetlands America Trust, Inc., the land trust of Ducks Unlimited. The Panama Reservoir has been operated as a reservoir, with associated ditches and canals, for over 100 years. Along with its surrounding wetlands drainages and natural areas, it contributes to the ecological viability of nearby protected lands. This habitat has been designated as critical wildlife habitat and is also part of the East County Environmental Conservation Area in Boulder County’s Comprehensive Plan. Its continued existence and operation are integral to preserving the significant conservation values described above. This conservation easement donation ensures that this exceptional scenic area and critical wildlife habitat will be permanently protected from future development.
Environmental Stewardship Award
The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes contributions and activities that have made a significant impact on the conservation, preservation, and/or protection of Boulder County’s land-based environmental resources through on-the-ground actions or program management. This year, Boulder County Parks & Open Space bestowed this honor twice.
Keith Owen is honored for his outstanding efforts to restore a tree nursery on his private land to native grassland. His efforts include the implementation of rotational grazing, expanding wildlife habitat on his property, and holding conservation education events on his land for members of the community. The property is protected by a Boulder County Conservation Easement. This award recognizes the vision that Keith and his late wife Jan had for restoring the land after years of agricultural use, his ongoing excellence of his stewardship efforts to provide a rich wildlife habitat connection to surrounding protected lands, and his example of a successful, local restoration effort in Boulder County. As a result of this work, wildlife presence has steadily increased with the availability of food, shelter, and space, including wild turkeys, black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, great horned owls, barn owls, rabbits, other small mammals, and a multitude of songbirds.
The Hepp family and the Rooney family have both given permission to allow the Northern Redbelly Dace Recovery Project to release these rare native Colorado fish back into the environment on their private properties. Multiple St. Vrain Valley students across a range of cultural backgrounds and communities have been engaged in environmental monitoring of both the fish and the pond habitats on these properties. The project started in 2019 in partnership with Boulder County Parks & Open Space, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, St. Vrain Valley School District Innovation Center, Denver Zoo, University of Colorado Boulder, and Ocean First Institute. Students raised and released redbelly dace into Rooney Pond in September 2020 and into Hepp Pond during July 2022. These families have provided invaluable contributions to environmental stewardship and outstanding educational opportunities for local students. Students, teachers, and county and state biologists continue to visit these family ponds to monitor the health and habitat of these “Tier 1 Species of Greatest Conservation Need” fish in Colorado.
Outstanding Volunteer Award
Outstanding Volunteer Award honors individuals whose leadership and support of the Parks & Open Space volunteer programs have enhanced our community partnerships and improved public service. This year, Boulder County Parks & Open Space bestowed this honor twice.
Anne Janicki has contributed to CSU Extension and Boulder County 4-H for 13 years as a parent, then volunteer. She has been the 4-H Dog Superintendent, 4-H Adult Advisory Council President, 4-H Dog Advisory Council President, 4-H Carnival Committee member, State 4-H Dog Committee Representative, and frequent Fair volunteer. Her 4-H club takes on leadership of community service projects as well as helps all kids who come to the program. 4-H is an organization focused on growing strong leaders for our future by helping our youth develop confidence, independence, leadership, and real-life skills.
Dave Millhiser is a retired mechanical engineer and one of the longest serving volunteers at Parks & Open Space. He began volunteering at the Nederland Mining Museum in 2019 and has accrued more than 300 hours of volunteer time since then. His career background, education, and interpretive ability enhance the Nederland Mining Museum experience for museum visitors. He is approachable, communicative, and genial. In addition to the assigned duties of a Museum Guide, at his own initiative, he has maintained and lubricated several working artifacts, preserving those items for the benefit of future visitors. Dave imparts visitors with a piece of fascinating knowledge they did not have when they first entered the museum. He continues to inspire, by example, other volunteers, staff, and visitors alike.