WASHINGTON –Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne presented 42 awards today to employees and other citizens at the department’s 64th Honors Convocation.
“Whether with a single heroic deed or a lifetime of dedicated work, you have served America with integrity and excellence,” the Secretary told the award recipients.
The convocation paid tribute to employees and private citizens for their outstanding service in the following categories: Cooperative Conservation, Distinguished Service, Citizen’s Award for Bravery, and the Valor Award.
The Valor Award was presented today to three Department of the Interior employees who demonstrated unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. Officer Peter J. Gardner of the Bureau of Reclamation’s Hoover Dam Police Department received the award for assisting the Las Vegas Metro Police Department in apprehending an armed robber despite the fact that the felon fired at Gardner nine times. BLM Law Enforcement Ranger Dan Perry McCoy of the Colorado State Office peacefully diffused a hostage situation during a dangerous investigation involving drugs on public lands. BLM Rangeland Management Specialist Lance K. Okeson distinguished himself while fighting a wildfire in Southeastern Oregon by directing his crew to safety and apprehending an arsonist.
CITIZENS AWARDS FOR BRAVERY
Three persons today received the Citizens Award for Bravery, established to recognize private citizens for heroic acts or unusual bravery in the face of danger. Michael Rucinski rescued two children and their mother from drowning in Bluff Lake in the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge. Nominated by the National Park Service Cuyahoga Valley in Ohio, high school students R.J. Buck and Darren Rhodes were honored for rescuing their friend Cornell Carter from drowning and hypothermia. All three teenagers were at the ceremony today.
COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION AWARDS
Fourteen groups and individuals received the Cooperative Conservation Award, which recognizes collaborative achievements among a diverse range of entities that may include federal, state, local, and tribal governments; private for profit and non-profit institutions; other non-governmental entities and individuals. These awards went to:
Florida Upland Invasive Management Program nominated by National Park Service
Scenic Hudson, Inc. nominated by National Park Service
Southern Nevada Agency Partnership Site Stewardship Program nominated by National Park
Florida Keys Invasive Exotics Task Force nominated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Nicole Kamins nominated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Terry and Mary Kohler and Windway Capital Corp. Flight Team nominated by U.S. Fish and
FIRE Up for Summer Program nominated by Bureau of Land Management
The Foothills Learning Center nominated by Bureau of Land Management
Deep Gulf Habitats Project nominated by Minerals Management Service
Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative Teams nominated by Office of Surface Mining
Deschutes River Conservancy nominated by Bureau of Reclamation
Groundwater Foundation nominated by U.S. Geological Survey
Long-Term Resource Monitoring Program nominated by U.S. Geological Survey
Western Great Lakes Wolf Populations nominated by U.S. Geological Survey
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARDS
Twenty-two individuals received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest honorary recognition an employee can receive within the Department of the Interior. It is granted for an outstanding contribution to science, outstanding skill or ability in the performance of duty, outstanding contribution made during an eminent career in the Department, or any other exceptional contribution to the public service. The following persons received Distinguished Service awards today.
U.S. Geological Survey:
James H. Dieterich, Robert J. Gilliom, Ralph T. Cheng, Robert L. Wesson, Dennis R. Helsel,
Janet L. Bishop, John S. Zogorski, Thomas G. Hildenbrand, Douglas M. Morton,
Office of the Secretary:
Wandafa B. Hollingsworth, Abraham E. Haspel and Nancy F. Harrison
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
Charles K. Baxter and Dennis J Widner
Office of Surface Mining:
Arthur W. Abbs
National Park Service:
Dale B. Engquist and David W. Look
Minerals Management Service:
Vicki R. Agnew, Patricia W. Callis, Susan D. Hester, Robert H. Pope, Phillip D. Sykora