The International Wildlife Refuge Alliance celebrated its continued support for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge with its annual benefit dinner last month. The sold-out event was held on Grosse Ile at the Ford Yacht Club. The outdoor location provided a striking waterfront view and was shared with 300 friends in conservation.
A few days earlier in the same location, three John D. Dingell Friend of the Refuge Awards were given in recognition of leadership and dedication to conservation on the Detroit River and western Lake Erie Basin. This year’s honorees were Dr. Eugene Jaworski, the Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival and DTE Energy.
Following are profiles on each recipient and the reasons they were honored.
Dr. Eugene Jaworski (Individual Award)
“The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge has been most fortunate to have the expertise of Dr. Gene Jaworski, professor emeritus at Eastern Michigan University,” said Greg Norwood, wildlife biologist. “Dr. Jaworski is an expert in coastal wetland ecology and cartography and has worked with the Refuge since 2009 as the major contributor to the station’s ecological inventories and monitoring.”
Jaworski completed many detailed maps of the habitat conditions in 2009 using a combination of aerial photo interpretation and ground surveys. These serve as a critical “base-line” condition of the Refuge prior to Refuge habitat management from which staff can evaluate the response of habitat to such things as prescribed fire, invasive species control, and water level changes. His role was instrumental in the “Remote Sensing and Biological Monitoring of Invasive Plant Species and Their Impacts” funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, through a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award to Eastern Michigan University. This study required his skills in aerial imagery interpretation, which resulted in map layers that are used regularly by Refuge staff and partners.
Jaworski continued to collaborate with Norwood through the present, where he led most of the work in creating a series of field reports and cross-sectional diagrams showing vegetation communities in relation to coastline elevation and Lake Erie water-level trends. These reports describe the management actions and resulting ecological conditions of many Refuge units.
The cross-sectional models will enable future managers to monitor changes in habitat quality from water level, water quality, invasive species, prescribed fire, and invasive species management.
Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival (Non-Profit Award)
Local sportsmen were an important part of the early organization of the DRIWR and IWRA, and with their help have given the public the opportunity to become aware and recognize the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
A partnership with USFWS of more than 10 years has allowed thousands to meet with Refuge and IWRA staff on location at their annual event, the Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival held annually in September in partnership with the State of Michigan DNR, in the heart of the Refuge – for over 68 years.
It has supported the Pointe Mouillee State Game Area for as many years and has become a sportsman and Michigan tradition. We are honored to share their passion for conservation and developing the next generation of conservation stewards.
DTE Energy Monroe Power Plant Eagle Tour (Corporate Award)
The DTE Energy Monroe Power Plant has been partnering with the USFWS International Wildlife Refuge since 2010 when it held the first public Eagle Tour. January 2016 marked its sixth tour. The Monroe Power Plant staff and DTE Energy employees allow public access to private wildlife habitat properties, which act as roosting habitat for overwintering bald eagles. The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge visitor services staff and IWRA, with a University of Michigan naturalist, have worked with DTE Energy employees to offer a lucky few an experience they will long remember. Sixty people are chosen by a lottery draw from a pool of more than 2,000 applications to witness first-hand the hundreds of bald eagles in their natural habitat.
The tour has had an impact on the participants, who have been heard to speak positively of their experience and are beyond grateful. This one day event, on a cold and often snowy January Saturday, has become a much sought after experience from people not just from local communities, but from many neighboring states and Canada.
“With DTE Energy’s Monroe Power Plant’s involvement, the Refuge has a quality partner, allowing for a unique education and outreach opportunity that has garnered a lot of positive publicity over the years.” said Molly Luempert-Coy, regional manager for DTE Energy.