Cottonwood Mayor Tim Elinski welcomed community leaders and Friends of the Verde River at the annual stakeholders and partners event Dec. 5 at 3 Kings Kasbar in Cottonwood.
Friends Board President Chip Norton presented the President’s Award to Jane Russell-Winiecki, Chairwoman, Yavapai-Apache Nation and acknowledged Chairwoman Russell-Winiecki’s contributions and commitments to Friends of the Verde River’s goals of restoring habitat, sustaining flows, and promoting community stewardship.
Mr. Norton spoke of the chairwoman’s accomplishments and dedication to the Verde Valley framing the quality of her character by quoting the Chairwoman’s prior remarks, including: “We are not only the life-givers, we are the culture bearers, and care takers of our tribal communities. We are also healers, artists, leaders, lawmakers and warriors. It is our responsibility to guide and prepare the future generations. As all the problems of the American experience press down upon us, we must remain ever strong and vigilant in protecting the gifts that have been handed down by our ancestors.”
Additional awards were presented to community leaders, nonprofit partners, and volunteers for their commitment to conservation and community.
Business Partner of the Year: Eric & Gayle Glomski, Page Springs Cellars, for their inspiring dedication to Arizona’s rivers, especially the Verde and Oak Creeks, and their commitment to conserving water and other natural resources and building community through celebrations such as Tilted Earth.
Private Landowner of the Year: John and Janet Carstens were recognized for their active involvement in habitat restoration on their property.
The Carstens were especially welcoming to the crews, bringing them snacks and hot chocolate during the work.
Public Land Agency Award of the Year: US Fish and Wildlife Service was recognized as the award recipient for their commitment to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Friends’ is especially grateful to USFWS for their Partner’s program of technical advice, support, and creative solutions for restoration work.
Volunteer of the Year: Whit Manter received this award for excellence in planning field trips for the Verde Valley Birding & Nature Festival.
Whit stepped in during his first volunteer meeting to help when the longtime leader, Dena Greenwood, resigned due to illness.
Non-Profit Partner of the Year: Friends presented the non-profit partner award to RiversEdge West, based in Grand Junction, Colorado. Speaking in praise of RiversEdge Wests Restore our Rivers campaign, Friends Executive Director Nancy Steele noted that RiversEdge West “embodies the spirit of collaboration and the power of a small group of committed individuals to change the world in remarkable ways.”
Champion of the Verde: Marsha Foutz, founding board member and volunteer extraordinaire, was presented with this special award for her dedication and boots on the ground efforts in habitat restoration work with Friends.
In addition to these awards, Friends announced the winners of the Verde Conservation Grant Award: The Town of Clarkdale for Tuzigoot River Access Point improvements, Verde River Institute for photogrammetry of the middle Verde, and the Springs Stewardship Institute, for inventory and monitoring of key species and springs in the Verde River Basin.
Friends also named this year’s participants in the Verde River Exchange buyers program, which included two new participants who were present at the event, Aaron Fisher of The State Bar in Old Town Cottonwood, and Chip Norton of Sinagua Malt in Camp Verde. Additional program participants recognized are Out of Africa, Merkin Vineyards, Page Springs Cellars, Rainbow Acres, and The Fish’s Garden.
Friends of the Verde River, (Friends), is a purpose driven community benefit organization and 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Friends envisions a healthy, free-flowing Verde River and tributaries that support our unique environment, a vibrant economy, and quality of life for future generations. www.VerdeRiver.org.
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