By BILL HILTS
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The Niagara County Federation of Conservation Clubs held its annual awards banquet last night at Suzanne’s Fine Dining in Wheatfield to honor the 2012 recipients of a long list on conservation awards – many of which are volunteers to the movement that protects and enhances our natural resources, as well as our outdoor heritage through fishing, hunting and the shooting sports.
Representing some 27 area clubs and organizations, the Federation is the grass roots voice of sportsmen and women, giving them representation through the New York State Conservation Council and ultimately in Albany. The Federation serves an important purpose and most sportsmen and women in the county and around the state fail to recognize not only the grassroots efforts by these county Federations, but how the hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation communities benefit from them.
Here’s the list of winners for 2012:
Oliver Jones Memorial Award (Sportsperson of the Year): Sue Bryant, Lockport
Bryant has been a dedicated behind-the-scenes worker for a long list of local clubs and groups including North Forest Rod and Gun; Friends of the NRA; the Ladies Shoot and Hoot Program; and the Clays for Heroes Fundraising Shoot held for the first time last year. In many instances she is the glue that holds these things together or the key piece to a puzzle that allows for events to come off without a hitch. Congrats!
Leroy Winn Memorial Award (Club of the Year): Wolcottsville Sportsmen’s Club
While the club is small, its accomplishments are big. A big part of its focus is with the future of our outdoor heritage – the youth – conducting youth seminars on trap shooting, goose hunting, turkey hunting and more. They help maintain the public shooting area at the Tonawanda State Wildlife Management Area on Bartlett Road; they help raise money to send kids to summer DEC camp. For its size, there isn’t a more active club in the county. Thanks for all your efforts.
Carl Lass Memorial Award (Youth of the Year): Ben and Chris Pastwick, Tonawanda
These 18-year-old twins were appropriately nominated by the Twin City Shooting Club – double your pleasure. Both have competed in the club’s Youth Match Rifle program the last five years and have shot at Camp Perry the last three years as part of the state’s Junior Match Rifle Team. They have also shot in the Junior Olympics and the state Air Rifle Matches. They also volunteer to help out around the community.
Milford “Pinky” Robinson Memorial Award (Dedication to Great Lakes Fisheries): Joe Yaeger, East Amherst
Yaeger is current president of the Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association (LOTSA), a position he has held the last 14 years. Under his leadership, the group went from 45 members in 1999 to nearly 300 in 2012. Not only do they run the Lake Ontario Expo in February and coordinate the pen rearing projects in Olcott, they also place a huge amount of emphasis on education. From teaching future trollers on the lake with beginner basics to teach kids and their parents the ins and outs of basic fishing, Yaeger is the catalyst that makes much of this happen.
James Reed/Donald Meyer Memorial Award (Firearms Hunter Education Trainer of the Year): Dave Lavery, Middleport
Ever since he first became involved with the Federation in 1990, Lavery has had a huge focus on Hunter Education. He became certified in 1995 for gun and in 1996 for archery. By 1998 he became the County Coordinator for all Hunter Education, and he still is to this day. He was involved with the 4-H Shooting Sports Program and is active in the 4-H Pheasant Rearing Program. In addition, he is an active re-enactor, a member of the Little Beards Club.
Steve Fountain/Arch Lowery Memorial Awards (Archery Hunter Educator of the Year): Shawn Galyen, Wilson
Shawn has been teaching archery and firearms hunter education for 20 years around the county. In addition, he has been instrumental in reaching out promoting and educating the general public on the shooting sports. He has worked to revive the Niagara Frontier archery traveling league and has coordinated a fundraising shoot for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation for six years.
Ken Berner Memorial Award (person, family, business dedicated to conservation): Dale Dunkelberger, Lockport
The Dunkster has been active with the Federation for over 30 years and he is probably best known as being the Region 9 Conservation Fund Advisory Board member for Western New York. He has been the county delegate to the Conservation Council for the last 15 years, also serving on the hunter education and big game committees. He is the voice of sportsmen and women in Albany and around the state for Niagara. His work often goes unnoticed. This was long overdue.
John Daly Memorial Award (Legislator of the Year): Steve Reiter, Lewiston
Reiter has been associated with the Town of Lewiston in some elected position for three decades. Most recently as Town Supervisor, he has been the big push to get Joseph Davis State Park back on track. This underdeveloped and underutilized park has needed a face lift and Reiter is doing that by cleaning it and expanding its potential to make it more user-friendly – bring birders, hunters and fishermen together to co-exist with a common theme. He made sure that pheasant hunting continued in the park last year and he would like to see other opportunities expanded for hunting. Hats off for a job well done!
Vic Fitchlee Memorial Lifetime Achievement Awards: Mike Wilkinson, Amherst; Richard Cavagnaro, Ransomville
Wilkinson is a Region 9 Fisheries biologist with DEC who will be retiring in August after nearly 30 years of service to the community – all right here in Western New York. He has worked closely with area fishing groups with pen rearing projects, diary studies and much, much more. Always the professional, Wilkinson will be missed when he leaves us this summer.
Cavagnaro is one of those important behind-the-scenes guys that just don’t know how to say “no.” A firearms expert, he has served as the treasurer of the Iroquois Arms Collectors for over 25 years, is active with the Shooters Committee On Political Education and Pioneer Conservation Sportsmen of Niagara County. He is a past commander of the O. Leo Curtiss American Legion in Ransomville and is still a member; always a hard worker who never quits.
John Long, Sr. Memorial Award (Business of the Year): Johnson’s Country Store, Lockport
Al and Lynn Johnson and the rest of the staff at Johnson’s go out of their way to support Federation activities and the sportsmen’s cause. Their recognition was long overdue.
Doug Walck selected Ashley Butcher of Lockport for all her hard work in developing the idea of a “Clays for Heroes” Shoot at North Forest to benefit our wounded warriors in the armed forces. It was inspiring, unselfish and fun. Great job on another Niagara County first!  Bill Hilts, Jr. is the outdoor sports specialist with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at email@example.com