Monkton biologist honored for saving native species
COLCHESTER — Green Mountain Power on Oct. 4 honored longtime Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Parren with one of the state’s top environmental awards — the GMP-Zetterstrom Award. Parren, a Monkton resident, has helped save multiple endangered species, raised funds for non-game wildlife conservation and volunteered hundreds of hours on his own time to help turtles and amphibians.
Making the honor even more special for Parren, the award coincides with the 100th anniversary of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the GMP-Zetterstrom Award is named for a woman Parren once collaborated with to save endangered ospreys.
“I am humbled. To receive an award named for Meeri Zetterstrom, one of the most determined and selfless environmentalists I have known, is incredibly meaningful to me,” Parren said. “When Meeri began her work to restore ospreys to Vermont, few people thought it could happen, but she persevered and proved all the doubters wrong — including me. That taught me an important lesson I have carried with me ever since — the value of public education and volunteerism to wildlife protection and conservation can never be overestimated.”
Zetterstrom’s advocacy earned her the nickname Grandma Osprey, and the GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award is given annually to one person, business, group or non-profit that has made a significant contribution to Vermont’s environment. The award is accompanied by a $2,500 donation to the winner’s environmental cause, in this case the Vermont Nongame Wildlife Fund.
Zetterstrom began her efforts to help restore endangered ospreys at Lake Arrowhead in Milton in the late 1980s. Despite long odds, indifference by others, and years of effort without success, Zetterstrom was an impassioned advocate who remained focused on her goal. Thanks in part to her leadership, ospreys were removed from the endangered species list in 2005, and the Zetterstrom Award was created and announced shortly before she died in 2010.
GMP Vice President Steve Costello, who worked on osprey protection with Zetterstrom and Parren for years, said this year’s award presentation brought the project full circle.
“Meeri and Steve both brought incredible passion to wildlife conservation,” Costello said. “Meeri’s and Steve’s determination to bring ospreys back decades after the last successful nesting in Vermont bordered on quixotic, but they never lost their hunger to help them. Steve has demonstrated an equal commitment to other non-game species, working for nearly 30 years to help creatures from ospreys and bald eagles to salamanders and turtles. It’s doubtful anyone in Vermont has been involved in protecting as many endangered creatures as Steve.”
Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter called Parren a tremendous example for all. “There is no one more deserving of this recognition,” Porter said. “Steve’s devotion to protecting Vermont land, waters, reptiles, birds and other animals is an inspiration to many of us who have the pleasure of working with him. The word is way over-used, but his commitment to his work, which includes hundreds of volunteer hours each year, is nothing short of amazing.”
Past Zetterstrom Award recipients include Sally Laughlin, a scientist whose work was instrumental in restoring three species of endangered birds in Vermont; Michael Smith, the founder of Rutland’s Pine Hill Park; Margaret Fowle, who led Vermont’s peregrine falcon restoration program; the Lake Champlain Committee, which works to protect and improve Lake Champlain; Kelly Stettner, who founded the Black River Action Team in southern Vermont; Roy Pilcher, founder of the Rutland County Chapter of Audubon; Lake Champlain International, a nonprofit working to protect, restore and revitalize Lake Champlain and its communities; and Marty Illick of the Lewis Creek Association.