Loon-loving 8th Grader, Wenatchee Sportsmen, Castle Rock Hunters/Craftsmen Honored For Critter Work

It was ages ago now, but camping and fishing one summer in the eastern Okanogan Highlands I was enthralled to hear the haunting call of loons.

That memory stuck with me and I closely followed the debate about banning small lead-based fishing gear at Lost Lake and 12 other known loon-nesting waters, mostly in Washington’s northeast corner but three on the Westside too. I also wrote about a misguided effort in the legislature to institute a much wider ban.

MADELINE ASHMORE WAS NAMED WDFW’S CITIZEN EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR. (WDFW)

Somewhere around that time, little Madeline Ashmore sent WDFW a brief note to say, “I am four years old. I do not want lead sinkers in loons.”

This week she’s being honored by the agency as its Citizen Educator of the Year for her work to protect the rare birds from ingesting lost lead tackle.

“Madeline has worked alongside others to have lead banned in loon nesting lakes, and to educate the public on the alternatives to lead in fishing gear. Madeline has sold loon-themed greeting cards and cookies, dressed as a loon for Halloween, and encouraged the sale of lead-free tackle at local businesses to support her education efforts,” WDFW detailed on its Medium page.

Ashmore also handed over “hundreds of dollars” worth of tackle from a presentation she gave at a local organization’s Highland Wonders series of lectures.

Where she’s shown “drive, determination and care” in her short time on this Earth so far in earning her award, the Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association’s 70-year history of doing good deeds for critters contributed to it earning WDFW’s Organization of the Year honor.

“Their contributions are wide and varied in scope and scale and in terms of dollars and volunteer hours. The association has worked to build and fix fences, plant shrubs after wildfires, conduct wildlife surveys, develop kid’s fishing events, and process seized meat from poachers to provide for local charitable organizations,” the agency stated.

When WDFW was forced to remove the Wedge Pack in 2012, the governor’s office received 12,000 emails opposed to the removal, and only one note from a hunters’ group in support — the Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association.

They were also instrumental in preserving wildlife habitat in eastern Chelan County’s Stemilt Basin that at one point was going to be turned into high-elevation cherry orchards, a story that we covered in this blog and in our magazine.

As for the state agency’s volunteer of the year award, that went to four men, including three Castle Rock brothers/Master Hunters — Chris, John and Ken Ness — who “volunteered more than 600 hours of their engineering skills and craftsmanship to build 46 crates for transporting mountain goats and other wildlife for the department. Some of the crates were custom built to reduce stress on nannies with kids or to provide extra space for large billy goats.”

MASTER HUNTERS CHRIS, JOHN AND KEN NESS WORK ON ONE OF THEIR MOUNTAIN GOAT BOXES MADE FOR AN EFFORT TO TRANSLOCATE BILLIES, NANNIES AND KIDS FROM THE OLYMPIC MOUNTAINS, WHERE THE SPECIES WAS INTRODUCED BY HUNTERS IN THE 1920S, BACK TO THEIR HOME RANGE IN THE CASCADES. (WDFW)

Their handiwork was used during last September’s capture and translocation of wild goats in the Olympics, across Puget Sound to the North and Central Cascades.

The other VOTY awardee was Russ Lewis who has spent years keeping a 7-mile stretch of the Long Beach Peninsula that is “important to razor clams, raptors, snowy plovers, deer, elk and bear” as clean as possible, picking up 14,000 to 16,000 pounds of trash annually, WDFW said.

The Landowner of the Year award was given to Dave Morrow whose trees and property have gone towards restoring fish habitat on the Yakima River, though he might be more proud of the fact that, according to the agency, steelhead spawned in his backyard for the first time in three decades.

And Bob Palmer, who matriculated 166 new sportskids and others, was given the Terry Hoffer Memorial Firearm Safety Award for his hunter education work.

Kudos to all — you rock and are real heroes to Washington’s fish and wildlife!

If you’d like to volunteer your time towards noble causes like these, check out this WDFW page.

It details a number of upcoming projects — hatchery and habitat helpers, weed whackers, elk hazers, lek surveyors needed.

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