“Paul is definitely deserving of this award because of his continued commitment to connect local youth with natural resources,” said Michele Jones, District Ranger for the Central Coast Ranger District and Oregon Dunes NRA. “I am proud that an employee of the Central Coast Ranger District and Oregon Dunes NRA has received such an award because it recognizes the quality of our partnerships and the high standards,” she adds.
The regional “Rise to the Future” award acknowledges outstanding work in fisheries and watershed programs in Oregon and Washington national forests. Burns was a recipient in the public awareness category.
Burns works with partners to engage local youth in monitoring and habitat restoration to help increase their awareness of fisheries and natural resources. He integrates youth education into most of the projects he works on, including the internationally recognized Karnowsky Creek restoration project, Knowles Creek smolt monitoring trap and current projects such as the Fivemile-Bell watershed restoration effort.
“It is an honor to be recognized for the good work we do on the Siuslaw National Forest”, said Burns. “We are all about partnerships and this is what this award is about”.
For two decades, Burns has involved youth in his work with a smolt trap, located on Knowles Creek, a tributary to the Siuslaw River on Oregon’s central coast. In 1995 Burns suggested this as an unusually good opportunity to educate local youth about fish identification, biology and habitat restoration. To date, over 3,000 youth, many from Mapleton and Florence schools, participated in a very “hands-on” outdoor education.
The program grew over the years and currently Burns works with students who join him once a week throughout a four-month trapping season. Students are selected through a competitive process and receive school credit for participating. In addition, an entire fourth grade class from Florence visits the trap for an outdoor education day, and with help from seventh grade students, are taught fish biology.
Each summer since 2004, Burns has worked with over 400 children and teens participating in the Siuslaw Watershed Council’s watershed camps, where they are taught about macro invertebrates, salmonids and watershed restoration. Most recently, restoration classes were held at Five-Mile Bell, located east of Tahkentich Lake.
“We appreciate Paul’s enthusiasm for youth education”, said Liz Volmer-Buhl, Executive Director of the Siuslaw Watershed Council. “Through his engagement with students in monitoring and restoration projects he’s been a mentor to many who pursue careers in the field of natural resources”.