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Division of Parks and Recreation honors employees

 The South Dakota Division of Parks and Recreation recently recognized several individuals for their dedication and hard work in the state parks system. The awards were made at the division’s fall meeting earlier this month in Rapid City.

“It is an honor to recognize these individuals,” said Scott Simpson, director of the Division of Parks and Recreation. "Their dedication can be seen in parks across the state and is enjoyed by the many visitors to South Dakota state parks and recreation areas each year."

Dave Dawson received the Award of Appreciation for his exceptional work as Conservation Foreman at Lewis and Clark Recreation Area in Yankton.

A Teamwork Award was presented to the full-time staff in southeast South Dakota who put in extra time and effort this year responding to natural disasters. Team members include Justin Thede, Jacob Willman, Clay Peck, Tim Anderson, Kelly Qualm, Luke Dreckman, Derek Dorr, John Dummer, Rob Reuland, Mark Robinson, Lane Moeller, Jason Baumann, Jim Henning, Jen Nuncio, Brandon Kemp, Brent (James) Downs, Jay Flynn, Jody Moats, Cass Pierce, Shane Bertsch, Jacob Manning, Scott Pospishil, Jeanne Schroeder, Joe James, Dale Dawson, Jim Sejnoha, Brandon Mastalir, Jon Corey, Eric Schoenfelder, Kevin Wells, Lawrence (JR) Kiyukan, and Allie Wilson.

The 2019 Seasonal Employee of the Year Award was given to Vern Nelson, who has been employed at Custer State Park for the past 10 summers.

Archie and Marlys Remmers and Vern and JoDean Joy earned 2019 Volunteers of the Year awards. Both couples have spent the last ten years volunteering at West Bend Recreation Area east of Pierre.

The Program Innovation Award went to the organizers of the Little Wings on the Prairie Butterfly Festival. The event highlights the importance of pollinators in our ecosystem and is a collaborative effort sponsored by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service Fort Pierre National Grasslands, South Dakota State University Extension Office, Pheasants Forever, South Dakota Discovery Center, Prairie Potters Master Gardeners, Missal Honey, and Black Hills Parks and Forests Association.

Study finds ruffed grouse can survive West Nile virus

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Test results from the first year of a study indicate that ruffed grouse in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan can survive the West Nile virus.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday reported that samples from grouse shot by hunters last year found antibodies consistent with West Nile in about 13% of the birds sampled in Minnesota and Michigan, and 29% in Wisconsin. But only a few sampled birds were still sick.

Charlotte Roy of the Minnesota DNR says the study shows at least some birds exposed to the virus survive, and they're not sick when harvested in the fall. But she says it doesn't show how many may die from the mosquito-borne disease over the summer.

The DNR says good habitat can produce healthier birds and increase survival chances.

Wyoming Game And Fish completes part of mule deer project

LARAMIE, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has completed the first part of its project to improve mule deer habitat in the southern Bighorn Mountains.

Wyoming Public Radio reports that the agency and the Bureau of Land Management have been working on a crucial winter range for the Upper Powder River Mule Deer herd since 2011, after a 2006 wildfire wiped out much of its food source.

Game and Fish has been working to remove conifers to prevent a similar event in case of another forest fire.

Todd Caltrider, Game and Fish terrestrial habitat biologist, said over the past two years they thinned and removed juniper, ponderosa pine and limber pine across 870 acres (352 hectares) of deer habitat.

Caltrider said the herd's population has been down the past several years.

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