National Wildlife Refuge System Awards

The National Wildlife Refuge System Awards, sponsored by the National Wildlife Refuge Association and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, honor outstanding accomplishments by Refuge Managers, Refuge System Employees, Volunteers and Friends Groups. Recognizing the excellence of these individuals and groups not only highlights the dedication and devotion of those who support the Refuge System, but also raises awareness about the diversity of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the challenges it faces, and the innovative efforts across the country to meet those challenges.

See the list of previous National Wildlife Refuge System  award recipients.

Awards are presented in the following four categories:


This award recognizes outstanding accomplishment by a refuge manager (project leader) in the protection and management of our national wildlife refuges. The award is given in honor of Paul Kroegel, the first manager of the first refuge established in 1903 at Pelican Island, Florida. His dedication and effectiveness set a high standard for those who have followed. The award will be presented to a current refuge manager whose career has shown:

  • Commitment to the conservation of our natural resources over a sustained period of time with special emphasis on current or recent accomplishments.
  • Superior management skills demonstrated in all aspects of refuge management including management of staff, coordination and good working relationships with other resource agencies and NGOs, and skill in the art of habitat management.
  • Innovative actions and responses to complex issues dealing with refuge habitats, community relations, outreach, scientific research, and coordination with other groups.
  • Effectiveness in dealing with outside organizations and the public through outreach to include the public in planning, serving as volunteers, and building trust and support of the refuge system through public participation.
  • A background in refuge management that reflects the mission of the NWRS and wildlife conservation and that has been recognized by others.


This award recognizes outstanding work of the men and women employed by the NWRS. This award will be presented to a current refuge employee (other than a project leader) whose career has shown:

  • Commitment to the conservation of our natural resources and refuge management that demonstrates innovation, personal dedication, and effective use of job talents.
  • Superior management and/or technical skills that have improved refuge management through positive wildlife response, cost savings, increased efficiency or increased public participation.
  • Effectiveness in dealing with outside organizations and the public to promote a cooperative relationship between the community and the refuge.
  • A background that has demonstrated personal dedication to the cause of wildlife conservation, refuge management, and the mission of the Refuge System.


This award recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of volunteers in support of the operation and management of the NWRS. The award will be presented to a volunteer or pair of volunteers who have demonstrated:

  • Dedication to the goals and objectives of the Refuge System as demonstrated by continued service and accomplishments.
  • Superior skills in organization that support resource protection and management, such as training and mentoring other volunteers, and experience assisting the refuge staff in accomplishing a variety of tasks.
  • Innovation in handling refuge assignments that include the use of new ideas/approaches and problem solving.
  • Effectiveness in dealing with the public, other volunteers, and other refuge users as demonstrated by specific accomplishments.
  • Dependability as demonstrated by years of service, support of refuge programs, integrity, and recognition by others for refuge volunteer service.


This award recognizes the outstanding contributions by the groups of dedicated volunteers in Friends organizations who provide essential services to the Refuge System. This award will be presented to a friends group that demonstrates innovation and excellence in:

  • Advancing the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • Providing a supportive influence in the development of a positive relationship between the refuge and the local community.
  • Working as an independent advocate to protect natural resources.
  • Cooperating with other Friends organizations locally, regionally, or nationally, and participating when possible in collaborative programs with these groups as well as with the National Wildlife Refuge Association.
  • Maintaining a relationship of cooperation and mutual respect with US Fish and Wildlife Service personnel.
  • Adhering to high ethical standards of behavior applicable to private nonprofit charitable organizations and adhering to all reporting requirements and other regulations required by state and federal law.

We need your nominations to make this happen!

The call for nominations is issued every fall for the awards to be presented the following spring. Please use the appropriate NWRS Awards Nomination form to submit your nomination. Click to download the form as Word document or as PDF:

Refuge Manger (WordPDF)
Refuge Employee (WordPDF)
Refuge Volunteer (WordPDF)
Friends Group (WordPDF)

You can email your nomination to or mail seven copies to:

National Wildlife Refuge Association
1250 Connecticut Ave NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

Questions? Contact Debbie Harwood at 202-292-2450 or

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