Honors, update on research part of Western National Parks' reception
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Mitch Downey and her husband Rodger both received Special Achievement Awards at the Western National Park Association's annual awards ceremony in December. Both have retired after many year in managerial positions at the WNPA.

Special to The Explorer

Don Swann, wildlife biologist with the National Park Service at Saguaro National Park, was the featured speaker at the Western National Parks Association's board of directors' reception on Dec. 11 in Oro Valley.

Swann highlighted research projects recently funded by WNPA, which he described as important to understanding the flora and fauna in the park and how to protect them. These studies included a saguaro census, saguaro-growth study, desert tortoise study, investigation into means of controlling the spread of non-native buffelgrass, and a mammal inventory. The mammal study included nighttime infrared-triggered photography. Mountain lions, black bear, ringtail, foxes, javelina, coyotes and deer were among the mammals photographed.

Awards were presented at the reception to the staff at Padre Island National Seashore in Texas for its cooperation with WNPA to produce park newspapers, a new Junior Ranger booklet, and create a film and DVD about the park's hatchery program to restore the endangered Kemp's ridley turtle.

Christine Beekman, chief of interpretation at Pecos National Historical Park in New Mexico, was honored for her work with WNPA to create the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass Trail Guide and a new general interpretive publication for the park.

Karen Sartain was honored for her skills managing the WNPA bookstore in the visitor center at Chiricahua National Monument in Arizona.

Padre Island, Pecos, and Chiricahua are three of the 66 national parks affiliated with WNPA, a non-profit association formed in 1938 to support education, interpretation and research in the national parks.

Additional WNPA awards went to longtime WNPA employees and Avra Valley residents Mitch Downey, purchasing manager, and Rodger Downey, warehouse manager, both of whom are retiring in 2010.

Christine Szuter, an anthropologist and former director of University of Arizona Press who now serves as director of Arizona State University's Scholarly Publishing Certificate program, was honored for serving three consecutive terms as WNPA board chair. She remains on the WNPA board as a director.

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