Steamboat Springs Robert Skorkowsky, a wildlife biologist with the Routt National Forest, said being recognized for hard work is always memorable. But winning an award named after someone who mentored him in wildlife conservation is truly special.
On Wednesday, Skorkowsky received the Laurel Kagan Wiley Award for Excellence and Dedication in Wildlife Conservation during a regional Forest Service meeting in Fort Collins.
The award - a bronze lynx chasing a rabbit - is dedicated to Wiley, a wildlife biologist who worked in the Rio Grande National Forest.
"She was a tremendous advocate for wildlife and wildlife conservation," Skorkowsky said about Wiley, who died almost two years ago.
"One of my fondest memories of Laurel was actually watching her open the cages and introducing lynx back into the habitat," he said. "Being nominated for this award was very significant for me because I respect Laurel a lot. : I definitely learned a lot from her. When I was seeking advice on how to do things, Laurel was one of the first people I called on."
Skorkowsky, who has served as a biologist for the Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region since 1997, said his job is to ensure wildlife resources are considered in all forest service decisions and projects, and also to look for opportunities to improve and enhance wildlife populations in the habitat.
It's a career spawned by a lifelong love for the outdoors, he said.
"I just kind of developed a real love for being outside when I was a kid, and I was looking for every opportunity to continue to do that," said Skorkowsky, who noted that the writings of famed biologist Aldo Leopold served as an inspiration to him.
Skorkowsky said one passage in a book of Leopold's on land ethics has motivated him throughout his career.
"A land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conquerors of the land community to plain members and citizens of it. It implies respect for his fellow members and also respect for the community," Leopold said.
Whether it's through creating a management plan for the California Park Special Interest Area in North Routt, or ensuring timber sales are undertaken responsibly, Skorkowsky said everything he does is for the good of the national forest.
"I really care about the land, and I want to do what I can to take care of everything out there, and this job gives me the opportunity to do that - to help manage the national forest, manage wildlife species, and try to ensure that when we do things that wildlife is considered," he said.
Diann Ritschard, public affairs specialist with the Forest Service, said Skorkowsky has another trait that makes him invaluable to the national forest - the ability to build relationships among a wide group of people and agencies invested in wildlife conservation.
"Those partnerships oftentimes come with money. : He brought in about $225,000 in extra money working with partners who have funds for wildlife purposes," she said. "That is a pretty good accomplishment and a lot of money to help boost his wildlife programs."