State Employee Steve Parren has Spent Career Saving Endangered Species in Vermont
COLCHESTER, Vt. – Green Mountain Power honored longtime Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Steve Parren with one of the state’s top environmental awards today – the GMP-Zetterstrom Award. Parren has helped save multiple endangered species, raised funds for non-game wildlife conservation and volunteered hundreds of hours on his own time to help turtles and amphibians.
Making the honor even more special for Parren, the award coincides with the 100th anniversary of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the GMP-Zetterstrom Award is named for a woman Parren once collaborated with to save endangered ospreys.
“I am humbled. To receive an award named for Meeri Zetterstrom, one of the most determined and selfless environmentalists I have known, is incredibly meaningful to me,” Parren said. “When Meeri began her work to restore ospreys to Vermont, few people thought it could happen, but she perservered and proved all the doubters wrong – including me. That taught me an important lesson I have carried with me ever since – the value of public education and volunteerism to wildlife protection and conservation can never be overestimated.”
Zetterstrom’s advocacy earned her the nickname Grandma Osprey, and the GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award is given annually to one person, business, group or non-profit that has made a significant contribution to Vermont’s environment. The award is accompanied by a $2,500 donation to the winner’s environmental cause, in this case the Vermont Nongame Wildlife Fund.
Zetterstrom began her efforts to help restore endangered ospreys at Lake Arrowhead in Milton in the late 1980s. Despite long odds, indifference by others, and years of effort without success, Zetterstrom was an impassioned advocate who remained focused on her goal.
Zetterstrom lived in a cabin with a bird’s-eye view of Lake Arrowhead, and in the 1980s was among the first to notice when a couple of ospreys returned to fish the lake’s waters after their virtual extinction in Vermont in the 1940s. Her vision, collaboration and leadership prompted utilities, the state and private landowners to work together, and ultimately supported the resurgence of ospreys. Thanks in part to Zetterstrom’s leadership, ospreys were removed from the endangered species list in 2005, and the Zetterstrom Award was created and announced shortly before she died in 2010.
GMP Vice President Steve Costello, who worked on osprey protection with Zetterstrom and Parren for years, said this year’s award presentation brought the project full circle.
“Meeri and Steve both brought incredible passion to wildlife conservation,” Costello said. “Meeri’s and Steve’s determination to bring ospreys back decades after the last successful nesting in Vermont bordered on quixotic, but they never lost their hunger to help them. Steve has demonstrated an equal commitment to other non-game species, working for nearly 30 years to help creatures from ospreys and bald eagles to salamanders and turtles. It’s doubtful anyone in Vermont has been involved in protecting as many endangered creatures as Steve.”
Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter called Parren a tremendous example for all. “There is no one more deserving of this recognition,” Porter said. “Steve’s devotion to protecting Vermont land, waters, reptiles, birds and other animals is an inspiration to many of us who have the pleasure of working with him. The word is way over-used, but his commitment to his work, which includes hundreds of volunteer hours each year, is nothing short of amazing.”
Past Zetterstrom Award recipients include Sally Laughlin, a scientist whose work was instrumental in restoring three species of endangered birds in Vermont; Michael Smith, the founder of Rutland’s Pine Hill Park; Margaret Fowle, who led Vermont’s peregrine falcon restoration program; the Lake Champlain Committee, which works to protect and improve Lake Champlain; Kelly Stettner, who founded the Black River Action Team in southern Vermont; Roy Pilcher, founder of the Rutland County Chapter of Audubon; Lake Champlain International, a nonprofit working to protect, restore and revitalize Lake Champlain and its communities; and Marty Illick of the Lewis Creek Association.
About Green Mountain Power
Green Mountain Power (GMP) serves approximately 265,000 residential and business customers in Vermont and is partnering with them to improve lives and transform communities. GMP is focused on a new way of doing business to meet the needs of customers with integrated energy services that help people use less energy and save money, while continuing to generate clean, cost-effective and reliable power in Vermont. GMP was the only utility named to Fast Company’s 2018 list of Most Innovative Companies for Energy and is the first utility in the world to get a B Corp certification, meeting rigorous social, environmental, accountability and transparency standards and committing to use business as a force for good. J.D. Power’s 2018 rankings also put GMP among top utilities for customer satisfaction.
About the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department
The mission of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is the conservation of all species of fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the people of Vermont.
Kristin Kelly, Green Mountain Power
Mark Scott, Vermont Fish and Wildlife
It’s doubtful anyone in Vermont has been involved in protecting as many endangered creatures as Steve.Steve Costello, GMP Vice President