South Dakota’s Wildlife Agency Hooks Troop Support Award
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2006 South Dakota’s wildlife management agency, which routinely issues permits to anglers hoping to land a big walleye fish, has hooked a Defense Department-sponsored award for exceptional support of its employees in the Guard and Reserve.
The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks is among 15 U.S. businesses or public-sector agencies selected to receive the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award for 2006.
“It’s great to be honored in that way. We’re certainly humbled by it,” Chuck Schlueter, communication manager for the agency’s Division of Wildlife, said during a phone interview with American Forces Press Service.
About six of the agency’s roughly 350 employees are reserve-component members, Schlueter said, with most serving in South Dakota’s National Guard.
“It’s our responsibility to assist our employees in the Guard or Reserve who want to serve our country,” Schlueter said.
Martin Yost, a department conservation officer, nominated his agency for the award. Yost is a captain in the National Guard.
Game, Fish and Parks “supports its servicemembers by providing paid military leave, continuing benefits and giving hiring preference to veterans,” Yost stated in a recent departmental news release.
Yost said his organization has organized fundraisers for local military family support groups. It also sponsored a military appreciation event that provided free weekend camping for military families.
Doug Hansen, director of the agency’s wildlife division, is slated to accept the DoD award at a Sept. 21 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award recognizes U.S. employers that rise above the requirements of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a DoD agency, manages the award process.
ESGR assists Guard and Reserve members and their employers understand employee eligibility and job entitlements, employer obligations, benefits and remedies under the act.
The Department of Games, Fish and Parks administers South Dakotan natural resources such as wildlife, fisheries and parkland, Schlueter said.
“We take a lot of pride in the land and the animals that live on the land,” Schlueter said, noting South Dakota has great appeal to outdoor sportsmen and women. The state issues many hunting and fishing licenses.
The walleye, named for its light-reflecting eye lenses, “is probably the No. 1 fish” sought out by South Dakota anglers, Schlueter said.