Conservation Awards

2022 conservation award recipients

Protecting, conserving, and educating others about the natural spaces where wildlife thrives is the mission of Robert Cooper Audubon Society. In December 2022 we celebrated five individuals who lead these efforts in East Central Indiana. 

For her decades of leadership in environmental conservation, we honored Helen Steussy. M.D., with the Robert H. and Esther L. Cooper Conservation Award, our chapter’s highest honor.  A co-founder of the Red-Tail Land Conservancy, Helen is known for FLIGHT…for the land, her 2010 cross-country bicycle ride from Oregon to New Hampshire, to raise awareness and money for land conservation.

More recently, Helen has waged war on invasive plants in New Castle city parks and has been a constant champion for native plants. Since 2019, she has led Henry County Removes Invasive Plant Species (HC-RIPS.) HC-RIPS holds informative monthly meetings, organizes strike teams, and conducts landowner surveys.

Leading a statewide effort to rid our landscape of invasive plant species, Dawn Slack, was recognized with the Clyde W. Hibbs Conservation Education Award. As project coordinator for the Indiana Invasives Initiative, Dawn has been an inspiring educator and environmental leader in our region. Thanks to Dawn, more than 650 educational presentations have been given throughout the state. In the past four years, the group has visited over 800 landowners and have written management plans for roughly 90% of them.  (No photo provided.)

The Richard Greene Public Service Award celebrates initiatives that serve the public’s environmental interests. This year we celebrated Krystal Stanich’s leadership in organizing and implementing the Cool Climate Fest, which took place on April 30 at the Arts Park in New Castle. The Cool Climate Fest strove to increase awareness about the threats of climate change and strategies to mitigate and adapt to a warming world. Krystal is the teen and adult services manager at the New Castle-Henry County Library and a member of the New Castle Climate Action Team.

The Phyllis Yuhas Wildlife Habitat Preservation Award was given to Elizabeth Ploog. With the assistance of Kevin Tungesvick, Elizabeth has been on a quest to transform a 9.75-acre soybean field into a prairie with native grasses and forbs since her retirement in 2021. Elizabeth has been an avid gardener and butterfly watcher for many years, but this project—a true labor of love—has taken her commitment to protecting nature to a new level!

Twelve-year-old Charles Hendrickson was recognized with the Charles D. Wise Youth Conservation AwardCharlie is an accomplished beekeeper in the Whitewater Valley Beekeepers Association and recently took 2nd place in the 2022 Young Beekeeper competition for the Beekeepers of Indiana. While volunteering at the Indiana Beekeepers Association during the Indiana State Fair, Charlie helped teach visitors about the importance and life cycle of our bee pollinators. He is the son of Mark and Stefanie Hendrickson and a student at Monroe Central.

Conservation award categories

Each year, Robert Cooper Audubon celebrates individuals and organizations who make noteworthy contributions to conservation and environmental education in our region.

Award categories are as follows:

  • Robert H. and Esther L. Cooper Conservation Award: the chapter’s highest honor, for overall contributions to, conservation of, and appreciation for the natural environment
  • Clyde W. Hibbs Conservation Education Award: for excellence in educating the area’s children, youth, and /or adults on conservation issues and practices
  • Richard Greene Public Service Award: for active involvement in serving the public’s environmental interests and concerns
  • Phyllis Yuhas Wildlife Habitat Preservation Award: for development or preservation of habitat that contains significant wildlife and/or native plant life populations
  • Charles D. Wise Youth Conservation Award: for excellence in conservation practices by a youth under the age of 18

Since 1983, our chapter has honored approximately 160 individuals and organizations that have conserved and restored habitat or educated the public about the importance of protecting wildlife and maintaining biodiversity.

Past Award Winners

Our chapter presented its first two conservation awards in 1983 and quickly expanded to four annual awards. The Charles D. Wise Youth Conservation Award followed in 2003. All five awards given today are named in honor of individuals who’ve had a significant impact in our community’s or chapter’s work to serve and protect the natural environment.