After 35 years of extraordinarily devoted service to conserving Vermont’s non-game wildlife, Steve Parren will soon hang up his trademark green Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department (VFWD) jacket for…well, whatever pursuits inspire him next. One of Vermont’s all-time conservation champions and a longtime, close VCE ally, Steve has been a relentless force for sound, science-based conservation of all wildlife in Vermont—from mud puppies to monarchs, turtles to tiger beetles, Osprey to Upland Sandpipers.
Steve’s earliest association with VCE biologists, then at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science in the mid-1980s, involved recovery of state-Endangered species like Common Loons, Common Terns, and Peregrine Falcons. As our primary liaison with VFWD, Steve not only ensured a reliable flow of state and federal funding for these and other programs, but rolled up his sleeves to offer hands-on collaboration. From helping to develop and execute recovery plans, to navigating often tricky management issues, crafting public outreach messages, carefully editing annual technical reports, and—far less often than he’d have liked—pitching in on field work, Steve never missed a beat. His steadiness, pragmatism, strategic thinking, and deep knowledge of ecology were second to none.
In the way of a brief professional “bio”, Steve began working for VFWD in 1987, after earning a Master’s degree in Natural Resource Planning from the University of Vermont. As manager of VFWD’s Wildlife Diversity Program, he has not only overseen this diverse program and its 11 accomplished staff (a full-time job in itself), but coordinated status reviews and recovery planning for state Endangered and Threatened species, and administered Vermont’s comprehensive Wildlife Action Plan. On the “side”, Steve has somehow found time to spearhead innovative efforts to manage communal nesting beaches used by state-Threatened spiny softshell turtles, conduct annual monitoring of Vermont’s declining wood turtle population, and engineer successful amphibian road-crossing efforts in the Champlain Valley. No one, except Steve himself, was surprised when he received the prestigious Zetterstrom Award in 2018, accompanied by this accolade: “He 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.“
VCE Loon Biologist Eric Hanson aptly highlights Steve’s dedication and perseverance in this brief anecdote: “Steve fielded a lot of loon calls from the public back in the 1990s. One involved an iced-in loon on Mollys Falls Reservoir in Marshfield. The two of us canoed out there in fading late-afternoon light on a chilly early December day, then broke up the recently ice-glazed surface with shovels to create more open water for the trapped loon. It worked. Temperatures climbed a bit, the water stayed open, and the loon was gone the next day.”
It is safe to assume that Steve Parren will gather no moss in retirement. His passion, curiosity and collaborative spirit ensure that Vermont wildlife will continue to be on the receiving end of his conservation zeal. The green VFWD jacket may soon hang on a peg, but Steve’s conservation legacy will endure for generations. All of us at VCE wish him well and offer heartfelt thanks for our decades of work together.