• Tribute to Steve Parren — a Conservation Champion and VCE Friend

    Steve Parren with a wood turtle, one of many vulnerable Vermont wildlife species that benefited from his tireless conservation efforts. Undated photo courtesy of Molly Parren via Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

    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.

    A youthful, clean-shaven Steve Parren with Leif Richardson at Halfmoon Cove Wildlife Management Area, Colchester, VT in 2004. © Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

    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.

    Steve Parren receiving the prestigious Zetterstrom award from Green Mountain Power in 2018. © Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department

    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.

    Steve Parren sharing a light moment with Sara Zahendra on the shores of Lake Champlain during an Outdoor Radio episode on his spiny softshell turtle work, September 2017. © Kent McFarland


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    Comments (4)

    1. mpatenau says:

      Steve is a best friend of Vermont wildlife. He taught me so much over the years and I am so grateful to him for sharing his knowledge with me and my CCV students. He is an inspiration. The Earth is a better place because of humans such as Steve. Thank you, Steve, and carry on.

    2. Linda Henzel says:

      Steve’s dedication to wildlife is exemplary. I’m glad that VCE has recognized some of his accomplishments here. A true inspiration and excellent co-worker when he hired me to work at the Nongame and Natural Heritage Program in the Fish and Wildlife Department. Congratulations!!

    3. Eric Hanson says:

      Steve provided the base for the recovery of loons in Vermont: essential funding from VFWD each year, the attention to details on our conservation management programs, and the cooperation of hydro-dam operators to name a few. Thanks. We should go for a paddle sometime. VCE loon biologist, Eric Hanson

    4. Judy Peterson says:

      Hey, Steve – Congratulations on your retirement! Those of us who have worked with you toward ensuring a naturally diverse Vermont greatly appreciate all you have done over the years and the support you have given us. Retirement must mean double the time in the field, so have fun!
      All the best, Judy Peterson

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