WINS founder Welker wins award

The founder of multiple environmental programs in and around the Allegheny National Forest has won a statewide award for his efforts to better the environment.

Nathan Welker, aquatic ecologist and fisheries biologist on the ANF ecosystems management team, recently received the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Professionals’ annual Karl Mason Award, given to commemorate Mason’s vision of a strong, well-managed environmental program.

Welker started and continues to coordinate the Allegheny Watershed Improvement Needs Coalition (WINS) regional task force.

According to a U.S. Forest Service release, since 2007 WINS has completed 50 watershed restoration projects, provided more than 60 environmental education and research opportunities that have reached 10,000 students, organized some 5,000 volunteers who served more than 30,000 hours in education, outreach, and restoration efforts, and brought more than $5 million in outside funding to projects on the forest.

“The success is a testimony to the wonderful partners involved in the projects,” Welker said.

In addition to WINS, Welker is a founding member of the Allegheny Reservoir Cleanup (10 years), the Allegheny River Cleanup (five years), and the Tionesta Lake and Reservoir Cleanup (four years).

According to the release, the Karl Mason Award “is given to a Pennsylvania person, organization, or project that has made a significant contribution to the betterment of Pennsylvania’s environment.”

“The Allegheny National Forest is fortunate to have the passion and dedication of Nate Welker leading our partnership work in watershed restoration,” Welker’s supervisor, Nadine Pollock, ecosystems management staff officer, said. “Many thanks to our partners for nominating him for his prestigious award.”

Welker is in esteemed company in winning the award. “Former recipients have included two Pennsylvania governors, a state senator, an executive director of the PA Fish Commission, a secretary of the Department of Environmental Resources, and executive directors of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission,” the ANF press release said.