BIG RAPIDS - The Michigan State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation has named Brian Piccolo, a 15-year employee with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, as Outstanding Conservationist of the Year for 2018. The award was presented to Piccolo at the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Michigan State Chapter convention in Big Rapids Jan. 19.

“I can’t think of a better person then Brian Piccolo for the 2018 Outstanding Conservationist of the Year,” said DNR Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “Along with hard work and results, Brian brings passion to his job.”

Piccolo has worked as a wildlife biologist in the northeast Lower Peninsula for 15 years. NWTF honored him for going beyond the call of duty to help the organization reach its goals to conserve habitat for the wild turkey and preserve turkey hunting heritage.

“Brian has gone above and beyond throughout the last few years to ensure that our collaborative projects, partially funded through the DNR’s Wildlife Habitat Grant Program, have been successful,” said NWTF Michigan/Indiana district biologist Ryan Boyer. “Our partnerships, projects and successes wouldn’t have been possible without him. He is well-deserving of this award.”

Piccolo’s work to lead workshop planting days, reach out to partners and willingness to meet contractors on site to answer questions was noticed and appreciated, according to Boyer. He worked after hours, assisted on weekends and was pivotal in helping the NWTF develop a list of projects to propose for the DNR Wildlife Habitat Grant Program.

As a result, NWTF received three Wildlife Habitat Grants that touched over 1,044 acres of habitat. The work included annual food plot and hunter walking trail plantings; hundreds of mast trees like crabapple, serviceberry and white oak planted; and acres of young forest created through completed timber sales.

“This is such an honor to have one of our employees recognized for his contributions by a major conservation partner such as the National Wild Turkey Federation,” said Al Stewart, upland game bird specialist for the DNR. “This award reflects positively on the employee, and it confirms that key organizations appreciate quality employees who get work done at the ground level like Brian Piccolo.”

Art Pelon, president of the Michigan State Chapter of the NWTF, also talked about the significance of this award.

“This is an especially important tribute to bestow upon a wildlife professional because recipients are chosen for this award by NWTF members in conjunction with recommendations from their wildlife employee peers,” Pelon said. “We feel privileged to be able to partner with Michigan’s internationally recognized biologists and wildlife management leaders on conservation programs in this state.”