Mike Korkuc Wins 2022 GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award
Volunteer leads loon recovery at Dunmore Lake
Vermont Business Magazine Mike Korkuc, a longtime volunteer who has helped protect and expand loon populations at Dunmore Lake and surrounding lakes for 15 years, has been named the winner of the 2022 GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award.
The prestigious award is named after former Milton resident Meeri Zetterstrom, who inspired the recovery efforts that led to ospreys being removed from Vermont’s endangered species list. The award is given annually to an individual, company, group, or nonprofit organization that has made a significant contribution to Vermont’s environment. The feather-shaped prize comes with a $2,500 donation to support the winner’s ongoing efforts.
Korkuc, in conjunction with the Vermont Center for Ecostudies, has rescued several loons at Dunmore Lake, Silver Lake, and Sugar Hill Reservoir and taught hundreds of people about loons and how to protect them. He has dedicated countless hours to the protection of loons and their Dunmore Lake nesting site and monitors four surrounding lakes.
“Mike is by far the most active of my 300 statewide loon volunteers,” said Eric Hanson, a former GMP-Zetterstrom Award winner who coordinates loon recovery efforts across Vermont. “He always goes above and beyond. In his patient and dedicated way, he inspired people to care about the natural world.
“No one reminds me of Meeri Zetterstrom more than Mike,” nominator Joan Gamble said. “He gives his time freely and with passion to ensure the safety of the loons! Every year, he makes, installs and maintains loon nesting marker buoys around the island on Dunmore Lake – essentially taking it upon himself to protect them. He regularly goes out in his pontoon boat, The Loonatic, where he firmly and respectfully teaches boaters how to stay away from the nest, loons and their chicks.
Korkuc, who knew nothing about loons when he saw one on Dunmore Lake years ago, quickly became their advocate after seeing a family of loons, including a chick, endangered by boat traffic . Thanks to his vision and efforts, loons have successfully hatched and fledged in the lake for over a decade, a total of 16 young.
“My photographs of that first chick sparked my new hobby,” Korkuc said. “Since then I’ve taken over 40,000 photos, mostly of loons,” he said. “I am so honored by this recognition from GMP, and it inspires me to continue protecting and educating people about the loons.”
Korkuc, like Meeri Zetterstrom did with osprey photos, has used her images to spark public interest in and protect loons. Over time, he has developed a messaging group of over 450 people to whom he provides photos and regular updates on the progress of the birds.
Zetterstrom was known as “Grandma Osprey”. She began her efforts to restore ospreys at Milton’s Lake Arrowhead in the late 1980s. Her vision, collaboration and leadership helped ospreys rebound, and they were removed from the endangered species list. demise in 2005. The award was established shortly before Zetterstrom’s death in 2010.
“Mike’s determination and use of photography to build support for the birds is reminiscent of Meeri,” said GMP Vice President Steve Costello, who has worked on osprey recovery with Zetterstrom for years. “He has created broad support and public understanding for the birds and helped give them the space and peace they need around their nesting site, which is on a very active lake. They wouldn’t be as successful without Mike.
Past recipients of the GMP-Zetterstrom Award include Sally Laughlin, whose work has been instrumental in the restoration of three endangered bird species; Michael Smith, founder of Rutland’s Pine Hill Park; Margaret Fowle, who led the Vermont Peregrine Falcon Restoration Program; the Lake Champlain Committee, which works to protect and improve Lake Champlain; Kelly Stettner, who founded the Black River Action Team; Roy Pilcher, founder of the Rutland County chapter of Audubon; Lake Champlain International, a non-profit organization that works to protect, restore and revitalize Lake Champlain and its communities; Marty Illick of the Lewis Creek Association; Steve Parren, biologist at the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife; Hanson, a biologist at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies; Brian Lowe of Randolph, who helped fledg hundreds of kestrels in central Vermont; and Angella Gibbons, founder of EarthWalk Vermont.
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LEICESTER, Vermont – GMP