Steve Parren, a biologist with the Vt. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, was awarded the Green Mountain Power-Zetterstrom Environmental Award last week for his work conserving non-game wildlife and protecting endangered species.

The ceremony took place at the Sandbar State Park in Milton on a cloudy, windy day, but the beauty of the landscape that highlights Parren’s work still shone through, commissioner Louis Porter noted.

“I don’t there’s any more tangible way of seeing that than in driving across the stretch of road we just came down,” Porter said of Route 2, “and looking up and seeing virtually every pole along that road has a nest on it.”

Porter was referring to nests of ospreys, whose expanded presence in the area and the state as a whole is largely due to the work of Meeri Zetterstrom, the namesake of the day’s award; Parren and Vt. Fish & Wildlife staff and volunteers.

Zetterstrom, a late Milton resident, lived on the shores of Lake Arrowhead and was an impassioned supporter of the osprey population in the area starting in the late 1980s. Her work with Parren, Vt. Fish & Wildlife and Green Mountain Power installing nesting platforms and educating the community eventually led to ospreys being taken off Vermont’s endangered and threatened species list in 2005.

The GMP-Zetterstrom Environmental Award was created to honor her work in 2010. Each year it is awarded to a deserving environmental protector, along with $2,500 to help that person or organization continue their mission.

GMP vice president Steve Costello said it was an easy decision to honor Parren with the Zetterstrom Award this year due to his hard work and dedication for over 30 years, not only to save ospreys but other species as well.

“Virtually every endangered species that has recovered in Vermont, Steve’s fingerprints are on those birds and animals and amphibians and turtles,” Costello said.

Costello also referenced Parren’s dedication to the spiny softshell turtle by raising hundreds of them in his own home to help bring back their numbers.

Porter echoed Costello’s praise for Parren’s work with endangered species.

“I can’t imagine a greater gift to give Vermonters than to restore these species … it’s been Steve Parren’s life work to do that,” he said. “As one Vermonter, I just say, I’m proud to know you and work with you.”

Julie Moore, secretary of the Vt. Agency of Natural Resources, also thanked Parren for his work and noted his enthusiasm for protecting endangered species.

“It’s infectious, and it gets people excited,” she said. “On behalf of everyone, I want to say thank you.”

In his acceptance speech, Parren noted his work with Zetterstrom, whom he called “tenacious.”

“I had the pleasure of knowing Meeri, and she really was a force especially when it came to ospreys, so I’m humbled to receive this award from GMP,” he said.

Parren reflected on his excitement when the ospreys first nested on the platforms they installed, noting some of the nests were right there at the Sandbar Natural Area. He called the project a collaborative process.

“Conservation really is a team effort,” Parren said. “I really appreciate the hard work and effort and the collective good will in the conservation that we’ve actually accomplished, so thank you all for that.”

Parren added the money he received from the award will support the Vt. Dept. of Fish & Wildlife’s nongame wildlife fund, where it would triple or quadruple with matching federal grants to continue protecting endangered species.

“We can’t let our guard down,” he said.