News : Salmon Hero Award

Posted on June 9, 2009

Mark Johnson, a DFO local community advisor, has worked tirelessly with local groups fighting to save Fraser River salmon and was today recognized for his dedication, winning the $4,000 Fraser Salmon Hero award from the Pacific Salmon Foundation and the Fraser Basin Council. Without hesitation, Johnson then donated the cash award to the groups he’s worked so closely with in the past decade.

“Mark is selfless, knowledgeable, and he sets the bar in terms of community-building for anything to do with fish and watershed,” said Marion Robinson of the Fraser Basin Council.

The award is part of their joint Fraser Salmon and Watersheds Program, honoring the individual of the year who has “made a tangible contribution” to the preservation, enhancement and improvement of the Fraser River watershed and its salmon.

Brian Riddell, of Pacific Salmon Foundation, called Johnson “a partnership catalyst” for a number of key initiatives in the valley.

“He has supported and played integral roles in the Chilliwack River Action Committee, the Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy, the Fraser Valley Regional Watersheds Coalition, and many others. He is a great ambassador for what FSWP stands for.”

Johnson’s cash prize will be split by local groups like CRAC, CSS Environmental Club, CLASS, Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival Society, Fraser Valley Conservancy, Fraser Valley Regional Watersheds Coalition, and the Skowkale Hatchery Revitalization and Education Project.

“It’s so true to form for him,” said Robinson about giving away his award money. “He’s that kind of unassuming guy. It’s really big of him, too, because it’s tough for those groups to get any financial resources to do the work they’re trying to do.”

Johnson was selected for this recognition by peers and organizations involved in watershed projects of different types.

“He’s a model collaborator, and he deeply understands what it takes to get people to work together,” Robinson continued. “When others are getting discouraged, Mark will find a way.” She said she had the pleasure of making a speech about Johnson when he accepted the Salmon Hero award on June 9.

“He doesn’t even think of himself in these terms,” the FBC official said. “In my speech I pointed out that some aspects of his work are difficult. It’s not every day that people can come to work so energized and enthused. But if Mark ever feels defeated, he never shows it.” Part of his “tangible contribution” to the cause is being a “connector” or “conduit” for the various groups.

This year’s annual meeting, the Fraser Assembly, zeroed in on the all-important skill of collaboration, and the Salmon Hero was selected with special consideration for Johnson’s “outstanding ability” to foster effective collaboration. “It’s not going to be one person who saves the world,” said Robinson. “Mark knows that it takes all of us.”

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