Contact(s): Jim Dick, DNR spokesperson, 608-267-2773
MADISON, Wis. - Preston D. Cole, former chair and current member of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, and Kurt Thiede, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, have received high honors from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources, while Tom Bernthal, DNR wetland monitoring and assessment coordinator, has earned a national award for his efforts to advance innovative wetlands research.
DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp praised Cole, Thiede and Bernthal for their achievements.
"The awards presented to Preston Cole and Kurt Thiede highlight the commitment and passion they bring to natural resources management," Stepp said. "All those who enjoy our great outdoors and all of us at DNR benefit from their tireless work and strategic vision."
Cole, who holds a senior level appointed position as director of operations for the city of Milwaukee Department of Public Works, is being honored this week with the college's 2016 conservation leader award. The award is given to individuals, groups, or organizations that have directly or indirectly made significant contributions to maintaining the integrity of Wisconsin ecosystems.
During Cole's recently completed three year commitment as chair of the Natural Resources Board, he promoted youth engagement in natural resource management and policy and established the Youth Conservation Congress initiative within the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.
His vision for Wisconsin's leadership in natural resource management extends to his service on the board of directors at the Water Council in Milwaukee. In addition, he serves on the board of trustees for the National Arbor Day Foundation, which inspires people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees.
Cole holds a bachelor of sciences degree from University of Missouri-Columbia in forest management and has the unique distinction of being the first African-American forester hired by the Missouri Conservation Department.
Thiede was presented with UW-Steven's Point's 2016 outstanding alumnus award. The award recognizes former College of Natural Resources students who have made significant accomplishments in their career or who have used their education to make significant contributions at the professional, local, state or national level. Thiede, who was appointed to his current DNR post in March 2015, graduated from UW-Stevens Point in 1996.
He grew up in north-central Wisconsin exploring the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and studied journalism at UW-Eau Claire before ultimately graduating from UW-Stevens Point with bachelor of science degrees in wildlife management and biology.
He joined DNR's wildlife management program in 1999 in deer management and has served in a variety of roles, most recently as land division administrator. In addition to his role as deputy secretary he chairs the Governor's Sporting Heritage Council and represents DNR as the state's delegate on the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the National Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
Tom Bernthal, DNR wetland monitoring and assessment coordinator for DNR, has earned the 2016 state, tribal and local program development award from the Environmental Law Institute, Washington, D.C. Bernthal is being honored for his efforts to advance innovative wetlands research and monitoring methods including development of quality assessment tools and strategies to restore wetlands. He has volunteered for more than two decades as an adviser and board member for several nonprofit organizations, including the Wisconsin Wetlands Association and the Friends of Pheasant Branch Conservancy.