Professor John Miles has made the outdoors his lectern, classroom and playground.
Through his focus on experiential education, Miles has spent more than 36 years teaching hundreds of students about their connection to nature and trained them to educate others.
"He realized that education is one of the fundamental tools to solving environmental problems," said Gene Myers, 49, an associate professor of environmental studies at Western Washington University's Huxley College of the Environment. He also is a former undergraduate student of Miles'.
Miles was a founding faculty member of Huxley College in 1970, and a founding board member of the 20-year-old North Cascades Institute.
His commitment to environmental education earned Miles, 61, the RE Sources Environmental Heroes lifetime achievement award.
RE Sources, an environmental education and advocacy organization, will present the awards this evening for the fourth year. Winners were nominated by the public and selected by RE Sources board and staff members.
They were selected because their work benefits the environment and because they do it without expecting recognition, said Megan Artz, RE Sources membership and outreach coordinator.
"These are people who others feel deserve an applause," Artz said.
Miles could not be reached to comment about the award because he was on Sucia Island with a group of students as part of an intensive quarterly field study.
His wife, Rotha Miles, said her husband was most at home in the outdoors.
"That's where he gets his nurturing from," she said, "not within the walls of an institution."
Other award recipients are:
Bert and Sue Webber, education - Bert taught environmental science at Huxley for 30 years, and Sue taught biology at Whatcom Community College for 25 years.
For 10 years they have run a marine science education program for middle school students aboard their 65-foot boat, Snow Goose. This is their last year running the program.
Bert Webber estimates 1,200 students a year take the four-hour course in which they help evaluate the health of Bellingham Bay.
Derek and Michelle Long, business - About four years ago, they were among the founding members of Sustainable Connections, a nonprofit business network of about 500 members working on sustainable economic development programs.
Marian Beddill, advocacy - Helped develop and campaign for a citizen initiative to protect Lake Whatcom water quality. While the initiative narrowly failed, Beddill said it led to a now highly successful program through which the city of Bellingham acquires large tracts of land in the watershed.
The 69-year-old Beddill is a regular presence at government public meetings. She has organized and contributed to countless citizen activist groups to hold government accountable and protect the environment, Artz said.
Patricia Otto, Veronica Wisniewski, Scott Delbecq, restoration - They build nesting boxes for wood ducks, barn owls and swallows. Otto, 59, and Wisniewski, 46, teamed up about 10 years ago after learning that they were doing the same type of work independently.
Delbecq, now 20, has been working with Otto since he was 12, rarely missing a Saturday to install the boxes.
The boxes provide nesting cavities for birds that need them because their habitat is disappearing.
Sarah Wheatley and Katy Scherrer, youth - Scherrer founded the environmental club at Sehome High School and headed up a number of restoration projects.
Wheatley founded the environmental club at Bellingham High School and, in addition to working on restoration projects, has led a number of beach cleanups and encouraged other students to use alternative transportation.