Robert Hetz Honored With Ralph W. Abele Conservation Award

Erie-area sportsman Robert Hetz has been named the recipient of the Fish and Boat Commission’s Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award for 2012.

“The Abele Award is the highest recognition the Commission provides to individuals who have distinguished themselves in the cause of conservation,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway, who joined PFBC Commissioner Ed Mascharka in presenting Mr. Hetz with the award during a noon ceremony Thursday.

The award presentation was held at Fairview Township’s public fishing access area at the end of Avonia Road and near the mouth of popular Trout Run. 

(Photo: (from left) are S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie President Jerry Skrypzak, PFBC Commissioner Ed Mascharka, Robert Hetz, Erie County Executive Barry Grossman, Patricia Norcott Miller (on behalf of Sen. Jane Earll’s office) and PFBC Executive Director John Arway.)

“Bob is a charter member of the 3-CU Trout Club, which is the largest member of our nursery program,” Arway added. “He is the individual who provides the leadership and effort to maintain the raceways, feed the fish, and stock them. The success of Pennsylvania’s steelhead program is largely due to the effort of the 3-CU Trout Club and Bob.”

“We are honored to add Mr. Hetz to the list of outstanding conservationists who have earned recognition as recipients of the Ralph W. Abele Conservation Heritage Award,” said Arway.

Mr. Hetz, of Fairview, was nominated by Jerry Skrypzak, President of the S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie.

“The S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie has had the privilege of working with Bob for over 26 years,” Skrypzak said in his nomination letter.  “Bob was instrumental in providing expertise when their hatchery was being established.  Bob handmade much of the equipment, which is still being used today.”

Several local officials also participated in the ceremony to honor Mr. Hetz, including Erie County Executive Barry Grossman; Fairview Township Supervisor Pete Kraus; S.O.N.S. President Jerry Skrypzak; and Patricia Norcott Miller on behalf of Sen. Jane Earll.

The PFBC established the Abele Award to recognize citizens of Pennsylvania who have made outstanding contributions to the protection, conservation, and enhancement of the aquatic resources of the Commonwealth.

The award serves as a memorial to former Executive Director Ralph Abele (1921-1990) for his steadfast and courageous work in protecting and conserving Pennsylvania’s natural resources.

Throughout his life, Abele inspired and commanded the fight to save the natural environment. He believed strongly in the right of everyone to "clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and aesthetic values of the environment."

As PFBC executive director from January 1972 through May 1987, Abele’s accomplishments garnered him the title of “Lord of the Fish” for his tireless and relentless efforts in protecting water quality against pollution and working to restore American shad to their native Susquehanna River.

Abele’s voice and action as a leader during the beginnings of ecology awareness called industry to task and empowered individuals with an understanding that they, too, had the power to affect change and protect our natural environment.

While the Commission’s direct constituents have been mostly anglers and boaters, it was clear that Abele’s commentary on the nation’s obligation to protect natural resources struck a chord with the greater, general public.

“Mr. Hetz exemplifies the type of individual who represents Mr. Abele’s vision and the PFBC is honored to recognize his lifetime of achievements with this award,” added Arway.


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