Robert Luna Honored As 2024 Refuge Employee Of The Year For His Outstanding Service At Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge — The National Wildlife Refuge Association


WASHINGTON, D.C. – JUNE 21ST, 2024 – Robert Luna, an Engineering Equipment Operator at Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, has been named the 2024 Refuge Employee of the Year by the National Wildlife Refuge Association. This award recognizes Robert’s exceptional contributions to the refuge, highlighting his innovation, outstanding job performance, and dedication to wildlife conservation.

The Refuge Employee of the Year Award honors the exceptional work of dedicated employees of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The 2024 Wildlife Refuge Awards celebration and ceremony will be held on September 18th at 5:30 pm at the prestigious Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Media coverage of this event is highly encouraged.

“Robert’s innovative approach to managing water resources, his exceptional job performance, and his unwavering commitment to the refuge make him an exemplary employee and committed protector of the Refuge System,” said Geoffrey L. Haskett, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “His work has had a profound impact on the quality of habitat and the wildlife it supports. Robert’s dedication and expertise are truly inspiring.”

Robert Luna’s notable accomplishments and attributes include:

  • Innovation: Robert regularly comes up with innovative ideas in the day-to-day management of Toppenish NWR. He tracks the dozens of water inputs and outputs on a weekly basis and moves water accordingly to maximize wetland habitat management. His recommendations to extend a delivery ditch and install new water control structures have greatly improved water management and habitat conditions.

  • Outstanding Job Performance: As the only staff member located at Toppenish NWR, Robert wears many hats beyond his title of Engineering Equipment Operator. He functions as a maintenance worker, manager, biologist, and visitor services specialist. His willingness to tackle various duties, often outside normal hours, highlights his unmatched dedication to the refuge.

  • Positive Wildlife Response: Robert’s work on invasive species management has led to excellent waterfowl and other migratory bird responses. His expertise in habitat management has resulted in highly improved native wetland plant responses and increased wildlife use, showcasing his commitment to wildlife conservation.

  • Cost Savings & Increased Efficiency: Robert is a model of fiscal responsibility. He keeps useful parts on hand, often saving time and money on repairs. His organizational skills and ability to plan ahead have resulted in significant cost savings and increased operational efficiency at the refuge.

  • Public Engagement: Robert is highly attentive to the needs of refuge visitors. He maintains trails, organizes interpretive events, and ensures that visitors have a positive experience. His efforts to maintain and improve visitor facilities have made a significant impact on public engagement with the refuge.

Robert’s 33-year career at Toppenish NWR, starting from a local youth employment program to becoming an integral part of the refuge, is a testament to his dedication and hard work. His journey from an inner-city kid who knew nothing about the outdoors to a highly respected career Refuge System employee, known for his deep knowledge of habitat management, is truly inspiring and makes him a deserving recipient of the 2024 Refuge Employee of the Year Award.

Join us in celebrating Robert Luna’s remarkable contributions to wildlife conservation at the 2024 Wildlife Refuge Awards.


The National Wildlife Refuge Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting, promoting, and enhancing the 850-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest network of lands and waters set aside for wildlife conservation.

For all media inquiries and questions, please contact Eden Taylor, Communications Manager at


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