Habitat & Conservation  |  02/22/2024

National Volunteer of the Year Award Finalist: Sandra Bybee


Impacting habitat and youth outreach in Nebraska

This year, for the first time, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever will recognize a national “Volunteer of the Year.”

The award celebrates the very best the organization has to offer — the members and volunteers who optimize the Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever mission, who seek to protect and grow our wildlife habitat, and who help ensure our heritage continues for generations to come. 

We have chosen eight finalists (Four Pheasants Forever and four Quail Forever) for the award. The winner will be announced at the upcoming National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic, which runs March 1-3 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are dynamic conservation organizations, fueled by the dedication of volunteers,” said Tom Fuller, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s vice president of chapter and volunteer services. “The Volunteer of the Year award seeks to honor individuals who have made a profound impact on our mission. Our volunteer network is a vibrant community of passion and talent. This annual award is a celebration of the remarkable accomplishments of these volunteers, and is intended to inspire others to join the movement for upland conservation.”

Over the last few weeks we’ve gotten to know the finalists one by one, and have celebrated their accomplishments in the world of habitat conservation. The last volunteer we’ll highlight is Sandra Bybee, from the High Plains Chapter of Pheasants Forever in Nebraska.  

Let’s start by just telling us a little more about yourself. Your history with bird hunting and conservation, how long you’ve been a member of Pheasants Forever, etc

I was trying to figure out how long I've been with the High Plains chapter. I can tell you that Pete Berthelsen was our local biologist, so it's been awhile. I've also had the privilege of working with Drew Larsen and Colby Kerber when they were biologists. I am not a hunter, but when I was approached to help out I saw all the good things our chapter was accomplishing and I wanted to stay on and help make it one of the best in the state and nationally. 

What initially spurred you to get involved with your local chapter? 

I was asked by my boss to volunteer at the banquet, and it has progressed from there. I’ve held every office except vice president in my years of service, and currently hold the office of president. Our chapter continues to bring in the support of the community, which allows us to keep putting on the programs we have been doing for years. I have been in the Sidney area for almost 30 years and we have such a great team that I’m not ready to move on.

Talk about the work you and your chapter have been doing over the course of the last year. 

We have great community support and without the team I work with, none of this would get accomplished. This year we’ve partnered with a local 3/4th grade class for Milkweed in the Classroom, and have also partnered with the Sidney AG class on the same project. Youth outreach is one of our biggest priorities, and this year we once again hosted our annual youth hunt on youth opening weekend. We also host a veterans hunt, partnering with American Heroes in Action to bring up to six vets out into the field for some much needed outdoor therapy. 

There are nearly 140,000 Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members, and eight total finalists for Volunteer of the Year. What does it mean to be nominated for this award? 

I'm very honored to have been nominated by my peers, as they work just as hard as I do to make our chapter the best in the state and nationally.  

One of the most profound aspects of volunteering for Pheasants Forever is you can see and touch the work. It’s not abstract, or done in some far away place. When you accomplish a habitat project, you can stand in the dirt and witness the progress firsthand. Same is true for outreach — you get to see new people discover the world of conservation or watch a bird dog work for the very first time. What’s it feel like to sit back and watch your work come to fruition?

As a chapter, it’s important to decide where our money is spent. We’re dedicated to building habitat, continuing youth education and getting our youth outdoors. The kid’s smiles are the highlight, both in the classroom and out in the field. But the vet hunt is my favorite, when we can bring together a great group for some outdoor therapy, wild bird hunting and camaraderie.