Press Release Apr 9, 2024

Parks Group Honors Public Lands Champions Senator Debbie Stabenow, Juan D. Martinez Pineda, and Alliance of National Heritage Areas

All three awardees will be honored at the 2024 annual Salute to the Parks gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.  

WASHINGTON – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association is proud to announce it will be honoring three champions who have raised their voices to protect America’s national parks, unite diverse communities in our outdoors, and preserve our country’s history.

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan will receive the Centennial Leadership Award, conservationist Juan D. Martinez Pineda will receive the Robin W. Winks Award and Sara Capen and the Alliance of National Heritage Areas will receive the National Park Achievement Award. Awardees will be honored at the 2024 annual Salute to the Parks gala on April 10 at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC.

Senator Debbie Stabenow

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan will receive NPCA’s 2024 Centennial Leadership Award.

camera icon U.S. Senate Photographic Studio; Rebecca Hammel

The Centennial Leadership Award recognizes a public official or private citizen who made an outstanding contribution toward ensuring the national parks are well-prepared for their second century of service to the American people. Senator Debbie Stabenow, who has served Michigan and our national parks in Congress for more than 25 years, will receive this award for her leadership on protecting America’s Great Lakes, standing up for the vital history and culture of our National Heritage Areas, and helping our parks face the impacts of climate change.

“It is our privilege to bestow the Centennial Leadership Award to the senior senator from Michigan, Debbie Stabenow. Since Michiganders first sent Senator Stabenow to Congress in 1997, she has proven herself to be a stalwart champion for America’s Great Lakes and the ten national parks at the heart of the Great Lakes region. Senator Stabenow has led the fight to protect freshwater, resulting in billions of dollars invested in restoring and protecting our majestic Great Lakes.” Said Theresa Pierno, President and CEO for the National Parks Conservation Association.

“Senator Stabenow’s decisive action and leadership on climate, our national heritage areas, and other key national park issues has been inspiring. She is living proof that courageous public service can bring about real change, and she is an example for future leaders to follow. I know I speak for national park advocates across the country in thanking her for the mountains she has moved.” Pierno continued.

“In Michigan, we are caretakers of two national lakeshores, one national park, three national forests, as well as wildlife refuges, a marine sanctuary, historical parks and landmarks, a scenic trail and of course, our Great Lakes. These public lands and waters are vital to our way of life in Michigan and across the country – that’s why I’ve dedicated my career to protecting them,” said Senator Stabenow. “The National Parks Conservation Association has been such an important partner to me in passing legislation that safeguards these national treasures for generations to come. It’s my honor to receive this award from an organization so dedicated to preserving our nation’s natural wonders.”

Juan D. Martinez Pineda 2

Mr. Juan D. Martinez Pineda will receive NPCA’s 2024 Robin W. Winks Award.

camera icon Hal Williams

NPCA’s Robin W. Winks award recognizes an individual or organization that has effectively communicated the values of the National Park System to the American public. This year’s Winks awardee is Juan D. Martinez Pineda, co-founder of Fresh Tracks, a cross-cultural movement that empowers young, diverse leaders using the healing powers of the outdoors and Indigenous practices.

“Juan has broken down barriers between young people of color and our great outdoors, and we at the National Parks Conservation Association could not be prouder to present him this award. His drive to bring communities together truly embodies the values of our national parks. Juan knows that natural and cultural resources can help heal trauma, inspire change, and build bridges. His thoughtful, intentional use of Indigenous practices, collaborative thinking, and respect for diverse cultures make him a national park advocate like no other.” Pierno added.

Juan D. Martinez Pineda, Co-Founder of Fresh Tracks, said: “I am deeply honored to receive the Robin W. Winks Award, recognizing the vital importance of enhancing public understanding of our national parks. In the heart of every national park beats the pulse of our shared humanity and democracy.”

He continued, “Through Fresh Tracks, we’ve embarked on a journey of empowerment, unity, and healing. My vision is to continue to break barriers, build connections, and pave the way for a more inclusive outdoor legacy. This honor reaffirms my commitment to fostering a diverse, equitable, and accessible landscape for all, as a profound testament to the belief that the outdoors belongs to everyone.”

Sara Capen

Sara Capen, Chair of the Alliance for National Heritage Areas, which will receive NPCA’s 2024 National Park Achievement Award.

camera icon Ally Spongr

The Alliance of National Heritage Areas, led by Chair Sara Capen, will receive this year’s National Park Achievement Award. This award recognizes outstanding efforts by an individual, group, or entity whose singular accomplishments on behalf of the National Park System, are worthy of public recognition. The Alliance deserves this award due to their leadership in securing the National Heritage Area Act in December 2022.

“When America’s diverse history was on the line, the Alliance of National Heritage Areas stepped up to defend it. Thanks to their advocacy, Congress created a system for our country’s national heritage areas, bipartisan public-private partnerships that help communities protect the history in their backyard. From the factory floor where Ford built the first Model T to the Underground Railroad stop at Niagara Falls, this history can live on for generations because of the Alliance. National Parks Conservation Association staff are grateful to work alongside them and honored to present them with the National Park Achievement Award.” Pierno concluded.

Sara Capen, Chair of the Alliance of National Heritage Areas, said: “National Heritage Areas demonstrate the power of tight-knit communities, layered in history and lived in today. We strive to reveal the soul of America by preserving not only diverse stories, but the voices behind those stories so future generations can understand, learn and be inspired.

"The passage of the National Heritage Area Act is a direct reflection of the determination and resilience of National Heritage Areas and the hundreds of communities we represent across America. The Alliance of National Heritage Areas is profoundly grateful to receive this award and for the tireless leadership and support we received from Congress, NPCA and our many partners.” Capen concluded.

The National Parks Conservation Association’s annual Salute to the Parks gala offers one of the most influential gatherings of the conservation and environmental communities. This annual event celebrates our national parks and the people around the country who speak up on their behalf. Learn more at


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit