September 28, 2010

Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Recognizes 2010 Annual Award Recipients for Their Commitment to Conservation Excellence

Seth Gordon Award: John Frampton


Ernest Thompson Seton Award: Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Deputy Director, John Emmerich


Mark Reeff Memorial Award: Cristy Gayle Burch


National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award: Bamberger Ranch


Conservation Law Enforcement Award: Lt. Richard Thomas and Inv. Dan Sullivan


Special Recognition Awards: Christopher Estes, Dr. Robert Blohm, Dr. Sally Guynn and Jay McAninch

2010 Annual Awards Recipients:


Seth Gordon Award
John Frampton
Director, South Carolina Department of Natural Resource


The Seth Gordon Award is the Association’s highest honor and is conferred on individuals who have worked steadfastly and effectively for the best use of North American Natural Resources in the public trust and for their contributions to the programs of the Association. This award was established in honor of Seth Gordon who had one of the longest, continuous careers in fish and wildlife conservation in honor of his 50 years of service to the Association representing state agencies and as a member of Association staff.


John Frampton has been engaged nationally and with the Association, serving on a multitude of committees, subcommittees working groups and task forces, many of which he chaired or co-chaired to advance professional fish and wildlife management. He has been a member of two Presidential White House conferences on Conservation where he was the primary spokesperson for state fish and wildlife agencies. He is the Association’s 2009-2010 President and is currently serving as a board member on the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports and the federal Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Council.


A significant focus throughout Frampton’s career has been the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. He has been an active member of the Atlantic Flyway Council for most of his career and represents the Council on the North American Waterfowl Plan Committee. He helped to establish and is a past chair of the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and served on the North American Wetlands Conservation Council as a state technical staff member and helped develop the North American Bird Conservation initiative.


As a member of the NABCI Steering Committee he has been equally engaged in developing conservation partnerships with non-governmental conservation and sporting organizations; the Southeast Association of Fish and Wildlife agencies and the Atlantic Fisheries Commission.


“What a year it has been [serving as AFWA President] and what an honor,” said Frampton. “I can’t think of any other honor that could mean more to me, besides a few more grandchildren.”


Ernest Thompson Seton Award
Group: Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD)
Individual: John Emmerich, Deputy Director, WGFD


The Ernest Thompson Seton Award was established to bring public attention to the need for and benefits of scientific wildlife management and to recognize the agency has taken a strong position in support of the integrity of its professional program and its individual team leader. Wildlife illustrator, author and co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, Seton was considered one of America’s most influential conservationists, dedicating his life to educating people about nature and instilling a deeper understanding of the natural world.


Perhaps no where in the country is the issue of energy larger and more important than in Wyoming, where world-class energy resources—oil and gas, coal, wind and uranium—occur together with world-class wildlife resources throughout most of the state.


Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Deputy Director, John Emmerich, and his highly capable staff have taken the lead in the development and implementation of a number of regionally and nationally important science-based tools and initiatives to achieve a balanced scientific approach to considering and conserving fish and wildlife resources during energy exploration and development. Emmerich has chaired the Association’s Energy and Policy Committee and the onshore Oil and Gas Sub-Committee.


WGFD’s substantial body of work includes:

  • Developing Guidelines for Development of Oil and Gas Resources within Crucial and Important Wildlife Habitats;
  • Developing guidelines for conserving wildlife habitat during development of wind energy;
  • Developing the “Sage Grouse Core Concept” which identifies the most important habitats for sage grouse and recommends protective measures for these areas; and
  • Taking a lead role in working with federal agencies to develop and implement the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative that identifies needs and opportunities for wildlife habitat enhancement to offset impacts of energy development in western Wyoming.


“Among the many issues facing today’s fish and wildlife agencies, balancing the need to develop domestic energy resources while maintaining wildlife populations and their habitats is one of the most challenging,” said Wayne MacCallum, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Director and Chair of the Association’s Awards Committee. “Wildlife professionals are the beneficiaries of the substantial, science-driven foundation that Emmerich and his staff have provided in dealing with energy development.”


Mark J. Reeff Memorial Award
Cristy Gayle Burch, GIS Specialist, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department


The Mark J. Reeff Memorial Award recognizes young professionals under the age of 35, who have distinguished themselves by outstanding commitment to wildlife management, willingly accepted more difficult challenges and inspired others to do the same. Reeff served as the Association’s Resource Director before his passing in 1997 at the age of 41.


After attaining her BS and MS degrees from Texas A&I University, Christi Gayle Burch became the sole instructor for Tarleton State University’s (TSU) fledgling Wildlife Management program. handling undergraduate and graduate level course development, daily lectures and student advising. In the course of three-and-a-half years as an instructor, she transformed what was an opportunity to teach a few wildlife courses to developing an accredited wildlife program that is producing graduates.


Five years ago, Burch was hired by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as a GIS Specialist working in the Texas Wildlife Information System. Since then, she has helped a few thousand people, field staff and the general public, get comfortable using the Texas Wildlife Information System (TWIMS). This system changed a very manual process of hand-delivering and filling out forms to one where all data can be entered through the internet. Burch was instrumental in getting people, including non-technical elderly landowners, over a huge learning curve.


“When presented with a problem, [Burch] thinks of all staff that would be affected by the problem and/or its solution—from a telephone operator to a field biologist to a program manager, she takes the time to determine what is needed and then she carefully considers the effort needed to provide a solution,” said Ruben Cantu, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Region 1 Director for Wildlife.


“She can solve very specific technical issues as well as high level, process flow issues. No matter how big or small the problem, she is never afraid of a challenge and the level of support provided to customers is absolutely unparalled,” concluded Cantu.


National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award
Bamberger Ranch, Texas


The National Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award honors an individual- or family-run farm, ranch or forest operation that has incorporated proactive conservation and environmental protection measures in the management of their land.


More than 40 years ago, J. David Bamberger bought 5,500 acres of hardscrabble, rock-strewn land near Johnson City, Texas. The property was bone dry, former springs did not flow, creeks were empty and Ashe juniper was rampant on the overgrazed grange. Undeterred, Bamberger began managing the land using Leopold’s tools of fire, plow, axe, gun and cow with the goal of re-establishing balance in the ecosystem. Today, this 1,700 head working ranch is a model for a conservation-minded, cow-calf operation.


In 1970, baseline surveys by Audubon and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists found less than 50 species of birds on the ranch. The most recent surveys counted 214 species including the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo. He has been the driving force in the reintroduction of Texas snowbells, an extremely rare, listed, endangered plant.


In addition to improving grass and shrub habitat for wildlife, the ranch has installed bluebird, owl, purple martin and wren boxes and a tower for Chimney Swifts. The ranch has become famous for its man-made bat cave, which is a national colony of 200,000 bats now roosting in the chripotorium during the warmer parts of the year.


The ranch also has instituted an educational outreach and ecotourism program, hosting more than 4,000 tours a year and working with local schools and other institutions to bring children to ranch to learn about nature first-hand. Bamberger has established a private 501(C)3 foundation, placing 4,900 acres of the ranch into a deed-restricted preserve—Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve—with a staff of four and a 13-member Board of Directors.


“[Bamberger] provides water just as he provides habitat, leadership and conservation education, not because of potential profit, but because of passion,” said David Langford, Texas Wildlife Association’s Vice President Emeritus. “When he purchased his land and began to manage it, people laughed at his optimism. Today, they applaud his vision and strive to follow his pioneering footsteps.”


Conservation Law Enforcement Award
Lt. Richard Thomas and Investigator Dan Sullivan
“Operation Shellshock”
New York Department of Conservation, Law Enforcement Division


The Conservation Law Enforcement Award recognizes outstanding achievements in fish and wildlife resource enforcement by an individual, a unit, bureau of a division or a combination, to enhance the professionalism and significant advancement of conservation law enforcement efforts.


“Operation Shellshock” is the largest, most successful undercover wildlife operation the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has ever completed. A multi-year, multi-state undercover investigation, Operation Shellshock addressed the statewide, interstate and international illegal trade in reptiles and amphibians. Most of the conception, organization and undercover work were done by Lt. Richard Thomas and Investigator Dan Sullivan.


Throughout 2007-2008, the undercover investigators slipped into the herp world and came back time and again with cases of a magnitude that exceeded initial expectations. They found New York’s timber rattlesnakes and wood turtles being shipped out of state and out of the country to support high-end markets for illegal collectors. They found thousands of New York turtles being laundered through a turtle farm in Louisiana and then shipped to China. They found thousands more being trapped illegally in New York and sold in Maryland to be shipped internationally as meat. They successfully traded with a smuggler from Canada and recovered an entire wild population of endangered massasauga rattlesnakes.


To date 37 individuals in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Louisiana and Canada have been charged with wildlife crimes as a result of Operation Shellshock or are part of ongoing investigations. Twenty-eight of the defendants have pled guilty and six are still on-going. More than $118,000 has been collected in fines and one of the two open federal cases is expected to settle with a $100,000 penalty.


“Operation Shellshock will stand out among operations done elsewhere for both its magnitude and meaningfulness,” said MacCallum. “Shellshock can, and will be a springboard for positive change on all fronts involving ecologically significant species.”


Special Recognition Awards
Each year, the Association recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves with an outstanding commitment to the work of the Association.


Christopher Estes
Chief, Alaska Fish and Game, Aquatic Resources Coordination Unit


Christopher Estes has been an active participant in AFWA committees for more than 15 years and has dedicated himself to the mission of AFWA and the states’ role in the management of our national resources. He has been a key figure in the development and implementation of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. Upon the launch of the Plan, Estes became a core staff person to the National Fish Habitat Board, even accepting a one-year detail at AFWA’s DC office to ensure the Board and the Plan had the dedicated support it needed to get off the ground. One colleague has aptly noted that Estes is the “conscience” of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, ensuring the Board stays the course with the original vision for aquatic habitat conservation in this country. He has played a similar role in the work of the In-Stream Flow Council.


Estes is passionate about healthy fish and aquatic ecosystems and is a font of institutional knowledge. He sees the big picture, connections between past actions, future needs, and the how state, federal and non-governmental entities can work together to achieve conservation.


Dr. Robert Blohm
Chief, Division of Migratory Bird Management,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Dr. Bob Blohm has been at the forefront of North American waterfowl management for most of his 30-plus year career with the USFWS. His expertise in waterfowl management programs, including population surveys, harvest, banding and research, has placed him in the unique position to be responsible for various databases critical to the management of North America’s waterfowl resources. Blohm also has played a crucial role in the development of waterfowl hunting regulations for more than two decades helping guide its evolution from an arduous, often contentiously driven process to a more objective, adaptive process working effectively with state fish and wildlife agencies, Flyway Councils, foreign natural resource agencies, NGOs and the public.


Blohm has been, and still is a key contributor to the North American Waterfowl Plan (NAWMP) first as a charter member of the NAWMP’s first Continental Evaluation Team (now called the NAWMP Science Support Team) that was responsible for developing an evaluation program for the Plan. He has continued to support the Plan through active participation and leadership in Joint Ventures; he is a long-serving member of the Black Duck Joint Venture Management Board; and currently serves as the U.S. co-chair of the Sea Duck Joint Venture Management Board. He is also the U.S. Co-chair of the Trilateral Committee’s Migratory Bird Table, coordinating migratory bird management activities among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.


Dr. Sally Guynn
Project Leader, Management Assistance Team / Executive Director, National Conservation Leadership Institute


Dr. Sally Guynn has been a member of the Management Assistance Team (MAT) since 1995 and is the Executive Director of the National Conservation Leadership Institute. Guynn took the Association- and USFWS-promoted concept of a National Conservation Leadership Development Program and working with the MAT Team developed a world-class, award-winning program. She drew upon her background in fish and wildlife and her Doctorate in organizational development to create the comprehensive curriculum offered by the Institute and working with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, she was able to recruit some of the best individuals to speak and participate in the implementation of the program. The National Conservation Leadership Institute has become a nationally recognized and highly sought after experience within the wildlife profession.


The importance of the success of this program was recognized this past March when the Boone and Crockett Club presented AFWA with a national award for being instrumental in founding the National Conservation Leadership Institute and she received this year’s prestigious Paul C. Weikel Memorial Award from the Organization of Wildlife Planners.


Jay McAninch
President and CEO, Archery Trade Association (ATA)


Jay McAninch has worked tirelessly in support of the state fish and wildlife agencies’ most important issues—specifically Federal Aid, excise taxes, recruitment and the strengthening of the close relationship between the state agencies and the industries that are closely related to hunting and fishing. He has been a leader in the formulation of the Industry/Agency Coalition, an annual gathering of industry leaders and state and federal fish and wildlife agency directors. The coalition has served to rebuild the relationship between industry and agencies that is the foundation of the North American Model for Wildlife Conservation.


An offshoot of the coalition has been the creation of the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports to develop comprehensive national hunter and shooter recruitment efforts. McAninch has been an irreplaceable supporter and will serve on the council’s board. In addition, his leadership within the archery industry led to the ATA providing the initial and continued support for the National Archery in the Schools Program, which has been successful in getting young people shooting bows and one step closer to becoming bow hunters and/or archers.

2011 Annual Awards and Meeting
The nominating period for the 2011 Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies Annual Awards will open in spring 2011. The next Annual Meeting will be held September 11-14, 2011 in Omaha, Nebraska.


Previous Awards recipients


2009 Award Winners


2008 Award Winners


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