The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies recognized eleven individuals, three state agencies and one private landowner for their dedication to advancing fish and wildlife conservation at the Association’s Annual Awards Ceremony held virtually on September 14, 2020.
SETH GORDON AWARD
Gordon Myers received AFWA’s top honor, the Seth Gordon Award, for lifetime achievement in conserving North America’s natural resources in the public trust and contributing to the programs of the Association.
In his nearly 30-year career with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, including 12 years as Executive Director, Gordon thrived on new challenges. He led construction of the agency’s headquarters building, the first LEED-rated state building, demonstrating the agency’s commitment to environmentally friendly practices.
Gordon has served on many state, regional, and federal councils, resulting in myriad conservation outcomes and lasting partnerships along the way. His leadership within North Carolina has improved policies, practices, and leadership within the agency; forged strong partnerships with federal leadership that led to alignment on challenging issues; and successfully advocated for conservation and recreation funding.
JOHN L. MORRIS AWARD
Dr. Mamie Parker received AFWA’s John L. Morris Award, which recognizes a lifetime commitment to fish and wildlife stewardship by citizen conservationists who have exhibited exemplary leadership at the highest level and demonstrated a steadfast commitment to large scale natural resource challenges.
After retiring from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mamie has spent her time and energy working tirelessly as a citizen volunteer in the area of wildlife conservation. Mamie serves on the Board of the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and was the first minority female Chair of the Board. Many achievements across the agency were enabled by Mamie’s support, foresight, and advice. Mamie has served with the same passion and wisdom on the boards of nearly a dozen national and regional conservation organizations, and she works to get youth interested in the outdoors and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
ERNEST THOMPSON SETON AWARD
Wildlife Biologist Lisa Williams and the Pennsylvania Game Commission received AFWA’s Earnest Thompson Seton Award for leadership in scientific management. Lisa was the first researcher to identify the connection between sharply declining ruffed grouse populations and West Nile Virus. Previously, habitat loss was considered the primary driver in grouse population declines. However, Lisa found a strong correlation between grouse declines and the severity of West Nile Virus from year to year. Lisa Williams’ innovative research and her extensive collaboration with hunters, staff, nonprofits, and other agencies is informing science-based management of ruffed grouse across their range.
BOONE AND CROCKETT AWARD
Jim Posewitz and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are the recipients of this year’s Boone and Crockett Award, which honors an agency and team leader for outstanding achievement in promoting and encouraging outdoor ethics.
Jim’s career with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spanned three decades and many roles. Jim was tireless in his efforts to promote the concept of “democracy of the wild,” that wildlife resources belong to the people, helping to articulate the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. In 1994, Jim published his first book, Beyond Fair Chase – The Ethic and Tradition of Hunting. To date more than a million copies have been distributed. Jim passed away July 3, 2020. In Montana and elsewhere, his name is synonymous with outdoor ethics and unwavering integrity.
MARK J. REEFF MEMORIAL AWARD
Mike Ervin with the Ohio Division of Wildlife is the Mark Reeff Memorial Award recipient for the outstanding young wildlife management professional under age 35.
Mike has tackled a number of important and difficult challenges including recently leading a team to convert all of the agency’s in-person hunt drawings to online lotteries as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He also initiated the use of GIS technology to inventory existing infrastructure on state wildlife areas, implemented a statewide equipment inventory and sharing system, streamlined cooperative management contracts to increase habitat management capacity on public lands, and served on a team to develop a new wildlife management workforce model to better utilize available financial and human resources.
PRIVATE LANDS FISH AND WILDLIFE STEWARDSHIP AWARD
This year’s recipient of AFWA’s Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award is Doug Moore and the South Prong Plantation, for proactive conservation and environmental practices and exhibiting outstanding stewardship of fish and wildlife resources. South Prong Plantation is a working, multi‐use timberland operation in northeast Florida that provides wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and a living classroom to teach others how to be better land stewards.
Whether providing tissue samples for monitoring the presence of Chronic Wasting Disease, practicing and mentoring others in prescribed burning, hosting youth hunts, installing nesting structures and habitat for birds, or welcoming researchers to collect data on endangered plants, Doug’s attention to the needs of the forest and its natural inhabitants has paid great dividends in the overall quality of the land and recreation.
STEPHEN KELLERT AWARD
This year’s recipient of the Stephen Kellert Award is the Wildlife on WiFi (WoW) program at the Pennsylvania Game Commission, in recognition of the program’s outstanding service in advancing connections between humans and the natural world to all peoples in a diverse and inclusive manner.
Wildlife on WiFi seeks to connect Pennsylvania residents to their state’s wildlife from anywhere. To achieve this, Wildlife on WiFi provides innovative online learning opportunities, virtual lessons and educational resources about wildlife and its conservation. WoW was designed during the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and state school closures to ensure the agency continued meeting its strategic objective of serving the Pennsylvania public and providing educational services. Since April 20th, WoW has registered over 40,000 engagements and received widespread local and state attention.
GARY TAYLOR AWARD
This year’s recipient of the Gary Taylor Award is Jim Odenkirk with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Always the consummate professional, Jim’s vast legal experience in wildlife conservation issues is a well sought-out commodity by not only his colleagues at the Department, but by wildlife agencies across the country.
Jim serves as a valued contributor on the Association’s Legal Committee, offering information and answers on current and emerging legal issues impacting wildlife agencies. No matter the issue Jim has taken on over the years—and there have been many, from Endangered Species Act rules and litigation to public access to state lands—he puts forth his best effort for the benefit of wildlife conservation efforts now and into the future.
CONSERVATION LAW ENFORCEMENT AWARD
This award goes to Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ Special Operations Unit. During 2010, the agency created a new position to help address the significant number of thefts and other boat-related fraud. Currently five Conservation Police Officers have worked with the Boat Fraud and Theft Special Agent, and together the unit has accomplished a tremendous amount of work. Since 2017, the Special Operations Unit has recovered 68 boats and trailers, with the total value of recovered property at $682,000. The unit also developed and implemented a title fraud education program to help assist agency employees with better identifying potential violations.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARDS
The Association presented six Special Recognition Awards for outstanding commitment to the Association’s work. Collin O’Mara, Jeff Crane, Miles Moretti, Chuck Kowaleski, Steve Sheriff, and the National R3 (Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation of Hunters and Anglers) Implementation Workgroup each received a Special Recognition Award.
No two individuals have been more instrumental in mustering support for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act than Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, and Jeff Crane, President of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
To most in the professional conservation arena, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) represents the most significant and ambitious policy objective in a generation. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF), under Collin O’Mara’s leadership, maintains one of the most diverse affiliate networks in the conservation community. From traditional stakeholders in the hunting and fishing communities to birders and environmental organizations, NWF has leveraged their organizational strength to bring a ready-made, diverse coalition able to tell the story of RAWA from each of their unique lenses.
For nearly 20 years, Jeff Crane has been at the helm of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Despite many political headwinds in a largely divided government, Jeff has been a champion for building and guiding bipartisan support for a number of important conservation policies. With respect to RAWA, Jeff has again proven himself a master coalition builder, working with his staff to help secure vital support among members of Congress.
Miles Moretti has spent his career focused on improving wildlife populations and supporting our country’s hunting heritage. He served for 30 years with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and has led the Mule Deer Foundation for 14 years as their President and CEO. In his career, Miles has focused on influencing national wildlife conservation policy at the federal level, because he understood the large-scale implications of such efforts. He has left a lasting legacy that will be enjoyed by hunters and wildlife enthusiasts across the West.
Chuck Kowaleski had a long and productive career as the Farm Bill Coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Chuck was enthusiastic and fastidious in his work, generous with his time, and encouraging and supportive in his mentorship and friendship. Much of AFWA’s and our members’ success in using the Farm Bill to conserve fish and wildlife and promote native plants is predicated on Chuck’s tireless work. Chuck sadly lost his long battle with brain cancer in March of 2020. He will be remembered as a conservation leader, a loyal AFWA member, and a good friend to many.
Steve Sheriff has been instrumental in his role as the National Survey Technical Advisor, most recently in implementing the Association’s new vision for the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Steve embraced the Association’s efforts to improve the Survey, and his technical expertise and experience was critical to the selection of a new methodology and new vendor. Over the years Steve has been the key cog linking the statistical elements of the National Survey to the needs and realities of state fish and wildlife agencies.
Formed in October 2018, the National R3 Implementation Work Group includes approximately 30 different individuals representing state and federal fish and wildlife agencies, conservation nonprofits, and industry partners. This group has worked tirelessly to collaboratively address key topics to move R3 efforts forward. In July 2019, the group released a report of 10 key R3 Implementation Priorities and since then has worked to develop related tools that will be showcased in a National R3 Clearinghouse.
The Association would like to pay tribute to the wildlife professionals, Fallen Heroes, who have lost their lives while carrying out their duties to enforce conservation laws and regulations and manage fish and wildlife resources within the past year. In memory of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Julian Keen; Wildlife Biologist Dewey Stockbridge, Fish and Wildlife Technician Brandon White, and State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Robert Dittmar of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department; and Captain Stan Elrod with the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.