AFWA Honors its 2017 Annual Awards Recipients

September 19, 2017

The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) recognized nine individuals, one state agencies and one private landowner for their dedication to advancing fish and wildlife conservation at the Association’s Annual Awards Ceremony held on September 12, 2017 in Snowbird, Utah. 
Larry Voyles 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.
Larry’s name is iconic with the Association due to his number of leadership roles, his level of impact, and help in uniting 50 states. He has devoted his 43-year career to wildlife conservation and our outdoor heritage, including nine years as a state director and as AFWA President in 2014-15.
Larry Voyles began his career with Arizona Game and Fish as a District Wildlife Manager with responsibilities for wildlife management, fisheries management, public affairs and law enforcement at a district level. After a decade in the field, he rose through the ranks, serving as the Department’s first Law Enforcement Training Coordinator, then as a Regional Supervisor, and ultimately the position as Director. His tenure as Director will be remembered for his embrace of technology to modernize the Department, his national efforts to unite state conservation agencies to provide better resources for wildlife and habitat management, and his support of multiple-use public lands. Under his leadership, the Department developed new entrepreneurial business models for the support of state-led conservation and has charted innovative relationships with businesses and industries.
Larry has become a recognized national leader in shooting sports, recruitment and retention into the outdoor sports, and conservation of the nation's wildlife; leading AFWA efforts to access the opinions of State Wildlife Agency Directors regarding the impact of federal encroachment on state wildlife management authorities; and led the efforts to assess the significant contribution of State Wildlife Agencies to the fabric of America’s conservation system. Larry has served on a variety of national boards, including his tenure as President of AFWA and, and service on numerous other AFWA committees, including the Executive Committee.
John Doerr 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.
A lifelong hunter and angler, John Doerr’s professional career has been dedicated to helping businesses become successful by providing outstanding outdoor recreation equipment to anglers, golfers, and bicycle enthusiasts from all over the world. His leadership in working across the broad conservation spectrum has enabled millions of people to develop a passion of the outdoors along with strong ethic of environmental stewardship. John service to conservation includes the Congressional Sportsman’s Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation.

A member of the Blue Ribbon Panel, John brought his business acumen to create a sound strategy and marketing plan for this important initiative. John also serves his community, establishing the Pure Fishing Family Foundation and is a board member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Carolina. Being a father of a son in military service, John is dedicated to helping military veterans return to civilian life. John helped develop a partnership between the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance and the AFL-CIO.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Wildlife Management Division Chief Brad Carner and Communications Division Chief Keith Stephens received AFWA’s Earnest Thompson Seton Award for leadership in scientific management. This year’s recipients were recognized for their extraordinary response to the discovery of chronic wasting disease in Arkansas deer and elk herds in early 2016.
Chronic wasting disease may be the biggest challenge the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has faced, not only in this century, but the last several decades since the agency began restoring the state’s deer population from next to nothing to its strong numbers today. Throughout the remainder of 2016, more than 250 Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff would dedicate more than 37,000 man hours to public awareness and scientific wildlife management efforts. An extensive communication and public outreach campaign effort rapidly and productively educated stakeholders. While there was a high amount of public interest, Arkansas did not see an expected decline in hunting license sales and saw over 200,000 deer harvested for the fifth consecutive year; largely thanks to these combined efforts.
The initial response has greatly educated hunters and the general public about the disease. This year’s recipients went above and beyond in leading the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s response to the largest conservation challenge since the dawn of modern-day conservation in that state.
Keith Warnke, program lead for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Hunting for Food program, is the recipient of this year’s Boone and Crockett Award, which honors an agency and team leader for outstanding achievement in promoting and encouraging outdoor ethics.
Keith is the program lead of what started as a pilot program in 2012 with a focus on recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) of hunters. Designed and built to model adaptive R3, Wisconsin’s Hunting for Food program has a strong connection to outdoor ethics. The program offers a four week course that teaches everything about hunting from how to get a license to what a bag limit is to how to field dress, butcher, cook, and store wild game. The connection to ethics centers on experienced and conscientious mentors who have the desire to teach beyond the harvest aspect of hunting. Course participants come to the program with life experience, a desire to learn and already established ethics. Based on their belief and interest in local healthy eating, their ethics align perfectly with what is important to the future of hunting.
Keith’s efforts are directed toward changing the discussion surrounding hunter and angler recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) to focus on outcomes rather than outputs and how upcoming generations and growing interest in sustainable food sourcing could mitigate the impending decline in hunter and angler numbers and increase societal relevancy of conservation. Promoting, expanding, and evaluating Wisconsin DNR’s Hunting for Food program make up a large part of his current duties. The general approach of Hunting for Food and Wisconsin DNR’s syllabus has been implemented in several additional states.

Tasha Bauman with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department received the Mark Reeff Memorial Award for the outstanding young wildlife management professional under age 35. Tasha is known for her amazing attitude about just about everything and her dedication to increase their skills to become a better employee, a better scientist, and a better leader. She is not only an extremely valuable employee of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wildlife Forensic Laboratory; she is an essential component of the international wildlife forensic community as well as the Laramie area.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish- Field Operations Division was selected as the 2016 Conservation Law Enforcement Award recipient for its work in bringing a to justice a serial poacher. The level of collaboration, outside the box thinking, tenacity, dedication, and quality of work displayed by a large number of these officers and employees, in addition to the overall effect this case has had on conservation law enforcement in New Mexico, truly displays a dedication to protecting the resource and professionalism at its highest level. The successful resolution of this case required coordination and cooperation with two other state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and numerous local officers and agencies. The end result was a successful prosecution and more importantly, the successful passage of our first felony wildlife statute ever during the 2017 legislative session. The work done by our officers in this case truly displays a dedication to protecting the resource and professionalism at its highest level.
This year’s recipient of AFWA’s Private Lands Fish and Wildlife Stewardship Award is Louise Klarr and the Maggie Creek Ranch for their proactive conservation and environmental practices and exhibiting outstanding stewardship of fish and wildlife resources.
Maggie Creek Ranch is in the business of producing high quality beef marketed across multiple segments of the industry while conserving and improving public and private lands; and furthering their standing in the communities they interact with to enhance the value of the ranch as an asset. Their goal is to be the best possible stewards of their resources (natural, financial, and human) while feeding the world through production agriculture. They see a challenge such as an Endangered Species Act listing as an opportunity for conservation projects for the betterment of the ranch.
Finally, the Association presented two special recognition awards for outstanding commitment to the work of AFWA to Chris Segal and Dr. Steve Kellert.
Over the past year, Chris Segal has been an indispensable part of AFWA’s Legal Strategy Advisory Council and ESA Legislative Drafting Team. Chris practices law with the esteemed conservationist Lowell E. Baier, and has lent his expertise to Mr. Baier’s excellent 2016 book Inside the Equal Access to Justice Act, as well as a forthcoming book on the Endangered Species Act.
The world lost a shining star on November 27th, 2016 at the age of 73, when Stephen Robert Kellert lost his courageous battle with multiple myeloma. Known as the “Godfather of Biophila,” Steve was the Tweedy Ordway Professor Emeritus of Social Ecology and Senior Research Scholar at the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. His work focused on understanding the connection between nature and humanity with a particular interest in the human need for nature, environmental conservation, and sustainable design and development. Steve’s accomplishments are many but it was his wonderful sense of joy, humor, adventure in living and love of others that will be missed the most. He was genuinely interested in everyone he met. His legacy is a zest for and appreciation for life.