Cutline for the photo: WAFWA award winners (left to right): Craig McMullen (AZ), Joanna Prukop (NM), Mathew Heller (MT), David Stambaugh (NM), Nicole Kozicki (CA), and Jim Heffelfinger (AZ)
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has honored conservation professionals from several western states with awards lauding their work to conserve fish and wildlife resources.
Joanna Prukop from New Mexico was honored with WAFWA’s most prestigious award, the Phillip W. Schneider Lifetime Achievement Award. Prukop’s distinguished career began at the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in 1976 as a conservation officer. She served as a regional public information officer before becoming Northeast Regional Division Chief in 1986, the first female to serve in that role. She also was a founding member of the New Mexico Association of Environmental Education. She retired from state service after more than 26 years, but her dedication to conservation continued and she was tapped by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in 2003 to be Cabinet Secretary for the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department. In that role she led efforts to improve environmental protection by working with the energy industry and also improved the state park system by providing increased natural area protection and providing park visitors with additional recreational and educational opportunities. Among numerous other boards and committees, Prukop served on committees for the Western Governors’ Association, New Mexico’s Natural Lands Protection Committee, the Governor’s Clean Energy Development Council and also was the first chair of the Energy Policy Committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The award Prukop received is named for Phillip W. Schneider of Oregon, whose legendary commitment to fish and wildlife resources spanned more than 40 years in a career in which he served as director of the state’s game and fish agency, and later as a commissioner and commissioner emeritus of Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission.
California Fish and Wildlife Officer Nicole Kozicki was honored with the Pogue-Elms Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award for her tireless pursuit of environmental crimes during her 28-year career. She joined the California Department of Fish and Wildlife when she was 20 years old as part of the agency’s very first Fish and Game Academy. Early on, she specialized in the field of environmental crimes. She has investigated hundreds of cases which involved the take of state and federally listed threatened and endangered species. Her cases have brought public awareness to the importance of saving vital habitat in urban areas of California. The Pogue-Elms Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award memorializes Idaho Fish and Game officers Bill Pogue and Conley Elms, who were killed in January 1981 while trying to arrest a poacher in a remote region of southwestern Idaho.
Craig McMullen from Arizona received WAFWA’s Professional of the Year Award for his career achievements at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. He’s been with the agency since 1993, first as a wildlife manager, but quickly moved up the ladder to positions of increasing responsibility. He has served as a habitat specialist, field supervisor and chief of a new Wildlife Recreation Branch, which was created in 2009. In 2012 he returned to his field roots and took over as Flagstaff Regional Supervisor. His colleagues say that over the course of his 24-year career, he has demonstrated the leadership, managerial and technical skills of a consummate wildlife professional.
WAFWA is proud to honor the conservation efforts of federal partners with the Federal Conservation Partner of the Year Award. This year’s recipient is Mathew Heller, who is a data manager and GIS specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Montana. Heller was nominated by WAFWA’s Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool Technical Team for his support of ongoing efforts to provide more efficient and effective access to state wildlife data to better inform on-the-ground conservation efforts.
The awards were presented July 10 at WAFWA’s annual conference, held this year in Vail, Colorado. The conference was hosted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Other awards conferred included the President's Award, which went to the Mule Deer Working Group, led by Jim Heffelfinger from Arizona. The Commission of the Year Award went to the New Mexico State Game Commission. The WAFWA Contributor of the Year Award went to Scott Lavin with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The Alaska Wood Bison Reintroduction Effort received a Special Achievement Award, and special recognition went to the Western States Wolverine Conservation Effort. WAFWA recognized the outstanding citizen wildlife contributor by honoring David Stambaugh from New Mexico. WAFWA also conferred lifetime membership awards to three individuals for their career accomplishments and service to the organization: Ron Anglin (OR), Greg Sheehan (UT) and Larry Voyles, (AZ).
Larry Kruckenberg, 307.631.4536
WAFWA news releases available at http://www.wafwa.org/news/
Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 23 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.
Photo Credit: Mike DelliVeneri Colorado Parks and Wildlife
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