For the 96th time, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) brought together state, federal and local partners who have an interest in conservation efforts across the West. WAFWA?s annual conference was held in late July in Cody, Wyoming, and was hosted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. More than 400 people from 30 states attended the conference, a record number in recent years. Attendees include directors, commissioners and key staff from western fish and wildlife agencies, as well as federal officials and representatives from key conservation organizations.

The conference theme was Forever Wild. Forever West. Pardners in Conservation, and the plenary session showcased several projects that underscored the value of collaborative conservation efforts, including the recovery efforts for the black-footed ferret.

Nearly 40 individual sessions covered conservation issues of concern, from a meeting of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative Council to numerous committee and working groups meetings regarding various wildlife species and program disciplines to a session on State/Federal/Tribal communications. Outgoing WAFWA president Scott Talbott, director of Wyoming Game and Fish, wrote about the conference in the August issue of Wyoming Wildlife Magazine.

One of the highlights of the WAFWA conference was the opportunity for agency representatives to experience a conservation success story firsthand: the release of black-footed ferrets into the wild. Several busloads of conference attendees headed to Meeteetse, Wyoming, on the final evening of the conference to witness the historic reintroduction of the animal back to the ranches where the species was rediscovered in 1981. Prior to that discovery, the species was believed to be extinct.

Beginning in 1986, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service founded a successful captive breeding program for black-footed ferrets. Captive breeding continues even today and captive bred and raised ferrets have been released throughout western North America.

"This is an historic moment for the recovery of this species. It is an honor for the men and women who serve the public and wildlife in Wyoming to be a part of this effort," said Scott Talbott, director of Wyoming Game and Fish. "This is a biologically sound and historical place to host a reintroduction and we thank the ranch owners for their commitment to recovery of black-footed ferrets. The decades of hard work from Game and Fish and our numerous partners show in these recovery efforts."

Colorado Wildlife Officer Nate Martinez was one of 18 individuals and teams who were honored with awards recognizing their contributions to conservation efforts across the West. Martinez received the prestigious Pogue-Elms Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award for his incredible bravery in a near-fatal encounter with an armed suspect. The award honors 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.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Bob Broscheid was elected as WAFWA's new president at the business meeting at the annual conference.

"It's an honor to serve as the president of WAFWA at such an important time in our history," said Broscheid. "The collaborative conservation efforts we're pioneering in the West are becoming a model for successful efforts elsewhere in the country. We all recognize the conservation challenges and uncertainties ahead and the importance of our leadership has never been greater."
Other board members elected for a year's term are:

First Vice-President:
Curt Melcher, Director, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Second Vice-President:
Keith Sexson, Director, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
Third Vice-President:
Greg Sheehan, Director, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Executive Secretary: Larry Kruckenberg
Treasurer: Deb VonDeBur

WAFWA is pleased to announce the hiring of our new Lesser Prairie-Chicken Program Manager, Roger Wolfe. Wolfe served more than 32 years with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism as a regional supervisor for the agency, managing budgets and people, and he has considerable experience working with state, federal and local partners. In his new role with WAFWA, Wolfe will oversee the day-to-day operations and implementation of the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan, and provide support for staff including a conservation services director, industry services director and four regional biologists. His responsibilities will include development and oversight of reports prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as coordination and communication with various state, federal and local agencies on activities related to the range-wide plan.

"I am honored to be given the opportunity to join WAFWA and the lesser-prairie chicken team," said Wolfe. "For a conservation professional, it?s exciting to be part of the landscape-scale impacts that the range-wide plan provides. All of our partners should be proud of the progress that has been made so far with development and initial implementation of the plan."
 

Photo Credits: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Roger Wolfe
 

WAFWA Mid-Winter Meeting
January 5-8, 2017
The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, Arizona
963 S. Orchard Street, Suite D, Boise, Idaho 83705 | 208-331-9431
Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies  2016 All rights reserved.

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