WAFWA Honors Career Achievements of Western Conservation Professionals

Media Contacts: Tom Harvey, TPWD, 512-389-4453, tom.harvey@tpwd.texas.gov, Larry Kruckenberg, WAFWA 307.631.4536, larry.kruckenberg@wafwa.org

Media Contact: TPWD News Business Hours, 512-389-8030

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Texas and Utah professionals recognized for their contributions

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The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is honoring conservation professionals from several western states with awards lauding their work to conserve fish and wildlife resources. Clay Brewer from Texas and Bill Bates from Utah have each been honored with the Professional of the Year Award.

Clay Brewer is Wild Sheep Coordinator for WAFWA and his career spans three decades of natural resource contributions across Texas and the western states. During his TPWD career he has served in various roles in the wildlife division, including as a wildlife division regional director and acting wildlife division director. He became WAFWA’s Wild Sheep Working Group Chair in 2011 and has furthered conservation goals for wild sheep throughout the West on numerous fronts. Yet Brewer’s life work to restore desert bighorn sheep extends way back, to 1996, when he became project leader at TPWD’s Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area in far West Texas. Here Brewer found his “professional calling” in bighorn sheep management, and he began forging his leadership skills, managing a dedicated group of professional staff tasked with bringing desert bighorn sheep populations back to historic levels. He worked tirelessly to re-establish eroded relationships with important landowner partners and spent countless hours on the road and around the kitchen table building trust and scratching out important cooperative agreements. These efforts improved department access and enhanced working partnerships crucial to continued bighorn sheep restoration, relationships which to this day remain highly valuable for conservation work.

Brewer also worked hard to finalize and publish the historic, comprehensive, and widely-used report “Records of Wild Sheep Translocations in the U.S. and Canada, 1922-present” (2015). His communication skills and power of persuasion brought together the wild sheep managers, veterinarians and specialists on WAFWA’s Wildlife Health Committee to work collaboratively on wild sheep disease and health issues. One of many successful offshoots of this effort was to secure Wild Sheep Foundation funding for a July 2015 wild sheep disease surveillance training session in Fort Collins, CO, considered by wildlife veterinarians and wild sheep managers as one of the most worthwhile training sessions they had ever attended. Following that, Clay led the effort to develop a West-wide Adaptive Wild Sheep Disease Management Venture, which was advanced by WAFWA as its sole National Conservation Need for the 2016-2017 cycle. He also worked closely with wild sheep conservation NGOs to secure outside funding to assist WAFWA agency efforts, relying on his wide reputation for knowledge, dedication, collaboration, and leadership.

Bates began his career with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in 1977 as a seasonal employee, and became a full-time biologist in 1982. He has served in numerous roles in his career, most recently as wildlife section chief. His commitment to building partnerships to benefit conservation has been apparent throughout his career. He is also lauded for his leadership efforts among WAFWA wildlife chiefs and his mentoring of his colleagues. His co-workers say that he has had a huge positive influence on the next generation of Utah wildlife professionals.

WAFWA is proud to honor the conservation efforts of federal partners with the Federal Conservation Partner of the Year Award. This is the first time this award has been conferred and the inaugural recipient is Kathi Stopher with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As visitor services manager at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Stopher has partnered with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on an innovative educational partnership that has helped more than 10,000 students explore the habits and habitats of Utah wildlife.

More information about WAFWA and the other awards presented is on the WAFWA website.