Defenders Honors Wildlife Conservation Leaders

Defenders celebrates wildlife conservation leaders.

Last week, Defenders hosted our annual Wildlife Conservation Awards Dinner at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. The annual event brings together Defenders Board of Directors, National Council, members of Congress and other supporters to celebrate members of the conservation community who have made lasting and extraordinary contributions to wildlife and habitat conservation. Congratulations to this year’s honorees! Read more about our awardees below.

Spirit of Defenders Legacy Award – Brock Evans

From left to right: Jamie Rappaport Clark, Brock Evans

“Brock Evans is a builder. He builds alliances. He changes minds, He creates. As president of the Endangered Species Coalition, he has united over 400 scientific societies, environmental and sportsmen’s associations, religious groups and other under the Endangered Species Coalition to defend imperiled wildlife and protect the Endangered Species Act.” – Major General Michael R. Lehnert

Brock Evans has been a committed advocate for wildlife and public lands for more than 40 years. Since 1997 he has served as president of the Endangered Species Coalition, an alliance of over 400 scientific societies, environmental and sportsmen’s associations, religious groups and others dedicated to protecting imperiled wildlife and the Endangered Species Act. He was also vice president for national issues for the National Audubon Society for 15 years and spent 14 years with the Sierra Club focusing on forest, wilderness and energy policies and their implications for public lands. A prolific writer and public speaker, Evans has done scholarly work at the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, Harvard’s Institute of Politics and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in Israel.

Spirit of Defenders Public Service Award – Senator Martin Heinrich

From left to right: Jamie Rappaport Clark, Senator Martin Heinrich

“Senator Heinrich’s dedication to wild lands, wildlife and conservation is as genuine as it gets. With his passion, intelligence and conservation know-how in the U.S. Senate, he has been a champion in protecting and conserving New Mexico’s treasured public lands and wildlife that call them home.” – Bryan Bird

Representing New Mexico, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich is a champion for his state’s burgeoning clean energy economy, and a staunch defender of the Endangered Species Act and our treasured public lands. He is a proponent of renewable energy as a means of combating the devastating effects of climate change and serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

He is also the ranking member of the Subcommittee on National Parks and a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. Heinrich was instrumental in the designation of the Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks national monuments and the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Area and in transitioning management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve to the National Park Service to increase public access.

Spirit of Defenders Science Award – Dr. Thomas D. Sisk

From left to right: Jamie Rappaport Clark, Dr. Thomas Sisk, Judith Posnikoff

“Dr. Sisk’s work in environmental management is unmatched, as is his commitment to biological diversity and the restoration and sustainable management of our public lands. He has excelled at bringing together ranchers, environmentalists, and policymakers alike to find new ways to safeguard our land, water, and natural resources.” – Marcey Olajos

Dr. Thomas Sisk is a pioneer in science-based landscape-level analysis of wildlife habitat and the engagement of diverse voices in conservation planning. Dedicated to training the next generation of conservation leaders, he is the Olajos-Goslow Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at Northern Arizona University (NAU). He also leads NAU’s Landscape Conservation Initiative, which works to improve conservation policy and on-the-ground results through field research, remote-sensing techniques and spatial and statistical modeling. He is a founding board member of Conservation Science Partners which provides advanced quantitative research and planning services for conservation projects. Prior to joining the NAU faculty, Sisk was the special assistant for science to the director of the National Biological Survey.

Spirit of Defenders Citizen Advocacy Award – Dr. Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston

From left to right: Jamie Rappaport Clark, Dr. Nathan Varley, Linda Thurston, Judith Posnikoff

“Their outstanding wildlife tours and natural history programs in the park have educated and inspired hundreds of visitors every single year. This important work can be transformative, giving visitors a firsthand view of all that Yellowstone has to offer, and helping to guide opinions toward a more positive and complete understanding of conservation.” – Cassie Carroll

Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston are wildlife biologists and naturalists specializing in the ecology, biodiversity and history of Yellowstone National Park. Nathan grew up in a community inside the park and studied the effects of wolf recovery on the northern Yellowstone elk herd for his Ph.D. Linda has researched wolf denning behavior in Yellowstone and wolf-livestock conflict resolution throughout the Rocky Mountains. Nathan and Linda were members of the Yellowstone Wolf Project’s reintroduction team in the 1990s and early 2000s and continue to contribute to the project’s research and education initiatives.

Over 10 years ago, they co-founded Yellowstone Wolf Tracker, a company that specializes in wildlife tours and natural history programs in the park and educates hundreds of visitors each year. Together, Nathan and Linda have dedicated their lives not only to understanding wildlife behavior and ecology but to advocating for the sustained recovery of wolves and other apex predators on our public lands.

Leading the Pack

Defenders of Wildlife salutes all of the honorees celebrated at this year’s Wildlife Conservation Awards Dinner – we are so grateful for your inspiring leadership and advocacy! Thank you to everyone who supports our mission and our work throughout the year! We truly couldn’t protect imperiled wildlife and their habitats without you!

3 Responses to “Defenders Honors Wildlife Conservation Leaders”

  1. Diana Tourville-Hudspeth

    I am so proud that wolves are being thought of and remembered, and that there are people that still care about these magnificent animals. Thank you Defenders for all you do for wildlife, bears, and our beautiful wolves. When my mother was a small girl she lived in Missouri and had to walk a long way through the woods to get to school everyday. A 4-5 member wolf family followed her on her journey daily to school. When my mom got to the school they stopped at the ridge and watch her go in. Then they left. This happened daily. Amazing! They were taking care that she made it safely there.

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  2. Frank Gorecki

    This is such an impressive group of honorees, and now i understand just how effective Defenders is covering the landscape from science thru policy and boots on the ground. And of course, Nathan and Linda are boots on the ground that educated me in the YNP wildlife workshop — Thank you Defenders for highlighting the contributions of these wildlife conservation leaders.

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