Earlier today, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever presented seven wildlife professionals with Conservation Service Awards during the 83rd
North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Norfolk, Va. The award winners were selected for their distinguishing contributions to wildlife habitat conservation efforts nationwide, including partnership programs which have achieved landscape-level habitat improvements for a variety of wildlife species.
“Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Conservation Service Awards recognize individuals who have helped impact the mission of our organization through habitat improvements, public access, policy, and R3 initiatives in the United States,” stated Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever. “These folks represent the spirit and motivation of The North American, and are part of the solution for sustaining America’s wildlife populations and outdoor heritage.”
Ryan Bronson – Director of Conservation & Public Policy, Vista Outdoor
Representing a dedicated voice for wildlife habitat conservation efforts as a Life Member of Pheasants Forever and his lengthy involvement in in the hunting industry, Ryan Bronson is the current Director of Conservation and Policy for Vista Outdoor, a leading outdoor products company that manufactures and markets equipment from brands including Federal Premium Ammunition, Savage Arms, Primos, Bushnell, Bell Helmets and Camelbak. Bronson leads the company’s engagement with the conservation community including their generous support of wildlife and public lands organizations, and serves as an advocate for policy that benefits wild places. Prior to joining Vista Outdoor in 2007, he worked on conservation programs and policy at the Minnesota Legislature and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, initiating one of the country’s first hunter recruitment and retention programs in 2003.
Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever has a long history with Vista Outdoor under the umbrella of Federal Premium Ammunition, including the organization’s signature “Prairie Storm” ammunition for upland hunters of which Bronson has provided staunch support for. Federal Premium and Pheasants Forever’s on-box royalty program began in 1998 with Federal Premium’s Pheasants Forever-labeled Wing-Shok shotgun shell boxes. The program evolved in 2010 with the revolutionary Prairie Storm specialty pheasant load, and it continued to grow in 2011 with the introduction of Prairie Storm FS Steel. A portion of the proceeds from each Pheasants Forever logoed box sold goes directly to the conservation group’s wildlife habitat efforts, contributing to sustainable pheasant populations and increased upland hunter participation.
Bronson is a professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club, Life Member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Quality Deer Management Association, and also serves on the Board of Directors for the Mule Deer Foundation, National Deer Alliance, Pass it On Outdoor Mentors and the Arachnid Society.
Kevin Kading – Private Lands Coordinator, North Dakota Game & Fish Department
Beginning his career with North Dakota Game & Fish Department in 1996 after graduating from North Dakota State University, Kevin Kading continues to make a tremendous, positive impact on the wildlife/agriculture mosaic of his state as the current Private Lands Coordinator. In this position, he oversees the Department’s Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) program and is responsible for coordination and implementation of conservation and Ag policy for North Dakota.
Working with various federal, state and NGO partners, including Pheasants Forever, Kading has been instrumental in providing public access and supporting habitat conservation efforts in wildlife-rich North Dakota. Most recently, Kading has been a major advocate for the state’s Precision Ag Partnership with Pheasants Forever, helping to fund a team of specialists who work with producers to provide increased farm income on less profitable crop acres by utilizing conservation practices – a win-win for landowners and wildlife.
JD Strong – Director, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
J.D. Strong was hired to be Director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) in 2016, bringing with him 23 years of experience in natural resource-related public service. He previously served as the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) and Secretary of Environment for the state after beginning his career with the Board in 1993. Director Strong has a rich and varied depth of experience working with legislators, sister agencies, partner organizations and critical stakeholders on a number of complex environmental issues, such as the historic water settlement with the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. An active sportsman, Strong is a fifth-generation Oklahoman from Weatherford. He earned a degree in wildlife ecology from Oklahoma State University in 1993.
As a friend and partner of Quail Forever in Oklahoma, Director Strong has been a major advocate for partnering on multiple levels with “The Habitat Organization” to ensure bobwhite habitat and public access continue to support the strong heritage of quail hunters in the Southern Great Plains. Alongside Quail Forever’s president and CEO, Howard Vincent, Director Strong recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Quail Forever at the organization’s state convention to continue working in tandem for quail habitat improvements throughout the state. One of the major successes this past year between ODWC and Quail Forever was the work accomplished through the Oklahoma Land Access Program to provide more private land access to quail hunters. Quail Forever biologists worked together with ODWC staff to enroll thousands of acres into this new and highly-touted public access program.
Dr. Russ Mason – Wildlife Division Chief, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Enjoying a very successful career in the field of natural resources since 1982, Dr. Russ Mason is the current Chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division. Prior to his current employment he also served as the Game Chief for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, science advisor to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in Washington, D.C., and as the Mammals Research Program Manager for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2017, Dr. Mason was presented with the Partner of the Year Award by Pheasants Forever in Michigan for his outstanding efforts to promote upland hunting and habitat conservation efforts throughout the Great Lakes State as part of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative. His achievements include:
- Support of the Farm Bill Biologist Partnership in Michigan to assist private landowners with habitat projects.
- Unwavering support of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative and expansion of this important program throughout the state.
- Financial backing of the Habitat Incentive Program in south-central Michigan to get more landowners enrolled in Farm Bill programs.
- Support of $105,000 in funding over three years to partner with Pheasants Forever on a new statewide Adopt-A-Game-Area Program with local chapters.
Dr. Mason has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from DePauw University, a Master’s degree in Animal Learning from Clark University, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Ecology, also from Clark University. He has always had a special interest in preparing the next generation of wildlife professionals and has held faculty appointments in Fisheries and Wildlife, Biology, and Psychology Departments, and taught wildlife courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Utah State University, University of Wyoming, and University of Nevada.
Jen Mock Schaeffer – Government Affairs Director, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
Jen Mock Schaeffer is the Government Affairs Director for the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA), a position she has held since 2012. Working daily to positively impact national fish and wildlife conservation policies and Congressional legislation, Schaeffer works with numerous conservation partners and federal agency departments to improve fish and wildlife conservation throughout the United States. She is a trained wildlife professional with a Master of Science in Range and Wildlife Management from Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Prior to her position as Government Affairs Director, Schaeffer honed her policy and political skills through authorization of the 2008 and the 2014 Farm Bills. Working closely with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever to craft important conservation titles in each Farm Bill – focusing on the entire suite of USDA conservation programs including CRP – Schaeffer was the pointy end of the spear for numerous, high-priority national conservation policies. Additionally, Schaeffer served as a government affairs liaison to the prestigious AFWA Blue Ribbon Panel, helping produce recommendations on Congressional policy for conservation funding in North America.
Virgil Moore – Director, Idaho Department Fish and Game
Appointed as Director for the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) in 2011, Virgil Moore has 40 years of experience in wildlife management, with more than 37 years of employment with Idaho Fish and Game. Moore has held numerous executive management positions within the Department, including fisheries bureau chief, information and education bureau chief and various management positions within the fisheries bureau. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Education from Northwest Missouri State University and a Master of Science degree in Zoology from Idaho State University.
Working closely with Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever and other partners to address the resource needs for pheasants, quail, sage grouse and other wildlife in the West, Moore’s leadership has been vital for maintaining world-class game populations and public access opportunities throughout the region. Highlighting a great partnership between Pheasants Forever and IDFG, Moore was a major backer of the Marty Ranch land acquisition in Jefferson County, Idaho, helping to secure a linkage between two significant public land holdings for wildlife. The 2,695-acre Marty Ranch now connects the Camas National Wildlife Refuge and the state-owned Mud Lake Wildlife Management Area, effectively creating 21,195 contiguous acres of permanently protected habitat.
Ron Regan – Executive Director, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
Ron Regan has served as the Executive Director for the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) since 2010. Prior to this he spent over 25 years with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department where he served as deer project leader, director of wildlife, and commissioner. Regan serves on several national boards including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, the National Deer Alliance, and the National Conservation Leadership Institute, and is a professional member of both The Wildlife Society and the Boone and Crockett Club.
As a representative of North America's state agencies to advance the conservation of fish and wildlife in the public interest, Regan has exhibited nationwide leadership in forming successful partnerships for the common purpose of protecting the nation’s natural resources. Partnering with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever on a number of different projects, Regan has been a key player for the conservation of pheasants, quail, sage grouse, and other species to the benefit of upland hunters throughout the country.
About the North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference
Presented by the Wildlife Management Institute, The North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference is an annual gathering of industry leaders dedicated to the conservation, enhancement and management of North America’s wildlife and other natural resources.
About Pheasants Forever
Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 145,000 members and 720 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure. Since creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $784 million on 530,000 habitat projects benefiting 17 million acres nationwide.
Photo: Participants of the 83rd North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference gather for a picture after receiving Conservation Service Awards from Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever. From left to right are: Ryan Bronson, Vista Outdoor; Kevin Kading, North Dakota Game & Fish Department; JD Strong, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation; Dr. Russ Mason, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Jen Mock Schaeffer, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies; Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever, Virgil Moore, Idaho Department of Fish and Game; Ron Regan, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies