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USDA Under Secretary Homer Wilkes Speaks at Boone and Crockett Club’s Spring Meeting in Spokane


USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Homer Wilkes, Ph.D., provided the keynote address during the evening Professional Member dinner at the Boone and Crockett Club’s spring meeting. The meeting was held in mid-March in conjunction with the 87th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference at the Davenport Grand Hotel in Spokane, Washington. Wilkes thanked the Club for its role in conservation policy, recognizing that the Club was essential in establishing the U.S. Forest Service that he now oversees. 

Dr. Wilkes has more than 40 years of experience in conservation on working lands in leadership positions with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and most recently served as the director of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. He was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in to his new position in early February.

Key leaders of B&C were on hand to welcome Homer Wilkes to the Club's Professional Member dinner—from left: Executive VP of Administration James Cummins, CEO Tony Schoonen, Homer Wilkes, and President James F. Arnold.

Throughout his remarks, Wilkes emphasized the importance of collaboration and cooperation for conservation projects on federal forests. He outlined how the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides significant funding—perhaps at once-in-a-lifetime levels—that will allow for treating the landscape to improve sustainability and resiliency.

“We need to leverage the funds through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law so that we can get a lot of work done for our forests and the critters and people that depend on them,” Wilkes said. “We need to take advantage of all the tools in the toolbox—like Shared Stewardship, Good Neighbor Authority, and the Joint Chiefs program, for example—to get those dollars out on the ground and implement good projects.”

The Boone and Crockett Club and its partners played a key role in the development of the policies that established these programs allowing the Forest Service to work with other federal agencies, state governments, local communities, and non-profit organizations to focus on forest management. Treatments including forest thinning, prescribed burns, management of ladder fuels, and more make a significant difference to improve resilience to catastrophic fire while also improving wildlife habitat, protecting local communities, and mitigating the effects of climate change. 

The Forest Service recently released a strategy to address the wildfire crisis by dramatically increasing the scale of forest health treatments over the next decade. Wilkes referred to the plan in his remarks: “I want you to find yourself in this document and help us deal with fire. The partnerships through the Club, and the organizations you work closely with are where the rubber will hit the road, we are going to need help from all of you to get things done.

“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work, and we’re going to work together to protect these resources for generations to come,” he concluded.

B&C Awards Presented 

After the keynote address, Club conservation policy committee members Tom Price and Jimmy Bullock along with Club President Jim Arnold presented two important awards to partners within the conservation community. 

The prestigious Conservation and Stewardship Award is presented to the individual or organization that best exemplifies the core values of the Boone and Crockett Club and its founder, Theodore Roosevelt: Conservation—acts of guarding, protecting, developing, and using natural resources wisely and sustainably; and Stewardship—planning for and managing natural resources responsibly. 

MDF founder, Emmett Burroughs, addresses the audience after receiving the Club's 2022 Conservation and Stewardship Award. Also pictured are MDF Director of Conservation Steve Belinda and MDF President/CEO Joel Pedersen. 

This year the Conservation Stewardship Award was presented to the Mule Deer Foundation for their leadership on habitat restoration on forests and rangelands across the West to improve habitat for mule deer and black-tailed deer. Mule Deer Foundation President/CEO and Club professional member Joel Pedersen, Founder Emmett Burroughs, retired President/CEO Miles Moretti who is also a professional member, and Director of Conservation Steve Belinda were in Spokane to accept the award.

“On behalf of the staff and members of the Mule Deer Foundation, I sincerely thank the Boone and Crockett Club for recognizing our work by honoring us with the Conservation and Stewardship Award,” said MDF President/CEO Joel Pedersen. “The habitat conservation and restoration projects that we lead are critical to supporting mule deer and black-tailed deer on their seasonal ranges and migration corridors.”

Jimmy Bullock, left, presented fellow B&C member Steve Williams, with an award commemmorating his leadership of NCLI.

In addition, the National Conservation Leadership Institute (NCLI) recognized Dr. Steve Williams, President of the Wildlife Management Institute, for his role in helping to found and provide direction as the inaugural Chair of NCLI’s Board of Directors. Williams, along with other Boone and Crockett Club regular and professional members Bob Model, Lowell Baier, Steve Mealey, and John Baughman, came up with a brilliant solution to training future wildlife and conservation leaders while sitting around a fire and discussing what the future might look like and how to get there. What started as an idea with no funding or support, the NCLI—now in its eighteenth year—has been wildly successful and has produced over 500 program graduates in 15 cohorts whose ranks include of some of today’s most successful wildlife conservation leaders. 

Jimmy Bullock, Boone and Crockett professional member, introduced the award that read: “Presented to Dr. Steve Williams – in recognition of exceptional professional leadership on behalf of the National Conservation Leadership Institute, and your profound impact on the governance and relevancy of future leaders in conservation in the United States.”  

Dr. Williams has served as the Chairman of the Board for the NCLI since its inception 17 years ago, a position Bullock will now take over. Given the prominent role of the Boone and Crockett Club in helping found and support the NCLI, and the opportunity to honor Dr. Williams in front of many NCLI graduates and other professional peers, the Professional Member dinner served as an appropriate venue for this recognition.

More About the Boone and Crockett Club

Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club promotes guardianship and visionary management of big game and associated wildlife in North America. The Club maintains the highest standards of fair chase sportsmanship and habitat stewardship. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. Click here to learn more about the Boone and Crockett Club.