November 14, 2009

James Earl Kennamer Ph.D.

James Earl Kennamer Ph.D. serves as the chief conservation officer of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Kennamer has spent nearly three decades at the helm of the NWTF’s conservation programs department. Before coming to the NWTF, Kennamer was a tenured professor of wildlife biology at Auburn University. In 2006, Kennamer was awarded the highly coveted Henry S. Mosby award at the ninth National Wild Turkey Symposium; in 2005, he was honored with the Wildlife Management Institute’s Distinguished Service Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Carolina chapter of The Wildlife Society; and in 2004, he received special recognition from the U.S. Forest Service. In 1997, he received the C.W. Watson Award, the highest honor to be bestowed by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society and Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society for Distinguished Service in Wildlife Research and Administration. Also in 1997, he received the President’s Award from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Q: How did you get into hunting and fishing?

My father took me on a dove hunt when I was 6 years old. That was soon after he returned from World War II. My father was the extension fish and wildlife specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service from 1946 until 1974, so I grew up with a great appreciation for our natural resources.

Q: What led you to a career in conservation?

In 1954, when I was 12, my father took me turkey hunting at the Ft. Benning Military Reservation. I really appreciated the beauty of watching the turkey strutting back and forth, thanks to the respect and love of nature my father had instilled in me. I walked away from that memorable hunt knowing I wanted a career that provided me with the opportunity to work with wild turkeys. It’s not often that a 12 year old is able to say with certainty what they feel they are called to do in life and then carry it through. I was fortunate enough to recognize my passion and then chart a course that would allow me to realize my dream. During the nearly 30 years I’ve worked at the National Wild Turkey Federation, I’ve not only been able to help restore wild turkey populations across North America but I’ve also helped forge partnerships between hunters and wildlife agencies, corporations and conservation groups and advocate conservation issues that are important to the NWTF’s dedicated volunteers and members. My son Lee also realized he wanted a career working with wildlife and followed my and my father’s path by earning a degree in wildlife from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala. I’m proud to have a third generation of wildlife biologists in my family. But I’m mainly honored to have passed on a love and respect for the outdoors to my children and grandchildren.

Q: How did you get involved with the TRCP?

I met Tom Franklin when he was the policy director at The Wildlife Society. Since then, I’ve had opportunities to work with Tom and others on issues that would benefit conservation, the TRCP and the NWTF. Working together on these issues forged lasting relationships, and I have a great amount of respect for Tom and all he has accomplished in his career.

Q: What do you think the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen are today?

Sportsmen are facing many significant challenges today, but one of the most important is our need to preserve our hunting heritage. If we don’t instill the love of hunting and conservation in our children and grandchildren and introduce new people to the outdoors, there will be no hunters and conservationists to care for our natural resources in the future. The NWTF works through its JAKES, Women in the Outdoors and Wheelin’ Sportsmen outreach programs to introduce youth, women and people with disabilities to outdoor activities. Another challenge hunters face is finding land to hunt. Studies have shown that the No. 1 reason hunters give up their sport is because they don’t have access to hunting land. Since we know that hunters were the first and are the most dedicated conservationists, we must work to protect hunter access to public lands as well as focus on ways in which we can address the declining base of hunters through promotion and hunter retention. The NWTF’s More Places to Hunt initiative is one way we are working to help hunters find land to hunt. The economy also has presented some significant challenges, but the new Farm Bill, plus energy development and climate change legislation, will create opportunities for conservation organizations to complete some great projects that will benefit wildlife and our natural resources.

Q: What are your hopes for the future of the TRCP?

I hope the TRCP will continue to partner with organizations in the conservation community to conserve our natural resources and protect our hunting heritage for future generations.

One Response to “James Earl Kennamer Ph.D.”

  1. Penny agray

    I worked for your father in the early 70’s and thought so much of him and your mom. Instill have a letter your mom wrote to me after your father died about how much he thought of me and my husband Randy. I think about your parents often and how much they meant to me and whT a great impact they made on my life.

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September 14, 2009

Christopher Merritt

“My introduction to the outdoors is not your normal, ‘raised in the country, went hunting with my dad, lived near a dam’ type of story,” says Christopher Merritt, general manager for Beretta USA and TRCP board member. Instead, Merritt developed his love of the outdoors through his professional career in the clothing industry.

“I was introduced to conservation and its impact while I was working for Orvis,” says Merritt. “My first impression was that hunting, fishing and conservation were for rich guys who wanted to make sure ‘their’ hunting and fishing spots were kept pristine and forget about the average guy. I have found this to be false in the past 11 years in the outdoor industry.”

Merritt joined the TRCP board of directors in 2007 and has been active in supporting both the TRCP and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance both personally and through his work at Beretta.

“Supporting the TRCP is my way of ensuring that every person who wants to hunt and fish has access to do just that,” says Merritt. “Whether it’s through the USA or through the TRCP’s hard work done at the federal level to ensure that there are funds available for states to provide access to anyone who wants to enjoy them, I couldn’t be happier with the TRCP’s results.”

Through his career in the outdoor industry, Merritt has become an avid fly fisherman and bird hunter. His outdoors experience also has inspired him to advocate for better access programs and an increase in hunter education.

“If there is no place for the average person to go, who is not a landowner, then Beretta and the entire outdoor industry is not going to be in business for much longer,” says Merritt. “If we miss one generation from understanding our sporting heritage, we will no longer need to worry about access. We have to continually pave the way for people to have the right of access to hunt and fish not just in parts of our country but throughout the United States. One of my favorite stories that Jim Range, the TRCP’s former chairman and co-founder, told me was about how people formed lifelong friendships with each other through the simple act of kindness of a landowner allowing a sportsmen to hunt or fish on his land and the respect that is shown by the sportsmen to that property. It’s like asking your neighbor for a cup of sugar and, next thing you know, you’re both eating a great piece of pie.”

July 14, 2009

Mike “Animal” Bailey

Mike Bailey (left) holding a Fletcher's Cove striper with the late Jim Range, co-founder and former board chairman of the TRCP.

Mike Bailey started fishing in the late 1960s in farm ponds and swamps in southeast Georgia. “As I aged (mature doesn’t seem like the right word for me) my passion for fishing grew with my ability to pursue larger quarry,” says Bailey.

Settling in the Washington, D.C., area, Bailey began fishing the Potomac River for smallmouth until discovering what he calls “the best-kept secret in Washington, D.C.,” Fletcher’s Cove, a small boat launch on the Potomac River. At Fletcher’s, Bailey was introduced to the shad and striped bass that run up the river.

In the 1980s, Bailey met Jim Range, a fellow member of the unofficial anglers’ club at Fletchers, who helped him define and understand the importance of conservation. “Through his work and as one of his many fishing buddies, Jim shared his thoughts on the importance of preserving the outdoor resources we enjoyed together,” says Bailey.

Bailey continues to support D.C.-area conservation efforts, helping form the Congressional Casting Call with Range to expose law makers to natural resources available in their own backyard.

“Having spent many hours with Jim in the confines of a rowboat, car, greenhouse and kitchen, I was exposed to many of his thoughts, ideas and dreams,” says Bailey. “One of them was the formation of the TRCP.” As a small business owner, Bailey helped Jim explore operational infrastructures for small groups, which would help lead to the formation of the TRCP.

“Jim has goals that I’m hopeful the TRCP will be able to achieve on his behalf,” says Bailey. “As the organization realigns itself, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to participate in helping the TRCP make all of Ranger’s dreams come true.”

Click here to contribute to the Jim Range Conservation Fund

June 14, 2009

John Gale

Q: How did you get into hunting and fishing?

A: As soon as I could hold a rod and gun, my parents and grandparents had me fishing and shooting all over Idaho’s wild country, where I grew up as a sixth-generation native. When I was of legal age to hunt, I never missed one year of elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunting. I knew I had “come of age” as a hunter when my father started pulling me out of school for a whole week to go elk hunting every year. I’ll always remember that first year and that first elk. (I’ll also vividly remember missing a large mule deer buck that first year at elk camp … win some, lose some.)

Q: Why is conservation important to you?

A: From an early age, my family, and my father in particular, instilled in me a conservation ethic to treat the land, wildlife, and natural resources with great respect. He showed me what it means to be a responsible steward of the rich public lands we’re borrowing from future generations and the wildlife that inhabit those landscapes.

Q: What do you think is the most important conservation issue facing sportsmen today?

A: This is a challenging question but I’d say in general it’s the loss of quality habitat. There are a tremendous amount of contributing factors here, but to name a few: public lands management policies that have rejected the multiple-use philosophy in favor of one use at the expense and exclusion of others through irresponsible energy development, antiquated mining laws from 1872, etc.; invasive species; climate change and the resulting loss or migration of flora and fauna to higher elevations and latitudes; migratory corridor fragmentation from poorly planned infrastructure building and the loss of access over time sparks an interesting and at times, lively debate about indirect impacts to wildlife and habitat.

In a recent survey conducted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, access surpassed gun rights as the primary concern of sportsmen for the first time ever in history. Loss of access isn’t always about private lands; if you can’t hunt or fish in a place anymore because we’ve done a bad job of balancing our use of natural resources, that is, in essence, access lost.

Q: How do you, personally, hope to address this issue?

A: Its not an easy issue to address, but working together with strong conservation organizations like the NWF, TRCP, TU and others, we can effect change at the policy level administratively and legislatively by joining forces and empowering our grassroots to advocate and speak loudly. Whether you’re the Idaho Wildlife Federation fighting for bighorn sheep or a chapter of Trout Unlimited working on local watersheds, the cumulative impacts are bold, and decision makers are listening to us.

Q: How do you hope to work with the TRCP in the future?

A: I’ll always be ready to help and support my friends and colleagues at TRCP as we work together to grow bigger, stronger and more prepared to face the challenges of wildlife conservation. I’m currently working with [TRCP Associate Director of Campaigns] Joel Webster and many of our professional colleagues in the conservation community to ensure that America’s wild roadless areas maintain their integrity and continue to be the best places to hunt and fish in the world. We’re working with decision makers, federal and state land and wildlife management agencies, and reaching out to other stakeholders in a moderate, balanced approach that fosters the development of responsible solutions to threats on our roadless public lands. In the end it’s about healthy habitat, abundant wildlife and inspiring future generations to be the stewards of tomorrow.

April 14, 2009

Steve Walker

I expect everyone has either a big-rack story or the fish that got away. However, I can unequivocally state that getting thrown out of the raft while floating the Snake River was the most memorable day of my life, in fact, almost the termination of it. It was our second run and everything looked perfect when we lined up on Skull Rock, suddenly the raft swung sideways, and I was airborne. A moment later, I was pulled under. I didn´t think I would ever surface, and when I did I was half drowned. I thought my troubles were over because the raft was right below me, however, I shot by the raft, bounced over rocks, and flew through Class IV rapids for about a mile. If running the rapids in a raft is exciting, try it wearing only a life preserver. When extracted, I was hypothermic, half drowned, shaking violently and could barely walk—a real lesson in mortality.



The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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