U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces 2013 Endangered Species Recovery Champions: Resident of Colorado and Former Resident of Wyoming Honored
For Immediate Release
May 16, 2014
DENVER, Colo. - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) today recognized individuals and teams for their exceptional efforts to conserve and protect the nation’s rarest fish, wildlife and plants by designating them as the 2013 Recovery Champions. Among the award winners honored for their work this year were Dean Biggins of Colorado and John Shields, a Wyoming native.
“We all owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to these dedicated conservationists who are on the front lines fighting the battle against extinction,” said Service Director Dan Ashe. “Their spirit and determination is the application of Aldo Leopold’s counsel to ‘keep every cog and wheel,’ and they provide hope for all of us that our children and the generations that follow will be able to enjoy the same tremendous diversity of plants and animals that we do today.”
Mr. Biggins, a career biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, dedicated his career to recovery of the endangered black-footed ferret (ferret) and significantly contributed to the ferret’s ongoing recovery. Biggins began his career shortly after the once-thought extinct species was rediscovered in northwestern Wyoming. He led early ecological studies of the remnant population that later provided critical information for reintroduction efforts. He also broke new ground with fundamental behavioral studies that continue to guide the preconditioning of ferrets for release into the wild today. Biggins captured the last wild ferret in 1987. Named Scarface, the ferret ended up being the most productive of the seven original animals in the captive population. Scarface was crucial to the captive-breeding program, which has been instrumental in returning the “Prairie Bandit” to 12 western states, Mexico, and Canada.
Later in his career, Biggins focused on sylvatic plague as the primary factor limiting ferret recovery in the wild, and conducted studies of both ferrets and their obligate prairie dog prey that assist with potential remedies to the disease.
Mr. Shields, an engineer by training, worked for more than 25 years as an active member of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program (CRRP) while an employee in the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office. During his time with the CRRP, Shields led the conservation of “Big River” fish in the West—the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker, and bonytail as Chair of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program’s Management Committee.