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Regional Director’s Partnership Award


Regional Director’s Partnership Award

The Regional Director’s Partnership Award recognizes either individuals or organizations that have contributed significantly to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region’s priorities over the past year. The award was established to honor the people and partnerships without which the Service could not optimally achieve its conservation mission.

Four people pose for the camera, a young man on the left holds a glass award with an older man wearing a black cowboy hat. Next to them, a man and a woman smile at the camera

Pictured from left to right: Clint Wirick, Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist; Richard Bagley; Kendall Bagley; Noreen Walsh, Regional Director. Photo: Heather Johnson, USFWS. View Full Screen

2019 Winner: Landowner Richard Bagley and Family (Kendall (son), Jenette (daughter-in-law, JaKell (granddaughter), and Peyton (grandson))

For their conservation ethics and innovative leadership in support of agriculture, wildlife and their habitats, and rural communities, landowner Richard Bagley and his family, Kendall, Jenette, JaKell, and Peyton were awarded the 2019 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region Regional Director’s Partnership Award. The award was presented on September 25, 2019, by Noreen Walsh, Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Mountain-Prairie Region.

The Bagley Family Ranch is a green island of riparian, wetlands, meadow, and sagebrush steppe habitat in rural Southern Utah where the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau converge. Over time, the family began to notice decreased forage production, stream banks failing, erosion, and the disappearance of wetland and woody vegetation. In 2010, Richard Bagley began working in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, starting with the establishment of a landowner agreement.

From 2010 to 2019, the Bagley family implemented grazing plans, restored hydrology, reconnected floodplains, sloped and seeded stream banks, added large woody debris to the channel, planted thousands of willows, treated and seeded uplands, reconnected seasonal oxbow wetlands, built pasture fencing, and forged relationships with friends, family, and project partners.

Although working with Federal partners wasn't always the most popular decision, the Bagley family never wavered and continued to do what was unpopular, demonstrating courage, trust, and true stewardship.

Thanks to their incredible efforts and sacrifices, Sage grouse with GPS trackers are now confirming their affinity for the project site, more waterfowl broods are being seen, herons are fishing, big game browsing, pollinators buzzing about from flower to flower, native fish are finding in-stream habitat, more songbird are singing, and beavers are now building dams after several decades of absence.

Their efforts also didn't go unnoticed in their community, either: adjacent landowners and large conservation groups made up of state and federal agencies, private citizens, and NGO’s have toured the Bagley Family property to learn about their conservation efforts, best practices, and success stories.

The spirit of collaboration Richard has shown is reflected in the diversity of project partners: Utah Division Wildlife, Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative, Utah Dedicated Hunter Program, Utah Conservation Corps, Utah Grazing Improvement Program, and USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

Because of the Bagley family's commitment to this project and the partnerships they created, other partners are now prioritizing the Otter Creek watershed. The Bagley Family property in Piute County Utah is a story of change, trust, courage, doing the uncomfortable, collaboration, sweat, laughter, learning and relationships building.

>A man holds a glass award next to the regional director with a prairie and mountains in the background.

Dieter Erdman accepts the 2018 Regional Directors Partnership Award Photo by Steve Segin/USFWS. View Full Screen

2018 Winner: Mr. Dieter Erdman, Western Rivers Conservancy

For his significant contribution in establishing the San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area, a new 17,019-acre addition to the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, and his contribution in establishing the San Luis Valley Conservation Area, the 567th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Mr. Dieter Erdman, of Western Rivers Conservancy was awarded the 2018 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region, Regional Director’s Partnership Award. The award was presented on September 14, 2018, by Mountain-Prairie Region, Regional Director, Noreen Walsh.

As a representative of Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC), Dieter played a vital part in creating both of these conservation areas. Both projects hinged on the donation of a conservation easement from Western Rivers Conservancy made possible by Dieter’s efforts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service easement that established the new State Wildlife Area is on a combined county-owned and state-managed parcel that will provide opportunities for local communities to connect with nature through wildlife observation, hunting, fishing, and boating.

Because of Mr. Erdmann’s tireless efforts in establishing the San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area, including supporting the funding, ownership, and management outcomes of the Area, diverse local and underserved communities will now have public access to the Rio Grande River. Furthermore, this habitat conservation effort will benefit a wide variety of native wildlife now and into the future, ensuring that the San Luis Valley remains a healthy and productive place where both people and wildlife thrive.

The portion of Rio Grande River flowing through the new State Wildlife Area — along with its shrublands, grasslands, and uplands — are vital habitat for many native fish and wildlife, including myriad migratory birds, such as the endangered southwest willow flycatcher and threatened yellow-billed cuckoo.

In addition to providing healthy habitat for fish and wildlife, the San Luis Hills State Wildlife Area provides Costilla County and surrounding communities with access to public lands and outdoor experiences, including hunting and fishing, in a county where about 99% of the land is privately-owned.

Ken Mayer accepts his award from Noreen Walsh. Photo by Hannah Ryan, Intermountain West Joint Venture.

Ken Mayer accepts his award from Noreen Walsh. Photo by Hannah Ryan, Intermountain West Joint Venture. View Full Screen

2017 Winners

The inaugural Partnership Award was presented on September 12, 2017 by Regional Director Noreen Walsh at the annual Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies meeting in Snowbird, Utah to:

Dr. Jeanne Chambers, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station


Mr. Ken Mayer, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

For their significant contributions to the rangewide effort to conserve America’s sagebrush ecosystem, Dr. Jeanne Chambers and Mr. Ken Mayer are awarded the 2017 Regional Director’s Partnership Award.  

As the Chairman of the WAFWA Fire and Invasive Working Group, Mr. Mayer has been at the forefront of the rangewide effort to protect the greater sage-grouse and is widely regarded by the conservation community for his forward-thinking, partnership-driven approach to invasive plant management in sagebrush landscapes.

Dr. Chamber’s work at the U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station as a research ecologist focuses on increasing our understanding of the effects of global change processes—such as climate change, species invasions and altered fire regimes—on plant species, plant communities and ecosystems. This vital work directly supports the maintenance and restoration of arid, semi-arid and riparian ecosystems.

A pronghorn antelope in a sagebrush landscape. Photo by Jennifer Strickland, USFWS.

A pronghorn antelope in a sagebrush landscape. Photo by Jennifer Strickland, USFWS. View Full Screen

“The issue of invasive plants and rangeland fire has surfaced as a threat that can overwhelm all others,” said Regional Director Noreen Walsh. “Ken took the lead to focus on this threat and assembled an incredible team that included Jeanne. They developed a number of crucial products that are directing our work today."

"This work has been a labor of love," Mayer said. "I've worked with some great people and great groups, but none as powerful as this collaboration. It's nice to know our labors are noticed."

Through innovative and collaborative work to develop and deploy an essential “resistance and resilience” framework and promote rangeland health across the sagebrush ecosystem, Dr. Chambers and Mr. Mayer demonstrated great vision and leadership in the fight against invasive annual grasses and destructive wildfire. In so doing, both awardees positively impacted the West-wide collaboration to conserve greater sage-grouse and the hundreds of other native wildlife species that depend on a functional sagebrush ecosystem.

According to Chambers, “the ‘R and R’ framework allows managers to focus resources in areas where they are likely to have the greatest conservation and restoration benefits.” That framework, which was quickly adopted at an operational level by land, wildlife and fire managers across the range, also positively impacts the human communities that rely on healthy sagebrush rangelands for livestock production, recreation, and other important regionally- and nationally-significant economic uses of the landscape.

The Service is proud to partner with Dr. Chambers and Mr. Mayer as we work with our partners toward our collective goal of securing a healthy sagebrush ecosystem working for people and for wildlife.

Additional Information

Partnership Award winners embody the “working with others” portion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission “to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.” Awardees have provided significant contributions, innovations, and best practices that lead to measurable progress on the Mountain-Prairie Region’s priorities now and in the future.

Eligible partners include, but are not limited to individuals from:

  • Federal, state, and local wildlife and natural resources conservations agencies
  • Nonprofit/non-governmental organizations
  • Business and industry, including landowners and producers, and
  • Universities or other academic institutions

Information on how to apply will be posted on this website when the call for nominations open next year.



The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: October 04, 2019
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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