Each year, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies honors individuals and organizations that make significant contributions to conservation and natural resource management in western states, territories, and providences. Among the 2022 honorees is recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) retiree Heather Hollis. Ms. Hollis was recognized as the Federal Conservation Partner of the Year capping off her over 35 years of conservation work as a public servant.
“Looking back on my career, I am excited about a conservation legacy,” said Hollis. “Not a personal legacy, but a legacy of species and habitat conservation and a legacy of collaborative partnerships.” During her 11 years managing Endangered Species Act section 6 grants and her 11 years in the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (WSFR) managing the Wildlife Restoration (WR) Act grants, Ms. Hollis administered hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants to state agencies to support on the ground management in Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The WR funds supported iconic species of the west including mule deer, elk, and sage grouse. Funds managed during her career also supported a variety of activities ranging from land acquisition, development of access facilities for agency and public use, wildlife research, surveys, and wildlife health surveillance. “The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program and our grant specialists serve a vital role, collaboratively reviewing project proposals for restoration and public access projects and providing technical assistance to our State partners,” said WSFR Manager for Policy and Programs Kathy Hollar. “We are excited to see one of our staff celebrated for their passion and partnership.”
Working with partners was one of Ms. Hollis’ favorite aspects of being a grant specialist. In 2000 while working for the Ecological Services in the Pacific Region, Ms. Hollis was tasked with completing a land acquisition grant, as part of a Habitat Conservation Plan. From this first grant, she knew she wanted to work with state grantee partners and WSFR. She noted that each member of a WSFR partnership plays a distinct and complementary role to move resource stewardship forward. “Winning this partnership award wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing WSFR team as well as the partners that made the work so meaningful,” added Hollis.
Looking back on her career, work that stands out is the habitat protected through land acquired under the sections 6 grants in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Hawaii as well as the impressive legacy of the Wildlife Restoration Program established in 1937. One WR project that particularly stands out is a long-term multi-phased wetland restoration at Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Oregon’s Summer Lake Wildlife Area was established in 1944 to protect and improve waterfowl habitat and provide a public hunting area. Summer Lake has long been an example of both private and governmental conservation efforts to reverse trends of degraded and disappearing wetlands. The Summer Lake Wildlife Area supports a diverse association of wildlife which includes at least 280 species of birds, 40 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles and amphibians, and eight species of fish. “Heather truly valued the federal and state partnership,” said Liz Dreith, Wildlife Operations Manager, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Her passion, knowledge, and dedication to understanding our needs and perspectives allowed us to successfully implement many conservation projects together.”
Looking forward Ms. Hollis plans to spend her retirement enjoying nature, working in her yard, and traveling. “We wish Heather all the best in retirement and hope she takes the time to enjoy the species and landscapes her partnership efforts have supported,” added Hollar. Learn more about the award on the WAFWA website at wafwa.org/awards/#federal.