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Alan Wentz earns 2019 Aldo Leopold Award
Before Alan Wentz can even remember, he had a love for the outdoors.
“My mother often told me a story,” said Wentz, a retired chief conservation officer for Ducks Unlimited. “During the day, I would often disappear. I would wander off to fencerows and woodlots on the farm. When I was 5 years old or younger, I’d just take off and go exploring.”
Wentz followed that passion throughout his private and professional life. A member of The Wildlife Society since 1967 he served as president in 1992 and 1993. At the joint TWS-AFS joint meeting in Reno, Nevada earlier this month, Wentz earned the Aldo Leopold Memorial Award, which he accepted via video. The award is the highest honor bestowed by The Wildlife Society. Named after wildlife conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold, it is given annually to an individual who has significantly contributed to the wildlife field.
“I’ve known a lot of people who received that recognition, and I’m honored to be thought of in the same context,” he said.
Growing up in Ohio farm country, Wentz had a love for hunting and fishing that took him to the forest and to the library, where he fostered an interest in biology. “I remember the local librarian always kicking me out at night,” he said. When it was time for college, he knew exactly what he wanted to pursue.
“I never had any doubts about it,” he said.
Wentz earned a bachelor of science degree at The Ohio State University in 1969 in agriculture and biological conservation and a master’s degree at Oregon State University studying invasive nutria (Myocastor coypus) and their impact on vegetation in national wildlife refuges in the state. Wentz’s PhD at the University of Michigan was in wildlife management where his research focused on wetlands ecology and management.
His expertise in wildlife carried him into the policy sphere at the state and national level. Wentz directed the fisheries and wildlife division of the National Wildlife Federation, where his accomplishments included
elimination of lead shot for waterfowl hunting, the passage of new conservation provisions in the 1985 Farm Bill, and significant work on the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. He served as assistant secretary for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks under Gov. Mike Hayden. In 1991 Wentz began his 20-year career with Ducks Unlimited, where he helped secure the restoration and protection of millions of acres of wetlands, helped oversee Mexican operations, worked closely with Canadian operations and continued work on NAWCA.
Although Wentz is now confined to a wheelchair due to primary lateral sclerosis, he continues to keep up with the wildlife profession by reading, writing and editing — something he’s used to since he served as one of the first editors of the Wildlife Society Bulletin.
Wentz said he was shocked to receive the Aldo Leopold Memorial Award. “It’s a lot to live up to, but I’ll do my best to continue to do what I can,” he said.