Patrick Graham, Director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, was announced as the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' Professional of the Year at the group's annual meeting in Durango, Colorado, the week of July 12. The award is the group's highest award and is presented to an employee of a member agency for a career of outstanding contribution to the management, protection or enhancement of wildlife resources.
Graham, who started with Montana FWP as a fisheries aide has served for the last six years as director of the agency. Graham was cited for, among other things, the following:
* Designing and carrying out a fish and wildlife mitigation plan in northwestern Montana under the Northwest Power Planning Council's provisions. The substance of that effort is that Graham ensured resident fish and wildlife getting a fair share of mitigation funding. Following that, Graham saw to it that the non-coastal states received consideration when it looked as if only anadromous fisheries might be addressed.
* Playing a key role in legislative efforts that resulted in authority for Montana to lease water specifically for instream fisheries benefits.
* Establishing the agency's Family Fishing Adventures Initiative. Through this initiative, over 100 schools now have "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs" programs in Montana. The state has fishing equipment loaner programs, free fishing for FWP-sanctioned educational events and urban fishing opportunities springing up throughout the state.
* Supporting habitat conservation. In the six years that Graham has been director, 165,000 acres have been preserved in perpetuity for Montana's wildlife.
* In the shadow of citizen referendums threatening spring bear and lion hunting, pushing for the completion and adoption of Environmental Impact Statements to guide future management of black bears and lions.
* Championing the completion of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which now provides long-term direction for Montana's wildlife management program.
* Working with the Governor's Private Land/Public Wildlife Committee in developing the variable priced outfitter-sponsored nonresident big game combination license. The license, in turn, funds the state's Block Management Program. In 1998, 900 private landowners participated in the program. Nearly 7.3 million acres were opened to public hunting.
In the words of FWP Commission Chairman Stan Meyer, "Graham is particularly effective at finding common ground in dealing with difficult issues, such as are addressed in Montana's legislature and among the many interests competing for a share of Montana's valuable natural resources."
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is an organization of the 13 Western states and Canadian provinces that are responsible for the management of those states' fish and wildlife resources.