One of Montana's top wildlife officials was recently named "Professional of the Year" by an organization of Western state and Canadian province fish and wildlife agencies. Chris Smith, chief of staff for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, was chosen as the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' top professional at its annual meeting in Albuquerque.
Smith joined FWP in 1998 after a 22-year career with the Alaska Fish and Game Department as a research biologist, area biologist, regional management coordinator, regional supervisor of wildlife and finally, assistant director of the agency. He was selected for the WAFWA honor from among other fish and wildlife professionals in 18 western states and 4 Canadian provinces. Any one of several thousand employees could be nominated. Every state and province can submit one nominee.
In his nominating letter, FWP Director Jeff Hagener recognized Smith's leadership in a number of regionally and nationally important issues that have helped to place Montana at the forefront of fish and wildlife decision-making in the nation. In Montana, Smith has "continued his efforts to protect and enhance the fish, wildlife and recreational resources of our western states," Hagener stated. "He has established himself as a leader in the fish and wildlife field, and maintains a level of enthusiasm for our mission that is usually associated with someone’s first job."
Smith's efforts in endangered species recovery of grizzly bears, wolves, bull trout, lynx and most recently, black tailed prairie dogs were all noted as professional hallmarks. "His ability to take chaos and boil it down to manageable components has been one of the most notable accomplishments since joining our agency," Hagener noted.
WAFWA was created in 1920 to help conserve the West’s fish and wildlife and to ensure that the states maintain authority to manage those resources.