TWS President Paul Krausman sent me a note he received from Past President Bill Crawford. Bill sent the note to Paul thanking him for his participation in a natural resources conference in Missouri, Bill’s home state and where he made his mark on wildlife conservation.
Bill spent more than 70 years working for conservation in Missouri. He and his father attended the 1935 citizens meeting that led to the formation of the Missouri Conservation Commission. He began working for the fledgling agency in 1941. In 1949 he was appointed as the first chief of wildlife research for the Commission, a position he held for 34 years. In 2011 he was awarded the Master Conservationist Award, the highest honor given by the Commission, for his lifetime legacy of conserving Missouri’s natural resources.
Bill was very active in The Wildlife Society during his career and he served as TWS President from 1975 to 1976. It was quite fitting that Bill became TWS President, because he was mentored by Rudolf Bennett, the first TWS President. Bill shared a bit of history with Paul regarding Bennett, transcribed below:
In the spring of 1937 I was enrolling as a junior at the University of Missouri in their Wildlife Conservation Program. I was 19 years old. I was visiting with Dr. Rudolf Bennett, head of the program and my original advisor. I had met him at a conference in a nearby Junior College and he recruited me into his program. During our conversations about coursework and the details, he stopped and interrupted saying he had just received information that he was to be the new first president of the wildlife professional organization-The Wildlife Society. He said he was very excited about the news and that he was really happy to see wildlife conservation gaining professional status and he was going to work hard at the job. Evidently I was one of the early ones to know about the TWS position. Being pretty fresh to all this new TWS business, I paid little attention to the importance of the moment and didn’t think much more about it. As time would have it I developed professionally and became much involved with TWS. In the 1960’s and 70’s, I spent a world of time and involvement with TWS and what do you know I became TWS national president in 1976—about 39 years later. I was always pleased that my advisor Dr. Bennett was the 1st Place President and I came along 39 years later.
Bill’s story is unique in that he was mentored by, and followed the footsteps of the first TWS President. But his story is typical as well, and underscores the significance of a mentor in instilling the values of professional society involvement in students and young professionals. How many of us were inspired to join TWS because of the involvement of someone we looked up to and admired?
Equally important, I believe, is the influence of peers in prompting involvement. Motives for participating in TWS are varied and include a desire to get the scientific publications, support science-based policy efforts, network with other professionals outside of your organization, solidify your identity as a wildlife professional if you are not employed by a wildlife-oriented organization, build your credentials, or have access to the member magazine, to name a few.
Regardless of one’s initial motives, participation in TWS brings the opportunity to learn from our history. Attending Chapter and Section meetings, Annual Conferences, and International Congresses always affords an opportunity to interact with those who have had longer history in the wildlife profession. Their memories and experiences were influenced by earlier pioneers as well.
Our profession is not that old, and the links in the chain not that long, but the roots run deep. Part of the value of TWS is that it provides a forum for wildlife professionals from all facets of the profession, from academia, government, private sector, non-governmental organizations, and others to interact. This has occurred for 75 years, and as Bill Crawford illustrates, we can go straight back to the beginning.
Much like the long tail of an Accipiter helps it maneuver through the forest, our “tale” of 75 years can give us perspective to help us maneuver through new challenges – and some old ones as well. It is a gift to have among our ranks people like Bill Crawford who have seen and experienced so much.
Let’s not lose this part of our heritage. The Conserve Our Wildlife Conservation Heritage oral history program (COWCH) has an impressive archive — let’s all take it upon ourselves to ensure we can capture as much of our history as we can through this important program. Explore the COWCH site and accompanying interviews.