DU mourns loss of two conservation giants in waterfowl community

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Feb. 22, 2010 – This weekend the wildlife community, and waterfowl in particular, lost two of its strongest leaders. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam Hamilton died suddenly on Feb. 20 while skiing in Colorado following a FWS regional leadership meeting that ended Friday. He was 54. Harvey Nelson, one of the nation's most respected wetland and waterfowl managers, died Feb. 21 of heart failure. He was 85.


Sam Hamilton

Sam Hamilton, late U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directorThe conservation world lost one of its most dynamic leaders Saturday, as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Sam D. Hamilton died suddenly while skiing in Colorado following a FWS regional leadership meeting that ended Friday. Hamilton, 54, was a career FWS employee whose vision and commitment to wildlife conservation were unmatched. He will be sorely missed by his friends and colleagues at the FWS and across the conservation community.

"Sam was a strong partner, a great leader for fish and wildlife conservation and a good friend," said Dr. Alan Wentz, DU's senior group manager for conservation, marketing and communication. "His untimely passing leaves a void that we will feel for years. Sam and DU have worked together for many years to improve habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Sam's energy and vitality, combined with his leadership skills, produced results for wildlife, and he set the pace for many of us. We will miss him greatly."


Harvey K. Nelson

Harvey Nelson, one of the nation's most respected wetland and waterfowl managers and the father of the current system for setting migratory bird hunting regulations, died Feb. 21 of heart failure. He was 85.

"Harvey's professional career was impressive. I think it is worth pointing out his passion for waterfowl kept him active to the end. The conservation community was very fortunate to have Harvey's continued expertise and assistance," said Ryan Heiniger, DU's director of conservation programs for Minnesota and Iowa.

Harvey K. Nelson

Jon Schneider, DU manager of conservation programs for Minnesota, presented Harvey Nelson with the "Beyond the Call" award in 2009 for his work in Minnesota conservation since his retirement.

Nelson, of Bloomington, Minn., had a 42-year professional career with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Among his career accomplishments Nelson was the first director of the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC) and the first executive director of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP).

The NPWRC was officially opened on Sept. 18, 1965. The Center was established by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife to conduct research on waterfowl production with emphasis on wetland ecology and species biology.

In 1987, Nelson was appointed the first executive director of the NAWMP, an international effort to conserve waterfowl.

Harvey nurtured NAWMP from a mere plan to a functioning program. He and his team worked with Congress to secure funding for NAWMP through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which was approved in 1989.

During his career, Nelson received the FWS's Distinguished Service Award, the highest honor given to employees by the Secretary of the Interior, and was recently given the "Beyond the Call" DU conservation award recognizing his tireless efforts to restore wetlands in Minnesota since retirement.

Lake Christina and DU's Living Lakes Initiative
Harvey's passion for waterfowl kept him active to the end. While some professionals disappear after retirement, Harvey has not. He continued to stay active, particularly in Minnesota conservation.

There are thousands of lakes in Minnesota with rich histories of waterfowling traditions, but arguably none as well known as Lake Christina in Douglas County. As a youth, Harvey hunted canvasbacks on Lake Christina. Unfortunately, in the years since, due to a combination of prolonged high water levels and overpopulation of rough fish, Lake Christina was in a turbid, unproductive state. This poor water quality had virtually eliminated the aquatic food resources that historically attracted hundreds of thousands of waterfowl each spring and fall, and canvasbacks and other diving ducks were nonexistent.

During his retirement, Harvey recognized that the lake had deteriorated and was instrumental in helping form the Christina-Ina-Anka Lake Association, with which DU partnered to enhance and protect this famous lake through DU's Living Lakes Initiative.