January 25, 2017
posted in: News

January 25, 2017
Media Contact: Gray Thornton, 406.404.8750,
RENO, NEV. The Bozeman, Montana based Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) has announced the winners of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award are Hank and Kit Fischer of the National Wildlife Federation in Missoula, Montana. WSF also announced the post-humous conferral of its prestigious Gordon Eastman Grass Roots Award upon British Columbia hunter-conservationist David Marsh.

The announcements were made on January 19 at WSF’s 2017 Convention and Sporting Expo, The Sheep Show™, held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and Peppermill Resort Spa & Casino.
For many years, Hank Fischer served as the senior wildlife conflict resolution program manager for NWF, focusing on privately-funded, negotiated financial incentives for public land livestock permittees to voluntarily waive their grazing permits back to the federal land management agencies, without preference for or to other permittees. Kit Fischer, Hank’s son, apprenticed for years, then took the lead role on this NWF program when Hank retired.

“Many of Hank and Kit’s negotiations with sheep and cattle grazing permittees in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have been designed to reduce livestock conflicts with large carnivores, such as grizzly bears and wolves,” said WSF Senior Conservation Director Kevin Hurley. “Bighorn sheep and mountain goats have significantly benefitted from enhanced spatial and temporal separation through retirement of many domestic sheep grazing allotments on Forest Service- and BLM-managed lands.”

Wild bighorn sheep are particularly susceptible to disease carried by domestic sheep and goats. Highly social animals, wild sheep frequently come into contact with domestic herds, with devastating results. Decimation of entire herds has occurred in the Northern Rockies and throughout the West due to disease. Efforts to achieve separation of wild sheep and domestic sheep and goats have led to increases in wild sheep populations over the past few decades, according to Hurley, who nominated the Fischers for the award.

“Working closely with WSF and our Wyoming and Idaho WSF chapters, NWF collaborated with, and often led negotiations to retire more than 20 domestic sheep allotments totaling nearly 600,000 acres of USFS and BLM lands,” Hurley said. “Negotiations continue in the Northern Rockies tri-state area, but have also expanded to ongoing discussions with grazing permittees in Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and other western states.”

Hurley has collaborated with the Fischers for over 25 years on dozens of domestic sheep allotment retirements in multiple states.

“It has been a real pleasure and privilege to work so closely with Hank, Kit, and the National Wildlife Federation on achieving win-win resolution to large carnivore and bighorn sheep conflict situations,” said Hurley.

WSF was particularly motivated to recognize British Columbia hunter-conservationist David Marsh because of his work creating and promoting a popular sheep hunting Facebook page. Recognizing that sheep hunters have a unique bond, he created the page for them to share their stories, photos and experiences. The page grew quickly with a worldwide audience of 14,000, and it is increasing by about 100 members per day. 
Marsh died unexpectedly at the age of 37 on October 3, 2016, while on a moose hunting trip in northern BC surrounded by his friends. He left behind a young wife and one-month-old daughter.
“Dave Marsh is vividly remembered in the hunting-conservation community as a standard bearer for communicating the importance of wild sheep conservation to the future of habitat and wildlife health, as well as to the preservation of North America’s outdoor lifestyle for future generations,” said WSF CEO and President Gray N. Thornton.
Marsh was a director and life member of the Wild Sheep Society of British Columbia. His enthusiasm and charisma was legendary in the fraternity of sheep hunter-conservationists, Thornton said.
The late Gordon Eastman of Eastman's Outdoor World created the Grass Roots Award to be presented at the WSF Annual Convention. His intention was to honor hardworking members of WSF Chapters and Affiliates who often go unrecognized for their labors in advancing wild-sheep conservation.


The Bozeman, Montana based Wild Sheep Foundation, formerly the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS,) was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. WSF’s Mission is to enhance wild sheep populations, promote professional wildlife management, and educate the public and youth on sustainable use and the conservation benefits of hunting while promoting the interests of the hunter and all stakeholders. With a membership of more than 6,700 worldwide and a Chapter and Affiliate network in North America and Europe, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep, other mountain wildlife, their habitat, and their conservation. Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $110 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia towards its Purpose to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”™. These and other efforts have resulted in a three-fold increase in bighorn sheep populations in North America from their historic 1950-60s lows of ~25,000 to ~85,000 today. WSF, our Chapters and Affiliates and agencies partners are also working together to ensure thinhorn sheep thrive in their northern mountain realms for generations to enjoy.

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