Fisheries in New Mexico are improving because of Earl Conway. And as they are, his efforts have shown other state conservation directors how much can be accomplished through initiative and persistence.
For contributions both to his own state and to B.A.S.S. Nation, Conway was honored as Conservation Director of the Year during Bassmaster Classic Week here.
That award and four others were presented at the Conservation Awards Banquet sponsored by the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Foundation and the Aquatic Plant Management Society.
“Earl has done a really great job of working with agencies, cities, schools, and others,” said Gene Gilliland, new National Conservation Director for B.A.S.S. “He has run into roadblocks everywhere he has turned and found ways around them.
“He has leveraged grants to get more grants and found outside sources for funding in places conservation directors would never think to look. And he has built partnerships.”
Conway said that he was “surprised and humbled” by the award.
“There are so many others that I know worked harder, sacrificed time with their families, and gave up many days on the water to accomplish real ‘boots on the ground’ projects while dealing with policy issues in their region,” he said.
The New Mexico director added that he is motivated by his passion for both conservation and fishing and “equally tenacious when it comes to funding and executing challenging and innovative projects that address the problems we have with our irrigation reservoirs.”
The New York B.A.S.S. Nation (NYBN) and the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation (CBN), meanwhile, received Berkley Conservation Institute awards.
NYBN won the Conservation Award for its Ramp Monkeys and water chestnut removal, while New Mexico earned honorable mention for its floating islands project and Florida for ReBaits, a program for recycling used plastic baits.
Ramp Monkeys were members of youth clubs who removed plant debris from launch areas and cleaned, drained, and dried boats and trailers as they left the water.
CBN earned the Angler Recruitment/Retention Award for innovative marketing strategies to gain new members. They included an Uncle Sam poster with the words “The BN Wants You,” maps to help potential members find the clubs nearest them, and a PowerPoint explaining what the organization is all about.
The New Hampshire B.A.S.S. Nation won the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund Award and will use the $5,000 prize for a radio telemetry study. Simms Fishing provided the funds with a 2012 donation.
“The results will be used to evaluate appropriate bass tournament rules as well as provide the public with a better understanding of the effects of tournaments on their resource,” said Gilliland. “The project has potential far beyond New Hampshire.”
Georgia’s Lake Oconee Bassmasters received $1,500 for winning the Aquatic Ecosystems Restoration Foundation/Aquatic Plant Management Society/B.A.S.S. Conservation Aquatic Vegetation Management Award. The money will be used to help establish native aquatic vegetation in that fishery, as well as Lake Richard B. Russell and Lake Jackson.
Additionally, Nationwide Insurance announced its donation of $5,000 to the FishAmericaFoundation/B.A.S.S. Nation Conservation Fund. That money will be distributed in grants to clubs and chapters, based on project merit.