Working for Wildlife

New conservation fellowship, Michigan United Conservation Clubs spotlight and the WildlifeUnite award winners

  • Delaney McPherson
  • Conservation
  • Aug 01, 2021

New fellowship

An opportunity for leadership

This March, the National Wildlife Federation and Agnes Scott College (above) announced their launch of the Dianne Dillon-Ridgley Fellowship, a yearlong paid opportunity for a student or recent college graduate to work directly with NWF’s board of directors to learn about conservation and leadership. The goal is to attract fellows who are committed to equity and justice to prepare them for future leadership roles as well as to learn from their perspectives.

Dianne Dillon-Ridgley speaking at an event

The fellowship is named for former NWF board member Dianne Dillon-Ridgley (pictured), a lifelong advocate for racial equality and women’s rights. “I am thrilled and proud that the National Wildlife Federation has stepped up to the demands of this moment, and humbled by this fellowship in my name,” she says. “Protecting wildlife, expanding conservation leadership and meeting the demands we face with climate change cannot be solved with a single fellowship, but the courage and commitment demonstrated by the Federation will nurture future conservation leaders and shape the future for good.”

A headshot of Zoie Moore wearing a purple shirt against a leafy green background

The 2021 fellow is recent Agnes Scott graduate Zoie Moore (pictured), who majored in Africana studies and minored in education and environmental studies and sustainability. Throughout the coming year, Moore will be embedded with NWF’s Office of General Counsel to learn the ropes of supporting the Board of Directors. She was drawn to the fellowship after realizing her own connection to Dillon-Ridgley, who she had seen give a talk on campus her freshman year. “I heard her speak, and I was so amazed; she was such a powerhouse,” says Moore. “I remember thinking, ‘I want to be like her.’ And with this position, it just fits everything I want for postgrad life, and it felt like a sign.”  


A group of kids practicing their fire building skills

Affiliate spotlight

A voice for sporting in Michigan

On June 12, at its WildlifeUnite conservation conference and annual meeting, NWF named Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) as the 2021 Conservation Affiliate of the Year. MUCC won the award for its work conserving, protecting and enhancing Michigan’s natural resources, wildlife and outdoor heritage. 

A man fishing at a lake in the woods

MUCC was founded in 1937 by a group of sporting clubs that recognized the need for a voice in the state legislature to speak on behalf of hunters and anglers (right). Today, MUCC is made up of more than 40,000 members—many of them from about 200 smaller affiliate clubs—making it the largest statewide conservation organization in the country. These local affiliates give MUCC a broad reach across the state, allowing it to advocate for a variety of different issues. “Everything that we do is derived from our grassroots process,” says MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter. “Our members are driving the positions that we take on legislation and our initiatives.”

Throughout its history, MUCC has made many contributions to conservation and outdoor recreation across the state, including helping to establish the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. The fund receives royalties from taxes on oil and gas development on public lands, which are then used to acquire public lands for conservation purposes and recreational-facility development. The fund has served as a model for similar funds across the country and since its creation in 1976 has raised more than $1.2 billion to expand recreational opportunities. 

In addition, MUCC runs a variety of successful programs focused on education, habitat and stewardship. Its award-winning On the Ground and On the Water programs, for example, work with a Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologist to improve habitat for wildlife through cleanups, tree plantings and other management techniques. MUCC also owns and operates Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp, which has taught kids about outdoor skills (above) and conservation for 75 years. The camp continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in a virtual setting with at-home activities and in 2021, will offer a new day-camp option to accompany its traditional sleepaway camp.

Through its work on the ground, at the Natural Resources Commission and in the state legislature, MUCC has built a conservation legacy of connectivity and advocacy that will benefit many generations to come. 


A man in a blue shirt holding a rabbit

NWF Award winners

Celebrating conservation champions

At its June annual meeting—newly branded as WildlifeUnite—NWF named award winners for both 2020 and 2021, honoring the following organizations, staff and volunteers for advancing conservation nationwide:

National Conservation Leadership Award 2021: Jay Kehne (above) is the Sagelands Heritage Program lead at NWF’s Washington affiliate Conservation Northwest, where he works to conserve shrub-steppe landscapes.

National Conservation Leadership Award 2020: Claude Jenkins is a certified wildlife biologist with the NWF affiliate Alabama Wildlife Federation, providing valuable conservation and management advice to landowners.  

National Conservation Affiliate of the Year 2021: Michigan United Conservation Clubs received this honor for its legacy of dedication and advocacy for hunters and anglers (see above).

National Conservation Affiliate of the Year 2020: Idaho Wildlife Federation, headed by Executive Director Brian Brooks, received the award for its dedication to conserving public lands and wildlife habitat. 

National Conservation Affiliate Volunteer of the Year 2021: Laura Mendenhall (below) is a biologist, volunteer with the Kansas Wildlife Federation and former president of its Board of Directors. 

A woman sitting in a field with a brown dog

National Conservation Affiliate Volunteer of the Year 2020: Pete Pedersen is a volunteer and board member with the Environmental League of Massachusetts

National Conservation Young Leaders 2021: John Deitsch is an avid volunteer at Georgia Wildlife Federation’s Mill Creek Nature Center; Charmayne Planter is an NWF Earth Tomorrow program alumni; Earyn McGee is a herpetologist and creator of the popular social media hashtag #FindThatLizard. 

National Conservation Young Leader 2020: Manoj Sarathy is a volunteer for Conservation Northwest who programmed a tool to sort camera-trap images while working with its Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program

Charlie Shaw Conservation Partnership Award, NWF Staff 2021: Ben Kota is the general counsel and corporate secretary for NWF.

Charlie Shaw Conservation Partnership Award, NWF Affiliate 2021: Brad Powell is the president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation.

Charlie Shaw Conservation Partnership Award, NWF Staff 2020: Frank Szollosi formerly worked on NWF’s national campaigns team and is currently the executive director of the NWF affiliate Montana Wildlife Federation

Charlie Shaw Conservation Partnership Award, NWF Affiliate 2020: George Meyer is a lifelong conservationist and the former executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.  


More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

New Fellowship Honors Conservationist Dianne Dillon-Ridgley »
MUCC Honored for Conservation Leadership, Advocacy »
Last Issue's Working for Wildlife »

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