BHA Bestows Top Honors at North American Rendezvous

News for Immediate Release
March 30, 2023
Contact: Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, [email protected]

An impressive slate of honorees receives BHA’s 2023 awards

MISSOULA, Mont. – At the 12th annual North American Rendezvous, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers announced its 2023 award winners. BHA’s highest honors recognize individuals, chapters and entities that set themselves apart with their demonstrated commitment and unending effort on behalf of public lands and waters, fish and wildlife, and hunting and fishing.

The 2023 awardees are as follow:

Tony Wasley, former director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and current president of the Wildlife Management Institute, received BHA’s Aldo Leopold Award for exceptional work and dedication to the conservation of terrestrial wildlife habitat.

“Tony’s most notable accomplishments included leading sagebrush ecosystem conservation within and beyond Nevada, raising awareness of the threat that feral horses and burros present to our arid Western landscapes, and partnering across user groups, including Tribes, ranchers, mining companies and many others,” said BHA North American Board Chair Ted Koch. “Tony’s positive and inclusive style keeps folks on his side in the fight for conservation. He calls it like he sees it, but he does so with love and respect for people and the resource.”

Don Holmstrom, a BHA life member from Boulder, Colorado, was presented with BHA’s Sigurd F. Olson Award, which recognizes outstanding effort conserving rivers, lakes or wetland habitat.

“Don Holmstrom has been a central part of the Colorado BHA leadership and has led the Colorado chapter’s efforts to assert the public’s right to fish and float navigable waterways in the state, through direct coordination with the lawyers leading the effort on the Roger Hill vs. Warsewa case,” said Tim Brass, BHA director of state policy and stewardship. “A lawyer himself, Don’s been instrumental in the filing of BHA’s recent amicus brief on this case, in partnership with American Whitewater.”

Corey Ellis, a BHA member who lives in Missoula, Montana, is the recipient of the 2023 Jim Posewitz Award acknowledging outstanding ethical behavior in the field and the education of the outdoor public on the importance of ethical behavior.

“Corey is persistent, smart and his moral compass is unshakeable,” said BHA Regional Policy Manager Kevin Farron. “He’s not afraid to pick new battles, and I’ve yet to see him give up. He’s written dozens of opinion columns forwarding good policy and opposing bad. He’s influenced decisions and attitudes on issues ranging from the use of drones in hunting, to cellular transmitting trail cams, to using license dollars for pen-raised, tailless pheasant stocking, and much, much more.”

Harrison Stasik, former president of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point BHA college club, received BHA’s Rachel Carson Award, which honors young leaders for outstanding work on behalf of hunting, angling and conservation.

“During his tenure as club president, Harrison has taken the program by storm and led UWSP BHA to be the top-ranking club in the Collegiate Program,” said Kylie Schumacher, BHA Collegiate Program coordinator. “He earned the club the Public Land Owner Stewardship Fund grant two years in a row. He took his club members on a trip to experience one of BHA’s priority and most cherished landscapes, the Boundary Waters Wilderness. Along with his teammates, he won BHA’s Hike to Hunt competition, raising over $2,000 for BHA. He’s also led the program’s biggest fundraiser, the Gear & Beer Bash, two years in a row, raising a total of nearly $20,000 for the club and collegiate program. He excels at building relationships with partners, peers, and mentors and has set the club on a path to success moving forward.”

Justin Spruiell, from Yelm, Washington, was presented with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for positive impact on BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative and the military community.

“Justin selflessly devotes countless hours to helping our military community get afield and strives to educate tomorrow’s conservation leaders,” said AFI leader Marty Bartram. “But the thing that impresses me most about Justin is his lack of ego. Justin truly only works for the mission of creating more conservationists in the military community. When you desperately need a volunteer for an event at the last minute, Justin can be counted on to be there.”

G&H Decoys is the recipient of BHA’s Larry Fischer Award, which honors the memory and contributions of a longtime BHA board member by recognizing exceptional dedication by a business to BHA’s mission.

“As I work to weave our partners into the fabric of BHA and vice versa, I will look to the example that Ray Penny, Carlos Gomez and the entire team at G&H Decoys have set as one of the gold standards of a true partnership,” said Josh Mills, corporate conservation partnerships coordinator at BHA. “G&H is new to partnering with BHA, but they came out full force last year. Standout volunteers – and companies – give BHA their time, their treasure and their talent, and this year’s winner did that every time we asked.”

Andrew McKean, the Glasgow, Montana-based journalist who currently is Outdoor Life’s hunting and conservation editor, received BHA’s 2023 Ted Trueblood Award for outstanding communications on behalf of backcountry habitat and values.

“He has an honest passion for conservation,” said Katie McKalip, BHA vice president of external affairs and communications, “and he has a deep appreciation of the role played not just by hunters and anglers but also by diverse collaborators like farmers, ranchers and businesses. He calls himself a public policy nerd, but he likewise possesses an ability to see the many human sides of contentious issues, imbuing his writing with an informed evenhandedness that’s all too rare these days.”

BHA’s Texas Chapter was presented with the George Bird Grinnell Award, which honors the outstanding BHA chapter of the year.

“It is an honor and privilege to work alongside this year’s Grinnell award winner in the name of public land and water conservation,” said Katie DeLorenzo, BHA Western regional manager and Texas BHA chapter coordinator. “The leaders of our Texas chapter have passionately defended hunting and fishing access, contributed to large-scale habitat conservation from the coast to the panhandle grasslands, and will invest $8K annually for three years to fund an American Fisheries Society Hutton Scholar to support the TPWD River Access Program. Simply put, Texas BHA is comprised of exceptional individuals doing exceptional work to further BHA’s mission in Texas and beyond.” 

Finally, Buzz Hettick of Laramie, Wyoming, received the Mike Beagle-Chairman’s Award. Named after a BHA founder, it is given to an individual who shows outstanding effort on behalf of BHA.

“Buzz epitomizes action,” said Land Tawney, BHA president and CEO. “He is the ‘man in the arena’ Theodore Roosevelt spoke of – figuratively, if not literally. From the backcountry to the state legislature and everywhere in between, you can always count on Buzz.

“It’s fitting that Buzz Hettick has been awarded the Mike Beagle-Chairman’s Award for his unwavering efforts to help found our Wyoming Chapter, increase hunter access, and stand up for healthy habitat,” Tawney concluded. “Wyoming and America are better places because of his work. Be more like Buzz!

See a list of past BHA award winners.

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