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EDGEFIELD, S.C. — The National Wild Turkey Federation’s James Earl Kennamer, Ph.D., has been selected as the recipient of the 2008 Alumni Fellow for the College of Forest Resources at Mississippi State University. He was recognized by the Mississippi State Alumni Association Saturday, Nov. 1, during a football game at the university.
The Alumni Fellow program recognizes and honors alumni who have achieved the highest levels of success in their profession. Just over 100 alumni have been honored as alumni fellows in the 19 years since the program began. Kennamer, the NWTF’s senior vice president of conservation programs, was the first student in the school’s history to earn a doctorate in philosophy and a Master of Science from the university.
“Sportsmen were the first conservationists, and if it weren’t for them, there wouldn’t be any wildlife to hunt or to enjoy today,” Kennamer said. “It is important for universities to turn out students that understand the cooperative relationship between hunters and conservation, and MSU is doing just that. It is gratifying to see the quality of faculty and students at my alma mater.”
Kennamer presented a lecture titled, “The Hook and Bullet Biologist: An Endangered Species” to approximately 80 faculty members and students including one of his college professors. The speech focused on the successes, opportunities and challenges surrounding the implementation of scientific wildlife management and the role sportsmen play in conservation.
For more than 28 years, Kennamer has played a key role in forging the partnerships between hunters and wildlife agencies, corporations and conservation groups, which have helped restore turkey populations across North America. His dedicated work with wildlife agencies has made a difference, moving turkey populations from 1.3 million in 1973 to more than 7 million today.
“Many years ago, the NWTF gave me the opportunity to work on behalf of wildlife, particularly the wild turkey, and I am truly grateful for that chance,” Kennamer said. “I have many fond memories of the years I spent at Mississippi State University, and a great amount of respect for the school. Being recognized by my alma mater for my conservation efforts is such an honor.”
One of Kennamer’s early successes was working with the NWTF Technical Committee, bringing together state, federal and provincial agency biologists to coordinate habitat work, wild turkey restoration programs and funding through NWTF’s Making Tracks program. Through this program, the NWTF works with wildlife agencies to coordinate the trap and transfer of wild turkeys. In areas where they are abundant, wild turkeys are usually trapped via nets propelled or dropped over a feeding flock. Trapped birds are individually placed in specialized transport boxes, and then released in areas of suitable habitat with few or no wild turkeys.
Since the 1950s, state and provincial wildlife agencies have moved more than 195,000 wild turkeys into suitable habitat across North America. The NWTF has accelerated those efforts through the purchase of trapping equipment, transfer boxes, funding and the help of its volunteers and partners.
Kennamer came to the NWTF from a tenured professorship at Auburn University in 1980. His leadership in wild turkey research and management has garnered respect throughout the conservation community, and helped the NWTF become the driving force in conservation it is today.
“James Earl joined the NWTF when the organization was still defining itself,” said George Thornton, NWTF CEO. “He has spent the past two decades helping the NWTF become the standard in the conservation community because he believes so strongly in conserving the wild turkey and preserving our hunting heritage.”
Kennamer is no stranger to receiving recognition for his conservation work. Earlier this year, he was honored in Outdoor Life magazine’s first annual top 25 list of people who have positively affected our hunting and fishing traditions.
In 2006, Kennamer was awarded the highly coveted Henry S. Mosby award at the ninth National Wild Turkey Symposium; in 2005, he was honored with the Wildlife Management Institute’s Distinguished Service Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the South Carolina Chapter of The Wildlife Society; and in 2004, he received special recognition from the U.S. Forest Service.
“This was my first time to return to the Mississippi State University campus since I graduated 38 years ago, and what an experience it was,” Kennamer said. “The event made me truly appreciate the place where I started my education, put my current career in perspective and made me appreciate all the years in between. It was like going home.”
For more information on joining the nation’s most progressive single-species conservation organization, or for additional details about this story, visit www.nwtf.org   or call (800) THE-NWTF.