Jay Lawson

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011

Jay Lawson is a native of Casper and a Natrona High School graduate.  He attended Casper College before serving an extended tour of duty as a U.S. Combat Medic with the 1st Air Cavalry Division in Viet Nam where he earned the Purple Heart.  Following honorable discharge from service, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Range and Wildlife Management from the University of Montana.
In April, 2011, Jay retired after thirty-three years with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department including twenty-one years as Wildlife Division Chief.  Jay started his career in 1977 as a temporary biologist and then game warden trainee.  He became a district game warden in 1978.  He was promoted to Regional Wildlife Supervisor in 1985.  In 1989, he was promoted to Chief of the Wildlife Division.  The Wildlife Division contains about one half the agency personnel, utilizes almost one half of the budget and deals with the vast majority of controversial and difficult issues that face the Department.
Jay’s outstanding achievements on behalf of the wildlife resource and the field of fish and wildlife management include:  successfully managing Wyoming’s terrestrial wildlife resource during his tenure as wildlife division chief, including the recovery of the grizzly bear, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and black-footed ferret; development of a professional training program for wildlife managers using restitution funds derived from convicted poachers, increased the professionalism of the division work force by instituting a comprehensive employee recruitment and screening process, promoted the public relations aspect of wildlife law enforcement, resulting in survey results showing  91% of residents felt game warden contacts were a positive experience. Jay also teaches at the Colorado State University’s Wildlife Management Short Course and has done so for 22 consecutive years.
Jay developed, proposed and worked with the Wyoming legislature to enact several statutes that enhance the management and protection of Wyoming’s wildlife including laws that substantially increased the penalties for the illegal take of wildlife and the development of more humane snaring laws that substantially reduced non-target mortality.  Jay and others were instrumental in preventing the legalization of private ownership of native and exotic big game and the establishment of a game farm industry in Wyoming.  He implemented enhanced youth hunting and fishing opportunity through NGOs, employee organizations and regulation development.  He personally participates by taking young people hunting and fishing every year.  Under his leadership, the Department developed a pilot hunter access program that was incredibly successful.  The effort, which later became established as the WGFD’s Private Lands, Public Wildlife program currently provides hunter and angler access to 1.6 million acres of private land.  In 2003, Jay served on a three-person team, which developed a proposal to direct funds from Governor-designated licenses to wildlife research and management.  Governor Dave Freudenthal agreed to the proposal, which has more than three million dollars for on-the-ground wildlife projects during the past seven years. 
Jay has been active in regional and national wildlife management organizations including the WAFWA Law Enforcement Committee, the Human/Wildlife Conflict Committee, which he created, and the Western Bird Conservation Committee.  From 1990 to 2006, Jay served on the Pacific Flyway Council and was Chair in 1991 and 2006.  Jay also initiated annual coordination meetings with neighboring states. Jay has served on the Department’s Hunting and Fish Exposition Advisory Board since its inception in 1998.  Jay approached the Wildlife Heritage Foundation in 2004 about initiating the Wyoming Outdoor Hall of Fame and has chaired the Nomination Committee from 2004 to 2010. He also received the WGFD’s most prestigious award, the Director’s Award in 1995.
In 2007, Jay wrote and published the book, “Men to Match our Mountains,” a collection of short biographies documenting the lives of early Wyoming game wardens, trappers, hunters and cowboys.  He donated all proceeds to the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of Wyoming’s Forensic Fund.  To date, these funds have been used to purchase a new DNA sequencer for the regional forensics lab in Laramie.  This lab conducts forensic analysis for most WAFWA states. For contributing his book sales, he was awarded the Wildlife Heritage Foundation’s Conservation Philanthropist of the Year award in 2008. 
Jay Lawson’s long-term commitment to and outstanding achievements on behalf of Wyoming’s fish and wildlife resources and the field of wildlife management earned him the Special Recognition Award from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 2010 and WAFWA Lifetime Member Award in 2011.  He has fostered a vision for the future preservation and conservation of wildlife through innovation and professionalism that will be evident many years into the future through the wildlife professionals and leaders that have developed under his leadership.  His accomplishments have not only affected Wyoming, but have made a positive impact on many wildlife issues regionally and nationally.
Jay remains an avid hunter and fisherman and lives in Cheyenne.

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