Sage Grouse Coordinator Tom Christiansen retiring from Game and Fish after 33 years

Tom Christiansen, sage grouse coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, is retiring after years 33 of service.

9/10/2018 10:08:35 AM

Cheyenne - Tom Christiansen, sage grouse coordinator for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, is retiring after years 33 of service. Christiansen’s dedication and commitment to the long-term conservation of sage grouse are well-known to his peers because of his ability to work with people from diverse points of view and his tenacity for detail and the accuracy of data he produces.

“Tom has been a tireless champion for wildlife conservation his entire career,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott. “It was a pleasure to work with Tom from his position as a wildlife biologist to the sage grouse coordinator.  His dedication, professionalism, knowledge of wildlife and wildlife habitat and his tenacity were apparent to all who had the pleasure to work with him, especially his friends and colleagues on the Sage Grouse Implementation Team.” 

A Nebraska native, Christiansen earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln majoring in both wildlife management and agricultural journalism. Christiansen began his Game and Fish career in 1985 as a habitat technician in Torrington. He has also served as an elk feeder in Jackson and information specialist and wildlife statistician in Cheyenne before his promotion to Green River district wildlife biologist in July 1987.  He was promoted to be Wyoming’s sage grouse coordinator in September 2003.

Christiansen is most proud of the work that led up to the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2015 decision that the sage grouse did not need to be listed as a threatened and endangered species.

“That decision was made because of the many conservation efforts at the time for sage grouse and the promises of more. Many people, from individual ranchers and conservationists to captains of industry and governors, came together from local working groups to national ones. It is rewarding and gratifying to have been part of what was called one of the largest conservation efforts ever,” Christiansen said.
Among other honors awarded over his career, including Game and Fish’s “Wildlife Division Employee of the Year” award in 2002, Christiansen is the 2018 recipient of the Robert L. Patterson Award; an award established in honor of the Game and Fish researcher and his seminal 1952 book, “The Sage Grouse in Wyoming.” The award recognizes efforts to conserve and manage grouse in the western states. 

“To receive an award that honors a man who did his sage grouse research right here in Sweetwater County and to be able to work in the same area and receive an award named in his honor is pretty cool,” said Christiansen.

Upon announcing his intent to retire, Christiansen was lauded by his colleagues as a dedicated researcher, mentor and resource in his field.

“I have known and worked with Tom for more than 20 years and cannot think of a person more dedicated to Wyoming’s sagebrush landscapes,” said Pat Deibert, sagebrush ecosystem science coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “His untiring work has created a framework for conservation of sagebrush and sage grouse, both within and outside of Wyoming that will persist long past his career.” 

Corby McGinnis of the Diamond H Ranch and chair of the southwest local sage grouse working group said, “Tom is truly an expert on sage grouse. He has championed Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Plan, defended the plan in court, and helped implement hundreds of projects. He has helped educate the public, as well as landowners on the needs of the bird, while keeping a hunting season in the state.”
Christensen will be missed by his colleagues in the Green River region, especially for his guidance to new employees.

“I have had the privilege of working with Tom since the early 1990s,” Mark Zornes Green River Wildlife Coordinator said. “He was the first Game and Fish employee to provide me with guidance and training.  I will still see him afield, so it won’t be all that bad. I can tell you the local sage grouse working group is really going to miss him.”

Christian recalls the most enjoyable times during his career were spent in the field.“Being alone in empty landscapes is the ultimate reward for any wildlife biologist. But, I have learned that conservation also happens in meeting rooms, around kitchen tables and in the bar.”

Christiansen’s last day in the office is September 14. He and his wife, Karen, continue to reside in Green River and they are the parents of two daughters and have one granddaughter. Christiansen says he plans to remain engaged in conservation efforts, but he also plans to spend more time with his granddaughter and bird dogs.


(Lucy Diggins-Wold-(307) 875-3225, extension 1-8607)

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