The Don Aldrich Award

Hank Fischer - 1993

Hank Fischer
Hank Fischer
 For nearly four decades, Hank Fischer has been a leader in conservation efforts to the benefit of endangered wildlife, natural resources, and public lands in the Rocky Mountain West. Even in the face of political and ideological challenges, Hank understood the importance of collaborating with stakeholders of opposing interests and the power of incentives in order to reach solutions.

While working for Defenders of Wildlife for over two decades, Hank actively worked on endangered species restoration, particularly with efforts involving wolves, grizzly bears, and black-footed ferrets in the Northern Rockies. He was a leader in the ten-year effort to restore wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. In 1987 he created Defenders of Wildlife’s Wolf Compensation Trust, which uses private funds to compensate livestock producers for verified livestock losses caused by wolves. In 1997 he created a similar program for grizzly bears.

After identifying flaws in the mostly-successful restoration of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, he took an alternative approach to address grizzly bear reintroduction in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest by collaborating with timber and logging enthusiasts. The idea of a committee in which citizens and landowners managed the areas where bears were intended to be reintroduced was controversial at the time, but was supported by the Montana Governor and even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Fischer has also been involved in a variety of issues involving public lands. He led efforts to create statewide wildlife viewing systems for Montana and Idaho. In that same year he was project director for another important publication, Building Economic Incentives Into the Endangered Species Act. More recently he has led a project known as Flathead Common Ground that seeks collaborative solutions to conservation problems on landscape-level sections of the Flathead National Forest.

Hank Fischer has been working as the Special Projects Coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, negotiating agreements to resolve long-term conflicts between wildlife and livestock in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

More recently, he led a collaborative effort between conservationists, the timber industry, and organized labor to restore grizzly bears to central Idaho.

Hank is also a prolific writer, utilizing his background in journalism and wildlife biology from his graduate program. He published multiple natural resource articles and guidebooks like Montana Wildlife Viewing Guide (1993) and The Paddler’s Guide to Montana (1999). His book “Wolf Wars” recounts his efforts restoring wolves in Yellowstone. He’s also been a regular commentator for Montana Public Radio for over a decade.

Hank earned numerous accolades for his contributions, including a Natural Resources Council of America Award of Achievement; a National Environmental Awards Council Special Merit Award; the Don Aldrich Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Award; the Edward Lowe Enviro-Capitalist Award; and a Special Achievement Award from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

Biograpy by Kalle Fox

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