New Hunter-Conservationist Prize To Be Awarded In Spokane April 8

(WASHINGTON BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS PRESS RELEASE)

In a first-of-its-kind award, several Northwest conservation and outdoor-sports groups representing different interests and ideologies have teamed up to sponsor the Dr. Dick Rivers Sportsman-Conservationist Award, to be awarded April 8th at Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Spring Dinner at Hill’s Restaurant in Spokane.

The biannual honor bestows a cash prize of $1,000 to its recipient, a Northwest sportsman who defies stereotypes and political isolationism to work actively on areas of common ground to protect public lands, fish and wildlife, and clean air and water.

Conceived by Washington Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and co-sponsored by Spokane Audubon, Conservation Northwest, Spokane Falls Trout Unlimited, and the Spokane Mountaineers, the award is determined by a panel of representatives, including Rivers’ longtime elk hunting and salmon fishing partner, outdoor journalist Rich Landers:

“I’ve loved over the years to mention in passing through my writings that one of my favorite friends was at one time a die-hard big-game bowhunter and the president of the Spokane Audubon Society. He would make trips to look for elk sign and brush out shooting lanes from hunting stands and then do birding surveys for BLM. That says so much about the mega-span of his interests, and the way he has connected it all in a Leopold sense of science and in-the-field savvy.”

DICK RIVERS WITH A LARGE MULE DEER TAKEN IN THE KETTLE RANGE IN THE 1980S DURING A SOLO BACKCOUNTRY HUNT. (DICK RIVERS)

Rivers, now a retired VA physician who is managing a chronic illness, has spent the last four decades volunteering his physical and intellectual strengths with a broad range of conservation and outdoor interests.

Whether he was paddling the entire length of the Columbia River in his sea kayak, traversing new routes across the Canadian Rockies on backcountry skis, watching gyrfalcons and grizzlies in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, casting his fly rod for steelhead in Hells Canyon, or shooting massive mule deer and elk on public lands in Eastern Washington, Rivers has remained rooted in the belief that preserving our wild places and managing our working lands based on sound science is all important.

He led successful fights to kick cows off of local national wildlife refuges when science said they didn’t belong, captured and relocated sage grouse, wrote guest editorials and countless letters to editors, sweated alongside people half or a third his age on habitat-improvement projects, and much more.  More impressively, Rivers was a sportsman who suffered through every important meeting, public comment period, and collaborative process he could find.

“When you see your values being threatened, It’s just not possible to sit back and let someone else do the work and invest the time to protect them.  Each person has got to decide for themselves what they can do and how much time to invest,” offered Rivers when informed of the award.

“There will always be someone who is more articulate, better informed and harder working.  But when agencies and officials decide on policy, it’s not the single eloquent speech or letter that matter.  It’s the thousands/millions of e-mails and letters and the standing-room-only crowded meetings that will count,” said Rivers.

When he received the 2010 “Watershed Hero Award” award for his years of dedication to the Spokane River and its fishery on February 12th, a motley crew of environmentalists, elk hunters, and anglers showed up and shared breathing space to see him recognized, a point underscored by speaker and friend, psychology and fishing writer, Paul Quinnett, during his tribute to Rivers.

Quinnett also noted that he and Rivers have much in common: “Dick and I are both scientists, and we both hunt elk with a bow.  Our biggest difference is that Dick actually kills elk with a bow.” Quinnett went on use a metaphor likening elk hunters and conservationists due to their tenacity and hope in the face of hopelessness.

Landers also spoke, describing how Rivers had blown stalks on elk by talking about birds calling in the pre-dawn darkness, sometimes calling in pygmy owls as if it were as much a part of the game as killing an elk.

“It was a wonder he killed so many elk,” said Landers.

Nominations for the 2013 award are due anytime before December 31st, 2012, to Washington State Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (WABHA), who will facilitate the selection process.  Sportsmen’s and conservation groups across the Northwest who are honest in their commitment to collaborate are invited to co-sponsor the award and to make nominations.

For more information about this award or our April 8th meeting, please contact Jeff Holmes at washingtonstatebha@yahoo.com, or 509-868-3337.

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