BYU plant and wildlife professors Brock McMillan and Randy Larsen were honored at the 2023 Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City. Together, they received the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Award for their efforts to research and conserve native wildlife across western North America.
The professors were presented with matching bronze statues of Teddy Roosevelt as sculpted by the renowned western artist—and BYU alum—Michael Coleman. McMillan says it was an honor to be recognized at a banquet hosting over two thousand fellow conservationists and outdoorsmen.
This isn’t the first time McMillan and Larsen’s research garnered significant attention. Last year, news coverage of their study on elk migrating off public lands to avoid being hunted went viral. The story is still in the top five most popular articles on BYU’s website.
McMillan and Larsen’s work with elk and mule deer catalyzed their recent recognition by the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW), who hosted the expo. The SFW is a local non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, assist in providing quality wildlife management programs, educating the public about the role hunters play in wildlife conservation, and perpetuating the family tradition of hunting and fishing.”
This mission shows in their choice of a namesake, Theodore Roosevelt, who was a father of modern conservation and an avid hunter. Far ahead of his time, he raised attention to the depletion of natural resources and the destruction of wild places. In a 1907 speech to Congress he warned, “We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.” Roosevelt urged moderation and conservation of the land and everything on it.
Some might find the idea of “conservationist hunters” contradictory, a stigma that SFW fights hard to dispel. Their website and the website of the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo highlight how hunters bring awareness and money to important issues, like habitat destruction, that impact game animal populations.
During this year’s expo over fourteen million dollars were raised through auctions, the sale of hunting tags, and other fundraising efforts. This money will go toward wildlife conservation projects throughout Utah.
To stay up-to-date on research from McMillan and Larsen, visit their lab website: https://pws.byu.edu/wildlife-ecology.