Three Department of Game and Fish biologists recently received the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s prestigious Recovery Champions awards for their work rescuing threatened and endangered species.
Department herpetologist Charlie Painter, fisheries manager Kirk Patten and recently retired Gila Trout Recovery Coordinator David Propst were among teams honored for their conservation work with the Chiricahua leopard frog and the Gila trout.
Painter, working with teams from the Turner Endangered Species Fund, Fort Worth Zoo, Bureau of Land Management, Gila and Cibola National Forests, The Nature Conservancy and Western New Mexico University, helped change the trajectory of the Chiricahua leopard frog, projected to go extinct in New Mexico in a decade because of disease and predation. Using backyard tanks and by constructing a “ranarium,” the team rescued four populations of frogs, established one new population and augmented two others. They also reintroduced the species at three locations.
Patten and Propst were part of a team that responded to the Whitewater Baldy Complex Wildfire, the worst in New Mexico history at almost 300,000 acres. The team rushed to streams threatened by post-fire mud and ash flows and evacuated more than 600 fish out of the wilderness using backpacks, mules and a helicopter. Their efforts prevented catastrophic losses of Gila trout, spikedace, loach minnows, Gila chub and headwater chub. The team was composed of representatives of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Gila National Forest, University of New Mexico, Museum of Southwestern Biology and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Recovery Champions awards are presented annually to two individuals or teams in each of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s eight regions nationwide. For more information about the awards and the recipients, please visit the USFWS Recovery Champions web page.