Pat Saffel of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) in Missoula recently was named “Outstanding Fisheries Professional” for 2011 by the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society at their annual conference in Helena.

Saffel currently serves as Fisheries Program Manager for FWP’s Region 2, which encompasses lakes, rivers and streams of the Clark Fork Basin of west-central Montana. Saffel was recognized for his work across the region on fisheries management, restoration, and social issues in recent years as a “deserving steward of Montana’s aquatic resources whose hard work and dedication will have lasting impacts.”

“I was in the right place at the right time and the credit needs to be shared among FWP staff, other government agencies and private companies and landowners,” Saffel says.  “The names are too many to mention and indicative of the cooperative effort needed to accomplish large scale conservation.”

Notably, Saffel led efforts over the past few years to identify priority areas for the expenditure of approximately $45 million on river and tributary enhancements in the Clark Fork Basin watershed under the State’s Natural Resource Damage (NRD) Program.  Using field data collected by biologists and guidance from NRD staff, Saffel spent many hours incorporating comments and ideas from stakeholders, and guiding the plan development. After more than three years of work, the plan was recently approved by the Upper Clark Fork Steering Committee and signed by the Governor as part of the overall remediation plan.

Saffel was also a major contributor on cooperative projects such as Milltown Dam removal and site remediation and the acquisition of about 75,000 acres by the state that will contribute significantly to fish and wildlife conservation.   Acquired lands established the Fish Creek and Marshall Creek Wildlife Management Areas as well as the transfer of lands to DNRC that also included the restoration of riparian habitats in the Chamberlain Creek basin in the Blackfoot.   Saffel worked to supply and review technical information, ensuring that grant proposals (totaling about $18 million) were written and submitted, and helped to coordinate public involvement and land management.

“Achieving the kinds of conservation that I have been involved in takes many people with a shared vision,” says Saffel.  “I have been very fortunate to have worked with terrific people, had money available to work with, and to have Montana’s natural resources to protect.  I am just happy they all came together.”

Saffel is a graduate of South Dakota State University (B.S.) and the University of Idaho (M.S.) and worked as a regional biologist in Thompson Falls for several years prior to moving to his current position in 2001.

The American Fisheries Society is the oldest and largest professional society for fisheries scientists in the world, and the Montana Chapter presents one “Outstanding Fisheries Professional” award annually.

photo: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

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