The Ohio Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) recently honored State Wildlife Officer Matthew Leibengood with the State Officer of the Year Award. Officer Leibengood has been serving Ohioans as a wildlife officer since 2005 and is currently assigned to Seneca County according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife.

Officer Leibengood was awarded this honor based on his strong law enforcement record. Leibengood is dedicated to protecting Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources, which is evident by his contributions to numerous law enforcement projects within his unit. Officer Leibengood is also a Field Training Officer and has assisted in training new wildlife officers. Officer Leibengood’s fisheries management and law enforcement experiences are clearly evident and have been an asset to both new and seasoned officers.

Leibengood is dedicated to not only protecting fish and wildlife resources, but also to promoting their use and appreciation by introducing youth to hunting and fishing. In addition to his year-round enforcement duties, Officer Leibengood has been instrumental in organizing several wildlife conservation activities at the Seneca County Fair, which have drawn the attention of the local news media. With the assistance of local conservation volunteers, Officer Leibengood tirelessly attends these events daily during the fair to promote the Division of Wildlife’s mission and to educate the public about wildlife conservation. Officer Leibengood continues to work with the fair board, local conservation organizations and local agencies to further expand the fair display with the goal of promoting wildlife and conservation awareness in the county.

“Matt has done an excellent job promoting not only wild turkeys but all wildlife throughout his career and is very deserving of this award,” according to Scott Butterworth, District Two Manager. “From working with landowners to having a turkey calling contest at the Seneca County Fair, Matt strives to promote Ohio’s wildlife resources for all to enjoy. The citizens of Seneca County are very fortunate to have Matt Leibengood working with them in the county.”

The NWTF initiated the State Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award in 2000 to highlight the contributions from wildlife officers across the country. This award recognizes that without the support for wild turkey conservation from wildlife officers, restoration efforts and wildlife management strategies would not have the success they do today.

By earning the State Wildlife Officer of the Year award, Wildlife Officer Leibengood and other state winners are eligible for the NWTF’s National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award, which will be presented at the NWTF’s national convention.

More information about state wildlife officers and the ODNR-Division of Wildlife can be found at wildohio.com.

Image courtesy Ohio Department of Natural Resources

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